When you look at the movies, it’s easy to find examples of professional vampire hunters. There’s everyone from Blade and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Jack Crow from John Carpenter’s Vampires and even Abraham Lincoln himself. There’s a wide range of heroes and anti-heroes, and there’s a wide range of storytelling quality.
However, the further back in time you look, the more difficult it is to find examples of professional vampire slayers. In the earliest filmed versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dr. Van Helsing mirrors his literary counterpart. He’s a doctor who puts the clues together and hunts the vampire out of necessity. However, as we move into the 50s and 60s, England’s Hammer studios helped transform Dr. Van Helsing and his descendants, as played by Peter Cushing, from an accidental vampire slayer to a professional one.
Perhaps one of the first movies to feature vampire slayers in the title is Roman Polanski’s 1967 vampire spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers. I haven’t actually seen this film, but I’ve added it to my rental queue.
Kolchak in 1972’s The Night Stalker is certainly a candidate for an early vampire hunter. In his case, though, he’s a reporter who fights the supernatural simply because no one else is able to do the job.
Another milestone film is Hammer’s Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter released in 1974. In this stylish film, Horst Janson plays Captain Kronos, a swordsman who travels with vampire expert Dr. Marcus played by John Carson looking for vampires to slay. This is also an interesting vampire film in that the film alludes to more than one species of vampire. The vampires Captain Kronos meets in the story are new to him, they drain life energy rather than drink blood and part of the fun of this film is watching our protagonist find a way to slay these particular vampires.
Vampire slaying as a profession really took off in the 1990s. That’s the era that produced Blade, John Carpenter’s Vampires, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer among others. The hallmark of the early vampire slayers was that they relied on their cunning and brains when fighting creatures of the night. More recently, cinematic vampire hunters have relied on a combination of virtual superpowers and technology to do help them.
So, do you have a favorite cinematic vampire hunter? Are there any early professional vampire hunters I’ve neglected to mention? I’m always happy for the recommendation of a good movie!