A Cinematic Guide to Vampires

Of all the movie monsters past and present, vampires have the most storied history. In many ways, they are tailor-made for the big screen; at their most animalistic and monstrous they are a great threat, at their most attractive, they are great romantic figures that allow us to see bonafide movie stars at their most pale and interesting. In this cinematic guide, we will be exploring movies that combine the wealth of possibilities that a vampire movie represents. Oh, and the silly stuff, too.

For the Goths

Let the Right One In

Since I’m extremely biased: let’s start with my favorite movie of the bunch. Let the Right One In had me under its spell from the moment the snowy visuals of the first trailer appeared on the big screen. I was at the cinema to see Watchmen, a movie that I had been buzzing for, and this trailer was what left the most lasting impression of that experience. Based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s amazing debut novel, Let the Right One In is a fairy tale love story between a vampire child and her next door neighbor. It’s sweet and disturbing, with an oppressive atmosphere and fantastic scares, as well as it’s complex takes on sexuality that are tailor-made for the vampire genre.

Near Dark

Near Dark is the indie answer to The Lost Boys. Gone is the polish of dying young and staying pretty, Near Dark’s vampires are more of a shambling cult, with the outlook of a cat torturing a mouse for the sheer fuck of it. There is a central love story – isn’t there always – but this Kathryn Bigelow directed masterpiece is stolen by one of the most terrifying performances of the late Bill Paxton’s career. As he struts on top of a bar, enjoying the terror of his victims, you will never believe it’s the same guy who usually plays big-mouthed cowards, but Bigelow draws the best from her blood-sucking minions. Uh, on-screen, of course.

Interview with the Vampire

Can you imagine the discourse with a capital D that would surround Interview with the Vampire if it was released today? Crammed to the brim with A-list sex symbols making doe-eyes at each other, Interview uses next to no sex or nudity to achieve it’s own brand of very erotic horror. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles will be back on screens at some point next year, but it will be hard pushed to find a better Lestat that Tom Cruise. If you were ever unsure of his acting chops, Cruise is never better as the Brat Prince of the vampires, alongside a tremendous performance from the Brad Prince of them, too.

The Genre-benders

Blade 2

The Blade movie has always left me a little cold. The first movie is a solid enough piece of action cinema, but Wesley Snipes performance as the titular day-walker felt a little confused. Leave it to HP Lovecraft devotee Guillermo Del Toro to craft a sequel that is better that its predecessor in every way. Del Toro is a director with a specific vision, one that fits Blade like his sweet-ass duster. If Marvel have any brains, it should tap Del Toro up for the reboot, and bring this maddeningly fun vampire classic up to the modern day with a director tied up in brilliantly old-fashioned ideas.

What We Do in the Shadows

How do you create a fresh vampire story when they have all been done to death? It certainly helps if you have the genius-level comic stylings of Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who wrote, directed, and starred in vampire mockumentary, What We do in the Shadows. One of the best ways to deconstruct a monster is to ask how they would live day to day – and the result is this creative, inventive, and utterly uproarious flat-share hang-out movie. A movie that rightly made Waiti a star. Next up, Hitler.

The Lost Boys

I didn’t want to include Dracula, or any super obvious choices, but I just can’t leave out The Lost Boys. For one thing, it proves that Joel Schumacher is capable of making a really great movie, even if he himself often seems to forget that. But, to be fair, it helps that he has Kiefer Sutherland on top form as the blond vampire we all wanted to be before Joss Whedon created Spike.

Anything but Twilight

30 Days of Night

Perhaps the most underrated vampire movie of the last decade, 30 Days of Night takes a brilliant premise – vampires set up shop in an Alaskan town at the beginning of a month without the sun – and pushes it to its nastiest conclusion.  Leading the humans fighting for survival is Josh Hartnett’s cop, in an understated performance that we wouldn’t see again until Penny Dreadful (side note: watch Penny Dreadful).The vampires themselves are less statuesque beauty, more complete corruption of the human form. If you want a survival horror with fangs – and a surprisingly compelling Danny Huston performance – this is your movie.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

Considering this is the movie that accidentally launched one of the greatest (if not the greatest) TV shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a huge fucking mess. The plot is basically the same – teenage blond girl gets superpowers and fights vampires with the help of a curmudgeonly old man. Kirsty Swanson is much better as Buffy than the script allows (yes, Joss, we know the director butchered it.) but the main draw is the assorted thespians who are trying their best to throw their career in the toilet. Rutger Hauer plays the main villain with a pantomime pomp, the guy who played Pee Wee Herman has one of the most cringe-worthy deaths in cinematic history, and Donald Sutherland must have dropped acid before every take. That’s the only explanation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not a good movie, but its hilarious. Plus, young Luke Perry as Pike. Miss you, big guy.

Underworld

From one bad heroine to one great one. We all know that the Underworld franchise resembles a blue-filtered picture of dogshit wrapped in leather, but the first movie still rocks. This is prime badass Beckinsale as vampire death-dealer (that’s a cool fucking name) Selena who, gasp, falls for a guy who has just been turned into a werewolf. Honestly, none of the plot matters, Underworld is just an excuse to watch beautiful people try and kill each other. Honestly, has Michael Sheen ever looked cooler? No wonder he got a spin-off.

Are you in the horror mood now it’s spook season at last? Check out the rest of our horror movie writing right here under the Halloween Season tag!

By Kevin Boyle

(Header Image via Horror News Network)

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