Female Vamps

Ashley Clark

Veteran Irish director Neil Jordan returns this week with Byzantium, an odd and enjoyable fantasy-thriller which melds the sensual, female-focused imagery of his 1984 Angela Carter adaptation The Company of Wolves with the camp theatricality of his box-office success Interview with the Vampire a decade later. Set in a glum English coastal town, Byzantium focuses on two mysterious, refuge-seeking women, Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton). When Eleanor reveals their dark secret – that they’re actually 200-year-old vampires – to a local man, it’s not long before their past catches up on them with vicious consequences.

To mark the film’s release, we’ve put together a list of our favourite female bloodsuckers on film. Have we missed anyone? Tell us in the comments. Fangs in advance*.

1. Jenette Goldstein as Diamondback in Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)

Now a seriously high-profile Hollywood director – and responsible for creating one of most terrifying female lead performance in recent years (Jessica Chastain’s Maya in Zero Dark Thirty) – Kathryn Bigelow made a big mark with this vicious and disturbing horror-cum-Western. One of its most memorable vamps was the statuesque, leather-clad gang member Diamondback played by Jenette Goldstein (who you might also recognise from Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron’s Aliens). If you haven’t seen Goldstein at a theatre near you recently, it may be because she’s now the proprietress of the store Jenette Bras, a large-size bra specialist known for its slogan "The alphabet starts at 'D'"!

2. Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla/Marcala in The Vampire Lovers (Roy Ward Baker, 1970)

In this classic gothic horror co-produced by legendary British studio Hammer, Polish-born actress Pitt stole the show as the beautiful, voracious vampire Marcilla (later under alias Carmilla), who munches her way through a host of hapless girls. Even though it might look a little quaint now, the film was seen as very daring at the time for its depictions of lesbian sexual activity.

3. Aaliyah as Akasha in Queen of the Damned (Michael Rymer, 2002)

OK, so the film (a loose adaptation of a novel by Anne Rice) wasn’t great, and featured way too much rubbish nu-metal on the soundtrack, but singer Aaliyah displayed bags of charisma as the vampire queen Akasha. Aaliyah had begun to make strides as an actress, and was slated to star in the third Matrix movie, but tragically died in a plane crash in August 2001. Queen of the Damned was released posthumously.

4. Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983)

Easily the most chic vampire on our list, Deneuve’s Miriam cuts a memorable swathe alongside the alien-like David Bowie in the late Tony Scott’s super-slick, soft-porn sci-fi vamp drama. Immortality was the name of the game for Miriam, and ironically, the film seems perennially in vogue thanks to its high-fashion aesthetics and gothic sleekness.

5. Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994)

At the tender age of 11, Dunst made her big screen breakthrough with a genuinely creepy, beyond-her-years turn as Claudia, the surrogate daughter slowly being turned into a vampire by parent bloodsuckers Louis and Lestat (Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise camping it up to the max in ruffs and copious make-up).

6. Monica Bellucci as Dracula’s Bride in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)

The Italian beauty only appeared in Coppola’s baroque drama for a few seconds as one of the three brides of Dracula (Gary Oldman), where her key role was to give poor Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) a good old seeing to. However, it was a major enough appearance to instigate Bellucci’s passion for acting. She’s since gone on to star in well-known, often controversial films like Irreversible and The Passion of the Christ.

7. Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, 1995)

Holding court at the sleazy dive bar The Titty Twister, Hayek’s Santanico is both its main attraction and vampire queen. When she morphs into a horrible-looking creature and gruesomely offs the character played by Quentin Tarantino (acting terribly, as usual), she might as well be doing it on the audience’s behalf.

8. Beatrice Dalle as Coré in Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)

This downbeat and extremely violent contemporary urban horror saw eminent French arthouse director Denis meld her esoteric sensibility with the enduring vampire myth. The striking Beatrice Dalle (best known for the controversial Betty Blue) starred as sultry vamp Coré, and the film’s most infamous scene sees her feasting on on a teenage boy during sex. It is most definitely not for the squeamish.

9. Kate Beckinsale as Selene in Underworld (Len Wiseman, 2003)

In Len Wiseman’s watchable thriller, Kate Beckinsale unexpectedly announced herself to the world as an action star of strong calibre. She played Selene, a vampire warrior playing a central role in the savage ongoing battle between the vampire and werewolf races (we’ve all been there). Beckinsale has gone on to star in three sequels, and there are more on the way.

10. Anne Parillaud as Marie in Innocent Blood (John Landis, 1992)

Landis’ horror-thriller curio made great mileage of French actress Parillaud’s European outsiderness. She played Marie, a Philadelphia-based vampire with a strict moral code: to only sink her teeth into criminals. One day, she only gets partway through finishing off local mobster ‘The Shark’ (Robert Loggia) before he himself turned into a vampire. A bloody, chaotic vampire-off ensues.

*Cymbal crash

Follow Ashley on Twitter: @_Ash_Clark  

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