Early word on Dark Shadows is pretty grim. Tim Burton’s big-budget version of the Gothic horror soap opera has raised the ire of die-hard fan and curious newcomer alike… particularly in the casting of Johnny Depp as resurrected vampire Barnabus Collins. But Depp is far from the worst movie vampire to (dis)grace the silver screen. Take a look at these monumentally poor casting decisions that besmirched the reputation of bloodsuckers everywhere. They’re seriously scary, and not in a good way.
The first of multiple Count Draculas on this list, Palance remains the most perversely bizarre. As gangsters and cowboys, the actor had no peer: deploying impeccable tough-guy credentials earned through his early career as a professional boxer. But he looks thoroughly uncomfortably dolled up in Drac’s black cloak and his menacing delivery never makes it past those stagey fangs.
We could go with a lot of vamps in this less-than-stellar end to the Blade franchise. Triple H just looked lost while Parker Posey attempted to overact her way to a viable exit. But we’re going with Purcell who, as the progenitor of the vampire line, resembles nothing so much as a steroid-laden male stripper. After the truly frightening creatures in Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II, this would-be Dracula epitomized Epic Fail.
Someone somewhere decided that putting a pretty girl in slinky Goth leather was enough to convey the romance and desire of a vampire. But former Revlon model Lauren Hutton – she of the vapid gaze and show biz smarm – couldn’t handle any part of the equation as she awkwardly put the moves on a pre-star Jim Carrey. We dare you to watch any portion of this movie without cringing.
Butler is all but unrecognizable as the king of the vampires in this admitted guilty pleasure from Patrick Lussier. But the film’s charms fail to extend to its lead – skinny as a rail and evincing no discernible personality beyond a slightly mischievous smile. Butler has his good points in other roles, but he lacks the necessary relentlessness, and when arrayed against Christopher Plummer’s Van Helsing, makes us wonder why they couldn’t have wrapped this up in the first fifteen minutes.
Before I get too heavily into this, I must stress that I am not complaining about the movie as a whole. From Dusk Till Dawn is an absolute hoot, and the vampires therein by and large rock the house. Said rocking does not extend to co-screenwriter Quentin Tarantino however. Though he sold us on his character’s quiet mental instability during the first half, he takes a turn for the seriously dorky in the second when he sprouts fangs and a goofy pair of contacts. Luckily, he’s quickly dispatched by onscreen brother George Clooney, leaving us to ponder how the hell Fred Williamson could pull off the same shtick so well.
People groused endlessly about the decision to cast Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire, unaware of how good we had it. Cruise actually does quite well as Anne Rice’s enfant terrible Lestat… which is more than we can say about poor Stuart Townsend in the wretched sequel. Shirtlessness and faux Goth clothing can’t make up for an absolute lack of charisma: an unforgivable trait in the larger-than-life Lestat. It gets even worse when comparing him to the late Aaliyah’s turn as Akasha: the sole bright spot in an otherwise horrendous movie.
Let’s just take the obligatory kick to Twilight’s nutsack as a given and move on, shall we?
Kingsley, one of the finest actors of his generation, stated that he always wanted to play a vampire. Unfortunately, that meant signing up with Uwe Boll, a director who is to good casting choices what a cliff face is to Wile E. Coyote. In a film that features the wildly inappropriate likes of Meat Loaf, Michael Madsen and Michelle Rodriguez, Kingsley stands alone. His evil King Kagan has the usual scheme of taking over the world with an army of undead, but the very sight of him in his undead threads inspire such fits of giggles that he should have opted for some kind of “death by conniption fit” scheme instead.
We have four Draculas on this list, all of them a long way from Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. But Roxburgh – an Australian actor best known for his role as the conniving duke in Moulin Rouge! – takes the cake with an over-the-top mess of a performance in a truly horrific film. The excessive CGI provides him with a modicum of cover, which he foolishly discards by gleefully gnawing on every chunk of scenery he can find. I suppose it’s understandable in a movie that asks him to create a new race of vampiric children using the experiments of Dr. Frankenstein. But the ridiculous manner in which Roxburgh throws himself at the problem makes us wonder if someone – anyone – else might have done better with this toxic cheese. We certainly can’t think of anyone doing worse…
Except maybe Eddie, an enormously talented comic actor found here in the late throes of career implosion. He plays a Caribbean vampire who travels to New York in search of a bride. In reality, the role merely served to pacify his ego: fitting him with a ridiculous yet woefully unfunny haircut to compliment his interminable accent. He assembled a team of horror legends to help him, including director Wes Craven and make-up master Rick Baker. None of them could make a dent in a star vehicle gone horribly wrong. Murphy recovered with The Nutty Professor soon thereafter, but it didn’t stop this from becoming a permanent black mark in a career all too full of them.