Ancient Egyptian vampires and horror

Before the word ‘vampire’ in the 1700s, before Dracula, before Vlad the Impaler AND Elizabeth Bathory, there was Ancient Egypt. My first time seeing an Ancient Egyptian vampire in a horror movie was Queen of the Damned (2002). Since then, I've been lucky enough to add two more to my ridiculously short list. First, I'll take a look at those movies. Then, I'll tie them into mythology that I believe inspired these stories and vampire lore at large.

To hear me talk about this, you can listen to my Brother Ghoulish's Tomb episode here or in the embedded link below:

Queen of the Damned (2002)

Summary: After years of resting, the vampire Lestat awakes with one thing on his mind: rock and roll! So, he joins a band as their lead singer and spills tea on vampire secrets, much to the dismay of other vampires. Lestat chalks it up to them being haters when his music evokes Akasha, the mother of all vampires who is filled with an insatiable bloodlust and wants all humans to be slaves to vampires. Will Lestat march to his own beat, or join her? After all, Akasha is more than a woman; she’s Queen of the Damned.

Rating: R for ‘vampire violence’

Runtime: 1hr 41m

Director: Michael Rymer whose other director's credits include Battlestar Galactica, American Horror Story, and the Hannibal TV series

Writers: Anne Rice, Scott Abbott, and Michael Petroni

Rotten Tomatoes: 17% for critics & 66% for audience score

Release: 2/22/02 and placed 1st domestically, grossing $14,757,535

3 words to describe the Queen of the Damned movie are sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The best parts of the film were of Aaliyah as Akasha. Here’s some interesting facts about the film:

  • WB hastily smashed The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned books into one movie in their last year of holding the rights

  • Anne Rice hated this adaptation, but loved Stuart Townsend as Lestat. Apparently, she only watched it once and disowned it afterwards

  • Heath Ledger could have been Lestat after Tom Cruise declined to return

  • The list of actresses who could have been Akasha include Jada Pinkett Smith, Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Williams, and Vivica A. Fox

  • Aaliyah as Akasha shows up at the 51 minute mark of the film and only has 26 minutes of screen time altogether

Vampire rules:

  • Unaffected by garlic, crucifixes, stakes through the heart, or holy water

  • Don’t need to be invited into homes

  • Affected by the sun, except many of the ancient immortals

Akasha’s story in canon:

As a human, Akasha was born before “The first pharaoh built the first pyramid” and married Enkil, the King of Kemet at a very young age (Kemet later became Egypt). The twin witches Maharet and Mekare summon a powerful spirit named Amel to mess with Akasha after an ongoing rivalry.

On the night of her assassination, Amel fuses with Akasha’s soul and is returned to her body making her the world’s first vampire. She turns Enkil, making him the second

As more vampires are made, Akasha and Enkil's bloodlust decreases. So much so, they eventually become living statues.

One day, the statues were left in the sun. Vampires around the world either spontaneously combusted or were badly burned. Akasha and Enkil were unharmed. So, any injury done to them will be done to all vampires.

Care of the statues eventually became the responsibility of Marius who Lestat eventually lived with. Against Marius’s wishes, Lestat played the violin for Akasha which woke her. She and Lestat tasted each other’s blood, an act that later saved him from doom.

Akasha awoke again in 1985 at hearing one of Lestat’s live rock concerts. After killing Enkil, she finds vampires by listening to their thoughts and mass murders vampires who were unable to stop her. Her plan is to then kill 90% of human men and to reform a new Eden in her image.

Vamp (1986)

Summary: Three college men seeking strippers find them in a nightclub run by the undead.

Rating: R

Runtime: 1hr 33m

Director: Richard Wenk

Writers: Donald P. Borchers and Richard Wenk

Rotten Tomatoes: 40% for critics & 49% for audience score

Release: 7/18/86

2 words to describe Vamp are campy and punk. I talk about my feelings and review the film in my episode from last season, Vamp (1986) ft. Zena Dixon from Bloody Disgusting here. Here are some interesting facts about the film:

  • Inspired by Nosferatu, Grace Jones’s Katrina doesn’t say a single word

  • Artist Keith Haring did Grace Jones’s body paint for Katrina’s first number

  • Grace Jones’s makeup is inspired by Pris from Blade Runner (1982)

  • In In Search of Darkness: Part II (2020), it’s revealed that Grace Jones’s bite into Robert Rusler’s neck went clean through the latex and into him for real

The Hunger (1983)

Summary: Miriam and John might be too cool for the labels, but are totally vampires. Sarah, a scientist who’s looking to reverse the aging process, is about to get a firsthand look into the subject matter.

Rating: R

Runtime: 1hr 37m

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: James Costigan, Michael Thomas, and Whitley Strieber who also wrote the novel. He also wrote Communion, which I will NEVER forgive him for.

Rotten Tomatoes: 55% for critics & 66% for audience score

Release: 4/29/83

3 words to describe The Hunger are moody, artsy, and exquisite. The storyline could be stronger in places. It’s a slow burn, but the payoff is well worth the wait. Here’s some interesting facts about the film:

  • The word ‘vampire’ is never said in the film

  • Susan Sarandon revealed that Sarah was originally very drunk in the screenplay, but she asked that it be changed to a sip of wine with the rest being spilled. One, it was important to her that it be Sarah’s choice. Two, and I quote, “You wouldn’t have to be drunk to bed Catherine Deneuve, I don’t care what your sexual history to that point had been.”

  • MGM had the original ending changed to what it is now to create an opportunity for a sequel. The only thing close to it was a spinoff of the same name that premiered in 1997 with no storyline ties to the original

  • The director, Tony Scott, is Ridley Scott’s brother. Both this and Ridley’s movie Blade Runner (1982) are dedicated to their brother, Frank Scott who died in 1980 due to skin cancer. In 2000, he named one of his twin sons Frank

  • A remake was announced by WB in 2009 written by Whitley Strieber, but to-date, no remake has been made

  • Miriam was 6,000 years old. She’d been lovers with John for 300.

Vampire rules:

  • No vampire fangs; just daggers concealed in ankhs

  • The hunger or blood-lust and immortality seem to be the only thing ‘vampire’ about them

Sekhmet - the warrior goddess of healing

I believe that Akasha, Katrina, and Miriam were inspired by Sekhmet a.k.a. “Mistress of Dread,” “Lady of Slaughter,” or “She Who Mauls." The daughter of Ra, Hathor was a goddess of fertility associated with cows and the Milky Way. She became Sekhmet through her blood-lust. While Hathor is depicted as clearly human, Sekhmet is depicted as anthropomorphic with a ferocious big prey cat head and a woman's body.

The story goes, Ra was reaching the end of his reign. So, humans were conspiring against his order. Ra sent his daughter Hathor to strike fear into their hearts, and that she did. As Sekhmet, she slaughtered countless humans and drank their blood. In fact, her blood-lust was insatiable and threatened the end of mankind.

To stop her, Ra came up with a plan. He filled a river with wine and died it the color of blood. Drawn in, Sekhmet drank it all and became so drunk that she forgot her rampage on mankind. Some stories credit Sekhmet for drinking blood from the Nile, saving humanity in the process; silt occasionally turns the Nile red.

Shezmu - god of oils, ointments, perfumes, wine, and blood

Shezmu, a.k.a. "He Who Dismembers Bodies" or "Fierce of Face" among many other titles is depicted as a man with a lion’s head complete with fangs and holding a butcher knife. He would punish evildoers by decapitating them and placing their heads in his winepress to make his wine of their blood.

Of the oils he's associated with, embalming ones are included i.e. the preservation of body and beauty. Such preservation is a huge part of vampire lore. Red, his and Sekhmet's color, is also associated with the sun going down. Everything about Shezmu screams 'vampire.'

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