“Look at them- children of the night… what music they make.”Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula
‘Tis the season of the spook, and the nights are haunted by ghoulish creatures and boogeymen. Since the dawn of horror cinema, there have been killer clowns descended from space, murderous blobs, different adaptations of Frankenstein’s monster, knife-wielding dolls, possessive demons and more. However, before all of these monsters were created there were vampires and werewolves- who ended up being the center of a never-ending rivalry.
Dating as far back as Vlad the Impaler (456-1462), who was born in Transylvania, Romania, vampires have been suspected and immortalized as blood-sucking beings. Many diseases of the time convinced townspeople around the world that vampires walked this very earth amongst them, but it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula that created a new point of view of vampirism- one less realistic, but more deranged and horrifying.
Werewolf lore can be traced as far back as Greek mythology, and legends of accounts with werewolves or shapeshifting, beastly men can be found in sixteenth century France and Germany. They are stories of men who used ointments, pelts or magical cloaks that helped transform them into monstrous beasts of the night that murder and eat the remains of children.
Films and television shows like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Dark Shadows (1966-1971) and The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman (1971) began depicting the two timeless creatures of the night together, and even battling each other in Abbott and Costello. As time progressed the rivalry between vampires and werewolves increased into a pop-culture phenomenon. The modern film Van Helsing (2004) shows the two creatures being immortal enemies. In the Underworld series, vampires and werewolves (also known as lycans) have been enemies since their very creation – descending from the same family and diverging down parallel paths, killing each other along the way. The Twilight saga even uses the famous vampire versus werewolf rivalry in its storyline – using not only a primal rivalry but a rivalry in love as well.
There are many similarities between the two creatures, like bloodlust, their shapeshifting abilities, their magical origins and the fact that they are cursed through a bite or scratch. But it’s their differences that have divided them in films, and thus their fans as well. Their equal yet alternate strengths make them formidable foes. In this rivalry, there is not only a general distaste between the two species, but they are made out to be complete opposites. Each creature, no matter the adaptation being portrayed, has their own set of skills: enhanced abilities and weaknesses that seem to balance each other out, making them foes for all eternity, never able to fully out-gun the other. No matter what immortal side you choose to follow, here is a quick guide through the two monster moguls that might help you decide which deserves the top spot:
Personality: Since Dracula (1931) and other earlier adaptations, vampires have been stalkerish beings who talk menacingly slow and usually use ancient language. They creep in the shadows, stalk through hallways, and hauntingly stare at their victims through doorways, like in the 1922 film Nosferatu. They are chronic homebodies who usually have a fledgling or slave fetch what they need. Their isolated nature makes them very introverted and lacking in knowledge of basic human interactions. As more adaptations of vampires have come out, the loner persona has transgressed into a cult ideology with vampires. Although their nature still thrives in isolation, like Underworld’s Selina and even Twilight’s Edward, films like Queen of the Damned (2002) and The Lost Boys (1987) have created a sexual coven aspect to vampires. They barricade themselves in mansions and night clubs and equally feast on mortals and each other in a lustrous and glutinous way. No matter how modern or classic the adaptation, though, vampires are portrayed with an elitist mentality. They believe themselves to be above humanity and therefore deserving of human blood like it is their right. They are more prone to look down their noses at other creatures, and although they can band together in need, they are still highly selfish creatures.
Physical Attributes: Most vampires of different origins usually share a handful of physical attributes, like pale skin with long white fangs which are used for maximum blood drainage. Some of them have been known to also have blood red eyes. Many vampires have been associated with shape shifting into bats, but Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) has even taken it further, making Dracula a shapeshifter of many forms – from a wolf to an old man and to a young, handsome man. Vampires have varied from freakishly tall and terrifying, with pointed nails and grim faces, to as beautiful as angels, but no matter the adaptation, their physical attributes are used for maximum hunting abilities.
Enhanced Abilities/Strengths: At their most powerful, vampires are known to be sly, quick hunters – like jungle cats. They have supernatural strength and speed. Most adaptations of vampires also show that they have an ability to mentally influence/entrance humans. Furthermore, films have portrayed vampires to be able to walk up walls, and they have the ability of regeneration. Since they are beings without a soul, they are immortal as well. They sometimes possess other magical abilities due to their usual connection to satanism and witchcraft.
Weaknesses: Vampires are slaves to the sun. No matter the telling, the sun and vampires do not mix well at all, because it completely burns them to ashes, like in Fright Night (1985.) Wooden stakes, crosses and holy water are classic enemies of vampires. Wooden stakes were once upon a time considered one of the only ways to truly kill one. They are also restricted by being required to be invited into your home in order to enter. Decapitation, fire, and dismemberment are vampire hunters’ essential ways to killing a vampire – especially if your name is Van Helsing. Lastly, werewolves have always been the equal opponent to vampires, completely made to be able to kill each other. TV shows like The Vampire Diaries have shown that just a single bite from a werewolf can poison and kill a vampire. Other renditions show that werewolf teeth are strong enough to dismember and decapitate even ancient and most powerful vampires.
Personality: Werewolves have always been the complete opposite of vampires – biologically and even psychologically. Werewolves are always portrayed as nomadic and gypsy-like, like in Underworld (2003) and Skinwalkers (2007). They usually have a hard time coming to terms with their beastly-hood, and they are more in touch with their humanity than vampires, since they are still human most of the time of their life. They have families and stick together, always keeping a pack mentality in every form they take. They are usually seen as stubborn, downtrodden, and looked down upon by vampires. Even series like The Mortal Instruments deem lycanthropy as a horrible curse, demeaning your social status.
Physical Attributes: Werewolves are shape shifters. They transform back and forth between their human form and the forms of either a wolf or a full beast. In many modern film portrayals, they are usually not well groomed when in human form, but others have portrayed that they are. They have red or yellow eyes, and when in beast form they are significantly larger than the average wolf. Some older versions of werewolves couldn’t even change back to human form at all once they were cursed.
Enhanced Abilities/Strengths: In both forms, werewolves are enhanced predators – like a wolf, but juiced up. They have superhuman speed, strength, endurance and agility. In beast form they are animalistic predators with monstrous teeth and claws. In all forms they have hyper senses, including smell, sight and hearing. Furthermore, they have night vision that can be triggered in both forms as well. Because they have superhuman healing abilities, they are almost immortal like vampires. Lastly, because they travel in packs, they also usually have telepathic abilities which enable them to communicate with each other.
Weaknesses: Werewolves are slaves to the moon. Although it’s what gives them their power, werewolves mostly cannot control themselves once under the influence of the full moon. They are mindless beasts. Silver, and most importantly silver bullets, have been another major foe of the werewolf of any adaptation. In more intricate stories, wolfsbane is an inhibitor of their abilities, severely weakening them. Werewolves are still mostly human in many adaptations, meaning they are weakened by their humanity, meaning they are not fully immortal. Finally, vampires are known to be able to kill werewolves even in their beast form. In the Twilight series, vampires are strong enough to shatter every bone in a werewolves’ body. They also are known to have the durability in their teeth and nails to completely slice apart werewolves. Even in the Underworld series, vampires have advanced bullet technology that kills werewolves within seconds by releasing silver directly into their bloodstream, and they also portray that a single bite from a vampire would be poisonous for a werewolf.
Vampires and werewolves have always been portrayed to have equal abilities to kill each other. In fact, they have been so equal in strength that it is their inability to out-match each other that is the very reason that their rivalry keeps thriving. In every adaptation, the two formidable foes always come close to full annihilation of each other, throwing fangs, claws, shooting bullets, and baring their supernatural strength to each other, but no one ever truly comes out on top. Their fans, however, choose the side they want to stand behind, creating some of the best fan rivalries in horror and supernatural history. Whether you are ‘Team Edward’ or ‘Team Jacob, or whether your support lies with vampires or werewolves, your ability to choose a side and participate in riveting discourse brings about some of the best supernatural, horror films to date as well as keeping an interesting and fun rivalry alive for decades to come.
Essential/ Reference Films:
Rise of the Lycans (2009), Twilight Series (2008-2012), Underworld (2003), An American werewolf in London (1981), The Howling (1981), Cursed (2004), The Wolf Man (1941), Skinwalkers (2007), Silver Bullet (1985), Nosferatu (1922), Fright Night (1985), Bram Stokers Dracula (1992), Dracula (1931), Queen of the Damned (2002), The Lost Boys (1987), Interview with a Vampire (1994)