Screen vampires have been a staple of the horror movie genre for almost one hundred years at this point, but they haven't always been equal in terms of sheer fright factor. We've seen grotesque vampires, edgy vampires, teen vampires, and heartthrob vampires, but it's hard to get scared of the latter ones.
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Grotesque, gothic vampires are where it's at, and who better to carry the torch than the malevolent Kurt Barlow from the infamous 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot? While Barlow does come straight out of a nightmare, he does have sinister competition in the form of Count Orlok from the iconic silent horror masterpiece Nosferatu. Here's 5 reasons why Barlow is the scariest vampire, and 5 why it could be Orlok.
At first glance, Kurt Barlow seems to mimic the creepy design of Count Orlok from Nosferatu, but there's a lot going on to separate the two. Barlow's eyes glow a demonic yellow, signaling his complete departure from the last vestiges of his former humanity. His grayish-blue skin epitomizes his undeadness, and the rot that has set into his reanimated corpse.
Barlow's teeth are also far more pronounced in comparison to Orlok's, with a top row of fangs punctuated (no pun intended) by two abnormally large ones in the center. Barlow is evil incarnate in every way, and it's expressed perfectly in his twisted figure.
While Barlow practically oozes non-human, Count Orlok is much different. In many ways, he looks like the grumpy Grandpa with unkempt crazy hair who you'd find feeding the pigeons down at the wharf. Stick a hat on him, and he'd be able to blend in despite his off-putting facial features.
Still, Orlok is pure creep factor. His sunken eyes gleam malevolently, adding to his menace, and his high shouldered gait suggests something otherworldly about him.Orlok also seems to have slightly longer talons than Barlow.
When comparing these two creepy vampires, it's best to analyze their respective behaviors. Kurt Barlow is a pure animal; a destructive, instinctual force of evil who seeks to propagate his species and spread darkness.
While the novels portray Barlow as an intellectual in comparison to the TV miniseries, both are nonetheless extremely aggressive creatures who kill on sight, even if it means risking exposure. The manner of their attacks are vicious and brutal, like a tiger taking down a gazelle.
In contrast, Count Orlok is something of a gentleman, at least in facade. He's been around a long time, he runs a castle, and he seems educated about manners of real estate and business - something Barlow would probably have little patience for.
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Orlok was hesitant to attack Thomas Hutter when he first arrived in Transylvania, preferring to wait until the night to make his move. This suggests cunning, patience, and strategy from Orlok, who will only kill if it furthers his goal, rather than because of blind instinct.
The miniseries featured Kurt Barlow's human familiar Richard Straker in the role of the principal antagonist, at least until Barlow's coffin was shipped to the small town of Salem's Lot. Straker made preparations for Barlow's arrival by moving into the evil house and sacrificing young Ralphie Glick to his vampire lord.
This would imply that despite his ferocious and bestial nature, Barlow was capable of both restraint and cunning. The novel hints that Barlow had multiple familiars throughout the centuries, with Straker being his favorite. By sending Straker to do his dirty work, it demonstrated Barlow's reach and influence over his servants, as well as his skills as a master manipulator.
For all his unattractive looks and creepy persona, Orlok was a cunning vampire who took the time necessary to enact his plans and see them through to fruition. He refrained from killing Thomas Hutter in order to secure his move, and he didn't kill indiscriminately when he arrived in Wisborg.
Without a familiar to do his bidding, Orlok had to do a lot of the heavy lifting on his own. While he does influence and gains control over the psychiatric patient Knock in the film, it's a far cry from Richard Straker's long-term service to Kurt Barlow.
Salem's Lot wasn't afraid to shy away from the direct confrontation between Satanism and Christianity, and it was played up several times throughout both the novel and the miniseries. Images of crucifixes warding bloodsuckers away was child's play compared to the bold blasphemy against religious order.
The most infamous scene features Barlow directly attacking the Petrie family before confronting Father Callahan, whom he challenges to a battle of individual faiths. In the end, Callahan's religious faith fails before Barlow's evil, a rare example of good failing to triumph.
While Count Orlok undoubtedly had less-than-stellar things to say about the Christian religion, he did not attack it outright in an attempt to belittle or disgrace his ideological opponents. Rather, Orlok was far more interested in whatever suited him personally.
His move to Wisborg was based purely on his own selfish desires, including the need to leave his ancestral home, as well as his pursuit of Ellen Hutter.
Kurt Barlow has an advantage in the fact that he's part of the Stephen King multiverse, an interconnected and canonized series of storylines that interact and relate to one another. Barlow exists in the same universe as Pennywise the Clown, the events of The Dark Tower, and many more.
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This gives the vampire a mythology of his very own, which is separate from the one Count Orlok draws upon for his backstory. As long as Stephen King keeps writing horror novels, there's always the chance that Barlow's history could be further explored, which is a frighteningly tantalizing thought!
It's easy to see that Nosferatu was a direct ripoff of Bram Stoker's Dracula tale, and that caused a great deal of controversy when the film was released, prompting Stoker's heirs to sue director F.W. Murnau and attempt to have the film destroyed. Nevertheless, Orlok has Dracula's blood in his veins, and the film remains one of the best adaptations of the story.
As Dracula incarnate, Orlok bears the distinction of filling the shoes of the most popular vampire in pop culture history. He's the original baddie - Vlad the Impaler, the scourge of mankind, the vampire supreme! It's hard to top the O.G., even if he was wearing another hat at the time.
NEXT:10 Horror Movies That Were Victims Of Bad Marketing
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Derek's been a pop culture nut since he was a wee lad. When it's time to yell "Get off my lawn," he'll be dressed up like Kratos until the cops arrive. Derek loves contributing to both ScreenRant and TheGamer.
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