The vampire horror genre just never dies - no matter how many stakes one drives through it's undead heart. And it's had reason to die in these modern times where nothing is sacred or beyond lampooning.
The genre started well before Bram Stoker applied ink to paper but that's just as good a place as any to begin.
Dracula, in my humble opinion, cannot be touched is terms of being the preeminent vampire novel. Beautifully written as a series of letters which immediately tells you everything you need to know about the letter writer's character. And as the action is written in letter form then there is a delicious delay knowing that the meat of the story comes from the memories of the main characters. The main characters are forced to relive their horror once more in order to convey the information to the recipients of the letters. And Stoker ups the suspense even more for the reader and letter recipient due to the postal timeline of the period when Johnathon's letter wouldn't have reached poor Mina for months.
And what about the star of the book? Is Dracula number one in terms of best vampires?
Well, yes and no. He is the ultimate villain and has no saving graces. He seems to be more animal, intent on satisfying all of his dark cravings with little or no regard to the feelings or lives of others. Humans are tools to be used and consumed. So, if Stoker wanted the reader to despise his main ghoul - he succeeded!
However, this is also Dracula's only flaw. I can find no reason to empathize with the darkest of characters nor does he have any redeeming qualities or characteristics. He is a cruel killing machine and for that reason - one dimensional.
So, there is the crux of this post. If your monster has no humanity or trace thereof and you can't find any reason to feel sorry for him/her/it then your monster sucks! ( see what I did there? )
Perhaps there is a vampire that meets my criteria for being a proper demon?
Anne Rice has been in the exsanguination game for decades and surely she has had a character or two worthy of my praise.
Who doesn't like or at least feel empathy for Lestat? A loveable vampire that lures you in with his charms until you drop your guard and he strikes! What a bastard, why did he do that? He looks like a human and for the most part acts like one but never forget he has the blood of a demon coursing through his veins. Okay, not really coursing as his heart doesn't beat but stop being so picky!
Lestat is a terrific character who is both loved and hated by both humans and vampires and we feel empathy towards him because of his past and because he just really wants to do good but frequently gets thwarted and gets in his own way. He is flawed and we love him for it!
What about Stephanie Meyer?
Just kidding. I think Stephanie is a great writer and holy smoke did she nail the brooding teenage vampire.
Edward gives angst a bad name. Talk about sullen! Since I'm not a teenager, I really didn't get Edward that much and I really didn't like him as a character or feel empathy toward him. So, he wouldn't be in my top five. He's all empathy but no monster.
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's vampires, on the other hand, are all monster!
Of all the vampire types, The Master and all the hive are probably the most disgusting! Pissing on everything, brutally killing and those freakin worms! Gross! The Master is a strong contender and I can empathize with him and how he was created but he fails my litmus test because he is so unhuman. He wouldn't fit in at a nice tea shop sipping Earl Grey and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches. He couldn't because of his physical appearance and because anything besides blood is off the menu. Great series though If you like apocalyptic vampire mayhem.
But let me get right to numero uno and remember this is just my opinion.
My number one pick for best vampire is Eli from John Ajvide Lindqvist's ' Let the Right One In '.
What better choice for a vampire than someone who looks like a child! How dark and juicy is that? Eli is the creme de la creme in numerous ways and that's what makes her my top pick.
As I mentioned, she looks like a child and an innocent one at that. So sweet, you just want to hand her a cookie and then wonder why she bit your hand off. And who would suspect a child of drinking the town dry? No one.
Eli has a very disturbing back story which would melt the heart of even the most callous reader so she ticks all the 'creates empathy' boxes easily.
Because Eli is a vampire and doesn't age, she doesn't have any friends and tries not to get attached as she needs to move from town to town to remain anonymous and not attract any suspicion. That must be a hard life and a lonely one, no?
Then she meets Oskar and everything changes. We even root for her and him to become friends even though she is a monster capable of gruesome and cruel acts and we even think that turning Oskar might not be a bad idea. Come on you can admit it!
Eli is the preeminent vampire because of her humanity and how we feel about her. Whereas, we wanted good to triumph over Dracula and stake the mean old bastard, we cheer Eli on and forgive all her sins because Lindqvist has done such an exquisite job creating the loveable monster.