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Vampire 101: Underworld and Other Blood Wars

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In Underworld: Blood Wars, Kate Beckinsale’s death-dealing Selene has plenty of creepy company in a zany zompire where it sucks to be them. But how does it stack up against other popular vampire worlds?

Today’s most popular vampire tales often involve epic battles between clans and covens of superhuman and supernatural monsters.

At this point in the Underworld franchise, the producers could simply have star Kate Beckinsale strut down dark alleys in her slick black catsuit and corset, shooting semi-automatic weapons for 90 minutes, and the films would still make money. But where’s the fun in that?

As Selene, the elite fighting “Death Dealer,” the British actress is a perfect icon for the modern vampire movie, a hybrid genre where horror meets action. For as the latest Underworld: Blood Wars shows, much has changed in the 120 years since Bram Stoker’s lonely Count Dracula stalked virginal ladies in the night. Today’s most popular vampire tales often involve epic battles between clans and covens of superhuman and supernatural monsters. Think the complexity of Game of Thrones, but with fangs and more pouting. Blood Wars takes Underworld’s original premise — vampires vs. werewolves — and makes it more political, with spies, treachery, and the like. But how does it stack up against other popular vampire worlds?

Here’s a cheater’s guide to the ever-complicated universes of bloodsuckers on screen:

The Vampire Chronicles

Anne’s Rice’s 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, and its sumptuous 1994 adaptation starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, gave old-school solitary vamps some group dynamics. The ongoing vampire chronicles, which are soon to be a television series, feature not only the undead family unit of Lestat, Louis, their child Claudia, and a variety of ancient immortal ancestors (such as Akasha, star of 2002’s Queen of the Damned), but also a network of witches and spirits, all under the watchful eye of the secret society Talamasca.  They also had their own theatre troupe. Because: capes.

The Twilight Saga

Basically, this universe is Team Edward and Team Jacob and a girl. Despite having more than a dozen vampire covens spread across the globe, from the vegetarian Cullen family to the animalistic Amazons and royal Volturi, the sparkling creatures that populate The Twilight Saga are pretty much loners. And their enemies are few. A bunch of werewolves. The odd shape-shifter. A couple of human-vampire hybrids. The five blockbuster films are essentially one big love triangle involving human Bella Swan and her nocturnal paramours. No other immortal interlopers need apply.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Vampires and Demons and Slayers, oh my! All manner of baddies slipped through the portal from hell to Earth via Sunnydale High, making the Buffyverse one of the richest supernatural worlds ever conjured. Over seven seasons of TV, slayer Buffy Summers and her Scooby Gang are pitted against Oracles and Vengeance Demons, The Powers That Be and even Dracula himself. Not unlike in Star Trek, the myriad creatures come with outlandish face prosthetics and fantastical names, like Turok-Han and  “Space bug zompire thing” — each one with a valuable lesson to teach about civilization. Or at least high school.

True Blood

By the end of its seven-season run, they could have renamed this show As the World of Magical Creatures Turns. What with all the faeries and witches and mediums cruising around Bon Temps, Louisiana, causing trouble — not to mention werepanthers and skinwalkers and something called a maenad — it was a supernatural soap opera run amok. Even its star vampire-loving human, Sookie Stackhouse, had a dalliance with a werewolf. For all the intrigue and cliffhangers, True Blood was at its core just a good old gossip fest.

Blade

Like Selene, Blade is a vampire action hero who looks great in tight pants. And like Underworld, the Blade film trilogy features a web of vampire clans (or “Houses”) and councils scheming between the fancy fight scenes. Based on a Marvel comic book character, the Daywalker slayer played by Wesley Snipes is half-human, with all of the vampire strengths and none of the weaknesses, which serves him well as he battles pure bloods and Reapers and assorted villains in a personal vendetta. If it weren’t for the real-life politics of studio movie making, Blade and Selene would make a great crossover team!

Liisa Ladouceur is a Toronto-based author and journalist.