For high-concept, lowbrow thrills, your hot ticket this weekend is surely Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Timor Bekmambetov’s visualization of Seth Grahame-Smith’s why-the-hell-not novel, which reimagines that most benevolent president as a part-time vamp vanquisher. The revisionist actioner may not be bound for the bloodsucker canon, but its lead character proudly continues a surprisingly prevalent filmic trend: that of the hero whose key duty is to pound a proverbial stake through the heart of evil. From Blade to Buffy, we’ve always needed fearless soldiers to battle creatures of the night, and to make sure that the only thing Dracula and company are biting is the dust.
Wesley Snipes in Blade (1998)
Just before he fell into obscurity, Wesley Snipes gave us one last kick-ass character, a half-vampire “Day Walker” named Blade, who fights to keep a growing army of sharp-toothed fiends at bay. Armed with a silver sword that only answers to him, and boasting a sidekick played by iron-spined Kris Kristofferson, Blade wages war against Stephen Dorff’s head honcho, who has an in with a special someone called the “Blood God.” Blade craves blood, too, but he’s got the whole thing down to a safe and respectable science: needles.
Gordon Pinsent and Thalmus Rasulala in Blacula (1972)
In this blaxploitation cult favorite, William Marshall plays an 18th century African prince who, after being made a vampire by Count Dracula, awakes two centuries later to feed on unsuspecting L.A. residents. Gordon Pinsent and Thalmus Rasulala are Thomas and Peters, the detectives investigating a trail of fishy murders, which, it is deduced, could only have been the work of a bloodsucker. The cop duo tracks the titular baddie to his lair, but they’re not the ones to carry out the inevitable offing. Scarred by a lost love, Blacula opts for a suicide, letting sunlight sear and disintegrate his centuries-old skin.
Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Not to be confused with I Am Legend, a newer adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel (and one that prompted some to employ unforgettable hyperbole), the Rome-set horror flick The Last Man on Earth places Vincent Price in the Will Smith role, and sees the icon lead a Groundhog Day existence as a lone plague survivor. Price’s Dr. Robert Morgan spends his hours hunting sunlight- and garlic-fearing vampires, who were once human before the plague turned them over to the will of Satan. Proving there are upsides to ailments caught abroad, Morgan is immune, thanks to a vampire-bat bite in Panama years ago.
John Gottowt in Nosferatu (1922)
F.W. Murnau’s seminal German Expressionist marvel introduced the world to Max Schreck’s goosebump-inducing Count Orlok, whose eyes and claws would endure in moviegoers’ nightmares. It also offered one of the earliest screen incarnations of Abraham Van Helsing, Bram Stoker’s legendary Dutch doctor, and sworn enemy of the dreaded Count Dracula. In Nosferatu, Van Helsing is played by John Gottowt, whose character in the tweaked adaptation goes by the name of Professor Bulwer. Temptation and sunlight ultimately do Orlok in, but in Bulwer, Van Helsing is established as a vital vampire opponent.
Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing (2004)
If not for earlier incarnations, there never would have been room for Hugh Jackman’s embodiment of Van Helsing, whom The Mummy director Stephen Sommers granted with his own superhero-style tale. Bogged down by cheesy effects and even cheesier dialogue, Van Helsing is bottom-of-the-barrel fare, but Jackman is predictably fierce as the classic vampire hunter, and he pulls a foe-fighting trifecta, facing down Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman too. Good thing he’s got a tightly-corseted Kate Beckinsale to lend a sword-wielding hand.