THE TOP 10 VAMPIRE MINIONS   Leave a comment

By C. Michael Forsyth

Where would vampires be without the loyal henchmen who guard their coffins during daylight, dispose of blood-drained corpses and convince investigators that nothing out of the ordinary is going on? Sometimes described as “familiars,” these invaluable helpers rarely get the credit they deserve. But now it’s time to give them a moment in the spotlight.

Here are my picks for the top ten vampire minions of film and TV:

RENFIELD

Bowing, scraping and gibbering “Yes, Master,” Renfield is the archetypal vampire familiar. In the novel Dracula, Renfield is an inmate at the lunatic asylum. He suffers from delusions that compel him to eat insects, spiders and other vermin in the hope of obtaining their lifeforce. Taking advantage of Renfield’s fixation and his own power to control animals, Dracula establishes a psychic link with the madman, and convinces Renfield that if the poor wretch worships him, the vampire will make him immortal by providing an endless supply of bugs and rats. The obsequious Renfield, played by Dwight Frye with wild-eyed glee in the 1931 Bela Lugosi film, escapes the asylum to carry out Dracula’s bidding.

DR. SANDRA MORNAY

Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) is a scientist who assists Dracula in his sinister scheme to revive the Frankenstein Monster, in the horror-comedy classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Sandra, wanted by the authorities for sinister experiments in Europe, is an enthusiastic cohort. She secures a castle in America to carry out the project, hires a young scientist to assist them and arranges for Dracula and his coffin to be delivered from Transylvania in a crate. When the evil pair agree that a more compliant brain is needed for the monster, Sandra uses her charm to seduce simple-minded Wilber (Costello) to serve as the donor.

RICHARD STRAKER

Oozing class, gentlemanly Englishman Richard Straker is the mortal watchdog and aide to the powerful vampire Kurt Barlow in ‘Salem’s Lot.  In the 1979 TV movie, James Mason plays Straker, who poses as an antique dealer and partner of Barlow, setting up shop in a creepy old mansion.  Straker plays a critical role in Barlow’s plot to spread the vampire contagion to everyone in the Maine town. He ships the ancient vampire and his coffin from overseas, and handles all the business operations, covering for the never-seen Barlow by explaining to visitors that he is frequently away on business. Straker kidnaps a local boy and sacrifices him for his master’s benefit. Later, he holds young hero Mark Petrie bound in the basement as a snack for the butt-ugly, bat-toothed vamp. Straker displays abnormal strength, easily lifting the town doctor off the floor and impaling him on animal horns. Straker also possesses certain supernatural abilities, at one point summoning a powerful wind. Although he can be killed with bullets, it takes a surprising number of shots to put him down.

BILLY COLE

Billy Cole is just an ordinary American dude, the kind of affable guy you’d talk sports with over a beer. At least that’s how he appears. In reality, Billy (Jonathan Stark) is the trusted companion of vampire Jerry Dandridge in Fright Night (1985). Billy helps Jerry (Chris Sarandon) transport his coffin to a new town and dispose of the remains of his female victims. With his easygoing manner and friendly grin, Billy convinces police that teenage neighbor Charlie, who accuses Jerry of being a vampire, is just an over-imaginative kid. We’re never quite sure what Billy is. He’s clearly not a vampire himself, since he can walk around in daylight. Yet he exhibits superhuman strength and when shot in the chest at point-blank range, he is unharmed. When reluctant vampire slayer Peter Vincent drives a wooden stake through Billy’s heart, the henchman melts into green goo and sand, then his skeleton shatters into pieces. Best guess: Billy was a ghoul created by Jerry.

JULIUS JONES

 In A Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), directed by master of the macabre John Carpenter, Eddie Murphy plays it straight as the vampire Maximillian. Most of the comedy relief comes from his minion Julius Jones, played by Kadeem Hardison, best known from TV’s A Different World. After saving Julius from gangsters, Maximillian infects him with vampiric blood, turning him into a ghoul who decays throughout the remainder of the film. Julius aids his new boss in his mission to track down the dhampir daughter of a vampire from his native Caribbean Island.

THOMAS

In the movie Let Me In (2010), Thomas is a glum, middle-aged man who cares for Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), a girl vampire who has appeared the age of 12 for decades. Thomas (Richard Jenkins) serves every need of his bloodsucking charge, posing as her father, renting an apartment for them and sealing the windows from sunlight. Most importantly, he keeps the little vamp supplied with blood, abducting victims, slitting their throats and draining their blood into jugs that he brings home like cartons of milk. Thomas goes about these tasks joylessly and wearily—and in the course of the film, we realize he’s been helping Abby survive since he was a little boy.

OWEN

Owen is a frail and lonely 12-year-old boy who is terrorized by bullies at school and neglected by his mom. The main character of Let Me In, he is cinema’s most sympathetic familiar. When Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) encounters pretty pre-teen Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) barefoot in the snow in the courtyard of his apartment complex, he is drawn to the odd, melancholy girl. They begin communicating by knocks on their apartment walls, and eventually she agrees to be his girlfriend. After her protector Thomas dies, Abby is forced to hunt for herself, racking up a number of victims before revealing her chilling secret to Owen. With the body count mounting, the pair flee town on a train with Owen concealing Abby in a large trunk. On one level, Let Me In is about a sweet romance between two young misfits. On another level, it is the story of a parasitic monster who recruits a new protector after using up the last one.

IGOR

Igor is Dracula’s hunchbacked henchman in the action-packed film Van Helsing (2004). Igor, as every horror fan knows, was initially an assistant of Dr. Frankenstein. The iconic character first appeared in the 1939 Universal picture Son of Frankenstein, played by Bela Lugosi. In Van Helsing, Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) flees the mad scientist’s castle after it is attacked by torch-bearing villagers furious at the ravages of the Monster, and he becomes a loyal minion of the vampire big wig. Burly, hideously deformed Igor is the muscle of Dracula’s operation, carrying out dangerous and difficult tasks such as taking care of a werewolf in Dracula’s thrall. 

BEV KEANE

Bev Keane is an obnoxious, holier-than-thou church lady who spews malice while quoting Bible verses. When evil descends on the island of Crockett in the Netflix movie Midnight Mass (2021), she becomes a more insidious figure. Bev (Samantha Sloyan) prevents townsfolk from learning the terrible secret of vampire priest Father Paul Hill, covers up his murders, and leads his flock toward an island-wide vampire apocalypse. What makes Bev such a great character you love to hate is that through it all, she retains her personality as an uptight, judgmental harpy.

GUILLERMO DE LA CRUZ

Guillermo de la Cruz is a vampire-buff-turned-familiar on the Netflix mocumentary series What We Do in the Shadows (2019-pres). Raised a devout Catholic, Guillermo (Harvey Gullen) became fascinated with vampires after seeing sexy Spaniard Antonio Banderas portray Armand in Interview with the Vampire. This was Guillermo’s first time seeing a Latin vampire on screen and he was so captivated that he went on to cosplay as Armand. After working at Panera Bread for several years, the tubby vamp fan became the vampire Nador’s familiar at his Staten Island home, hoping to one day be turned into a bloodsucker as a reward for his service. 

HONORABLE MENTION:

HOYT FORTENBERRY

Hulking, good-natured Hoyt Fortenberry is the boyfriend of vampire Jessica Hamby on the HBO series True Blood (2008-2014), so he is not technically a familiar. But his behavior gets so pathetically clingy that he seems like a devoted minion. Hoyt (Jim Parrack) works on a Department of Transportation road crew in Bon Temps, Louisiana. The shy mama’s boy is dominated by his religious mother and remains a virgin until falling head over heels for Jessica. She, too, led a sheltered life before her recent conversion, so the two are kindred spirits. Hoyt gives Jessica shelter, protects her from harm, and overlooks her occasional hunting of humans, becoming a loyal “fang-banger,” as such companions are sneeringly called. However, as Jessica spreads her wings as a vamp and outgrows him, Hoyt becomes increasingly possessive and just can’t let go. The only way for him to unlatch is for Jessica to “glamor” him so that he loses all memory of her.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please take a moment to check out my latest project…

THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

In the two-part graphic novel Night Cage, vampires overrun a women’s prison–and to escape, four surviving inmates must fight their way through an army of the undead. Picture ‘Salem’s Lot meets Orange is the New Black. Volume One is available on Amazon, and a Kickstarter is underway for Volume 2.

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Posted June 20, 2022 by C. Michael Forsyth in Uncategorized

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