This week brings a new vampire movie to theaters that thankfully doesn’t have the word “Twilight” in the title. Even if it looks pretty goofy (and according to Luke is kind of terrible), that’s still a good enough excuse to justify today’s Roundtable topic. What are some of your favorite vampire movies? We’ll tell you ours after the page break.
Apart from the obvious directorial connection with this week’s new ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov’s ‘Night Watch‘ has more to offer audiences than just some sexy, gothy vampires. Two powerful vampiric factions, Light and Dark, enforce a centuries-old peace treaty to keep each other’s actions in check. While the good side strives to leave humans oblivious to the conflict, the bad side takes, abuses and perverts humans whenever they find any margin to get away with such exploits. The movie has plenty of vampires, conflict, drama, exploitation and violence – all presented with a potent visual style. The bombastic follow-up, ‘Day Watch‘, fails to match the original as it attempts to one-up its every aspect. In ‘Night Watch’, the vampires win and the vampires lose, but only the humans wind up filled with shame.
I’m partial to foreign vampire fare. I dislike hearing a vampire speak a somewhat modern language, especially when it’s an infinitely old bloodsucker, so just the simple act of not understanding the creature and reading its sometimes lyrical dialogue adds much to the experience for me. As much as I love the mostly unheard-of Korean film ‘Marebito’, another Korean flick in the genre takes the cake. Park Chan-Wook’s ‘Thirst‘ may very well be the best vampire film ever made. The origin of the virus is neat, the way the condition spreads is extremely personal and tragic, and the consequences and lives changed by the obvious vampirism feel genuine. It’s complex like any film in the ‘Vengeance Trilogy’, yet has a slightly more straightforward narrative that allows for much easier comprehension. The finale may well be one of the best in the horror genre, as simple as it is. It’s a disgrace that this flick still isn’t available in America on Blu-ray, considering some of the absolute crap Universal releases from its catalog.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
OK, ‘30 Days of Night‘ isn’t my favorite vampire movie, exactly, but it’s the one I feel like writing about right now. Pretty much every vampire flick I’ve ever come across ends with the sun coming up and a bloodsucker or two bursting into ash. Set in a remote Alaskan town where there’s not a trace of sunlight for a full month, ’30 Days of Night’ hacks off that safety net. The vampires swoop in the instant the sun goes down, dismantling all forms of communication and every way in or out of Barrow. Just over 150 warm bodies are corralled together like cattle, and it’s feeding time.
’30 Days of Night’ doesn’t exactly romanticize its vampires. They hunt in packs, speak in an impenetrable tongue, have shark-like rows of razor-sharp teeth, and… well, they like to play with their food. With as neutered and PG-13-friendly as horror movies so frequently want to be anymore, it’s a visceral thrill to see something as unrepentantly brutal and savage as the attacks throughout ’30 Days of Night’. The film’s not weighed down by all that back story you’re bombarded with in the ‘Underworld’ franchise, and part of the reason the movie is so intense and suspenseful is that it’s quiet, shrugging off the usual obnoxious horror stings. There’s nothing self-referential or post-modern about ’30 Days of Night’ – just one of the most solid, straight-ahead horror flicks of the past few years.
M. Enois Duarte
Assuming that someone already picked ‘Twilight’ or ‘Vampire in Brooklyn’ as their favorite, I’ll run down through my list of oh-so many and very much-loved vampire flicks, searching for something different. Tied at #1 are Guy Maddin’s early-cinema homage ‘Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary‘ and Werner Herzog’s ethereal ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre‘. Both films are gorgeous and sumptuous in their study of our sensual attraction to the children of the night, as well as our petrified fear of them. Maddin’s expressive adaptation of the ballet pays endless adoration to the silent-film era, with a tinge of satire to Bram Stoker’s immortal classic. Herzog’s darkly emotive and heavily stylized film based on F.W. Murnau 1922 German Expressionist classic is easily one of the best remakes ever made because it celebrates the original with eloquent images that linger and haunt our imagination long afterwards. In my book, these two are the most beautiful horror films ever captured on celluloid.
I have to go with ‘Let the Right One In‘. I also really liked the American remake, ‘Let Me In’, but I thought that the original has a better tone and produces a darker, more foreboding mood. What I really like about ‘Let the Right One In’ is that it’s a vampire movie without being a vampire movie. Usually, vampire movies must cover everything we already know about vampires: special powers, how to kill them, etc. Here, we’re expected to already know vampire folklore, which the movie only hints at. The best thing about the movie is that it isn’t obsessed with vampires. One of the main characters happens to be one, but that isn’t the main focus of the film. It’s really about how two young outcasts interact with each other, and how a lonely boy finds companionship and a sense of responsibility for another soul. Plus, that end scene in the swimming pool is one of the most stunningly subtle action climaxes I’ve ever seen.
There have been a lot of great vampire movies made over the years. Unfortunately, there have been even more terrible ones. For two of the best, I have to go all the way back to 1922 to highlight F.W. Murnau’s original silent masterpiece ‘Nosferatu‘, and to 1932 for Carl Theodor Dreyer’s nearly-silent Expressionist classic ‘Vampyr‘. Both movies contain some truly startling images that set the template for the cinematic vampire genre and still have the power to haunt viewers today.
For something more recent, I’m also partial to Francis Coppola’s deliriously overwrought ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘.
Tell us in the Comments about your favorite vampire movies.