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Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Vampire Movies

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.

Brian Hoss

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.

Nate Boss

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.

Aaron Peck

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.

Josh Zyber

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‘.

I’ll toss out some honorable mentions to ‘The Hunger‘, ‘Near Dark‘ and Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Cronos‘.

Tell us in the Comments about your favorite vampire movies.

11 comments

  1. EM

    I’ll go with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), the English edition starring Béla Lugosi. The movie has its flaws—and I agree with critics who say that the concurrent Spanish edition has better atmosphere—but I (generally) love the performances in Browning’s version, especially Lugosi’s. Suave and haunting and at times bestial, Lugosi’s Dracula defined the vampire for audiences of its day and beyond. Most cinematic vampires since then have either aped Lugosi’s Dracula or, as is the fashion today, rebelled against him. Follow him or attempt to defy him, Lugosi’s Dracula remains the preëminent Vampire Lord.

    As I hinted elsewhere today, I’m also a fan of the independent Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, a fun and clever hodgepodge antedating Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by about a decade. And I award an honorable mention to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, the only film in which Lugosi officially reprised the Dracula role. He’s not quite as effective 17 years later, but he’s still fun to watch. This is not quite a vampire movie—it’s a comedy-horror film whose other main monsters are the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man—but it actually has more vampirism than Frankenstein-monsterism and werewolfery (the scene in which Wilbur looks into Sandra’s eyes and sees flying bats is priceless).

  2. EM

    E, since you used the English title Nosferatu the Vampyre, am I to take it you prefer the English-language cut of the film over the German cut Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht? I think the English version isn’t bad, but the actors seem more effective in German. I don’t know if it’s because they’re more comfortable in German, if I’m more critical of performances in my native language, if the English scenes were shot at the end of grueling days, if it’s luck of the draw, or what.

    • M. Enois Duarte

      Actually, my preference is for the original German. I like the English version, but something about seeing Klinski sputter a few English words throws off the whole experience of the film. I only used that version of the title because English-speakers are more familiar with it. I really was not trying to display my preference of one over the other.

  3. Alex

    I know they’re not particularly good movies, but I’m a sucker (hah!) for Blade 1 & 2 and the first Underworld. There’s something about Vampires having their own gothic, secret societies, being the true power-brokers in the world (a la the Illuminati) that I find wonderfully intriguing.

    I’m also a big fan of the Coppola version of Dracula and some of the old Hammer films (“Horror of Dracula” easily being the best).

  4. Barsoom Bob

    Okay, it’s Hammer time. Although Christopher Lee and Horror of Dracula unleashed a new age of Vampire classic movies, my favorite is Brides of Dracula. Peter Cushing was in it but Lee was not. Some blond haired guy was kept chained, silver of course, in his bedroom until unsuspecting, heaving bosom girl feels sorry for him and let’s him loose. Hammer really did understand about sex and horror in a tasteful but fun way that never failed to raise a stake in my pants as a young man.

    Epic climax in an old windmill, Cushing’s Van Helsing is bitten, grabs a chain for support and uses a red hot poker on his neck to burn out the evil. Vampire guy walks in and gets a face full of holy water which burns off half his face. They battle, place catches on fire,
    Vampire guy is escaping. Cushing jumps out the upper window and grabs the blade of the windmill and catches Vampire guy in the moonlight shadow of the blades in a pefect cross, vampire burns up.

    Honorable mentions, Blade II and the Frank Langella version from the eighties with Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. This one really emphasised that it was all about the seduction and sensuality at the heart of the vampire myths.

    • Alex

      With all due respect, I think it was Lawrence Olivier in the Frank Langella version of Dracula. Hopkins was in the Coppola/Oldman version.

  5. JM

    Willem Dafoe in ‘Shadow of the Vampire.’

    Anthony Hopkins in ‘The Remains of the Day.’

    ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’

    ‘Fright Night.’

    ‘The Lost Boys.’

    Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Near Dark.’

    Roman Polanski’s ‘Fearless Vampire Killers Or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck.’

    But I side with Nate Boss, nothing can compete with ‘Thirst.’

  6. William Henley

    Seriously, I cannot believe that no one has listed this yet. I actually went through the article and comments twice. I can’t believe that there hasn’t been any love yet for Interview With The Vampire. Yeah, there have been some great ones listed, but this is one of my favorite movies and favorite books. I watch the movie probably about once every 3-4 months, and have read the book twice (and working on getting through the rest of the series). Too bad the sequel movie sucked – such a great set of books, such a bad film adaptation. In fact, I refuse to accept the fact that Queen of the Damned was even made, and am hoping for a quality film of Vampire Lestate. In fact, there are so many books, and they are so well written, that this would make an excellent TV series, with each book lasting about half a season (12 episodes) or so. You got enough material then for about 5-6 years of a quality TV show.

  7. I still like ‘The Lost Boys’ (very quotable). The sequel was very, very bad, but the second sequel ‘The Thirst’ was quite fun.

  8. I have to agree Barsoom Bob about Brides of Dracula. That has some great moments in it. Peter Cushing is superb and really steals the show.

    Oddly enough, most of the vampire movies I’ve enjoyed have been relatively ‘recent’. One of the oldest being Lost Boys lol! I really enjoyed Priest, even though it’s a completely different take on vampires and essentially a big tribute to The Searchers. 30 days of Night is excellent, as is John Carpenter’s Vampires. I also rather like Dracula 2000 for giving it one of the most original twists I’ve seen for a vampire movie. I was quite surprised to find how much I enjoyed the remake of Fright Night as well.

    Oddly enough I never warmed to Coppola’s ‘Dracula’. I find any individual scene really great, but for some reason I always found the film as a whole never gelled.

    One thing I’ve noticed, is that I don’t seem to like ‘pretty boy’ vampire movies. I seem to much prefer the ones that don’t glamorise vampires but portray them as animals/beasts/monsters. I think we’ve had so many years of films that portrayed vampires as these lovely seductive creatures that girls swoon over despite their blood-sucking tendencies, it’s been nice to have movies that portray them as nightmarish horrors.