10 Favorite Vampire Movies
10.) Fright Night
Fright Night is a great little riff on Rear Window – sometimes spying on your neighbor means you see bad things. Though perhaps a better way to describe it is a mash-up of those De Palma style voyeur films and those teen movies where the losers go up against the popular kid. There’s a lot of fun here. Roddy McDowell has a great turn as the horror-host Peter Vincent. Chris Sarandon is a lot of fun as the vampire. I saw this film on broadcast TV for the first time and so immediately fell in love with it that I think I’m the only one who read the comic book series from NOW.
9) Blood and Roses (Et Mourir de Plaisir)
Barbarella aside, Roger Vadim was a French filmmaker who was probably more successful at marrying beautiful women than he was at making successful movies. But I have a soft spot for Blood and Roses. It’s Vadim’s modern riff on Le Fanu’s Carmilla. The script is a little weak but the locations and Claude Renoir’s (yes, he’s related to that Renoir) stunning cinematography make the film absolutely worth seeing, especially if you like art-house erotic horror. Blood and Roses is clearly an influence on Hammer’s penchant for attractive and buxom vampire women wearing gowns and gliding out of backlit fog. Also, worth mentioning, that the use of roses in the film was a huge inspiration on my unreleased vampire novel Plague Kisses.
8) Only Lovers Left Alive
Going to be honest with you. I have a love/hate relationship with Jim Jarmusch’s films. I mean that literally. I either love them to pieces or absolutely can’t stand them. But I love Only Lover’s Left Alive. It’s a well written and an expertly dialogue-driven film. It’s beautifully shot and the set design is so rich you want to go through all the little things the vampires have accumulated over the years. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are perfect together. Not to mention the film is surprising both sweet and completely human.
7) Nosferatu, The Vampyre
When F.W. Murnau made the original Nosferatu, he wanted to adapt Dracula but it was still copyrighted and his attempts at changing it couldn’t keep him from being sued and those suits nearly destroyed his film When Werner Herzog made his version, Dracula was in the public domain so he was able to merge all the material together and, I think, makes this a better film. It’s absolutely exquisite to look at, you could mute the sound and simply watch it and be enthralled. Not to mention, Kinski gives one of his best performances. His Dracula is both pathetic and powerful, driven by a deep loneliness and a palpable ache for Lucy Harker.
6) Bram Stoker’s Dracula
(True story—first time I tried to go see this at the theatre with a friend of mine, we were both carded and they wouldn’t let us in.) I don’t think this film got enough love when it was released. And some of it I get. Coppola directing a horror film seems weird. And I’ve always liked Winona Ryder but I don’t know the she really gave a great performance until Stranger Things. I also really like Keanu Reeves but he’s kind of terrible as Jonathan Harker. But I think the rest of the cast makes up for it: Oldman as Dracula, Hopkins as Van Helsing, Cary Elwes as Holmwood, Richard E Grant as Seward. The costuming by Eiko Ishioka absolutely deserved that Oscar. The film is well-directed and the score is amazing. The strength of the flick, I think, is really it’s pervasive and unrelenting sense of menace and the way to manages to convey the madness of immortality intertwined with insatiable lust in the form of a painful, physical hunger.
5) A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Filmed in California, shot in moody black and white, with dialogue in Farsi, this flick has been called “the first Iranian vampire film” and it’s absolutely worth watching. Yes, it’s all style over story, but, man, there’s so much style here it’s almost painful. While I did not care for Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up film, she has gone on to direct two of the best episodes of Legion and Castle Rock and I'm hoping we'll see more stuff from her like A Girl.
4) Let The Right One In
Skip the completely unnecessary remake and watch the original if you haven’t already. I love anything that manages to be several things at once. Let The Right One In is both sweet and disturbing, it’s both an unusual romance and a completely bloody horror story. It’s also a meditation on trust and what unconditional love really means.
3) Ganja & Hess
Blacula is probably the most famous blaxploitation vampire film, but Ganja & Hess is by far the better movie. In 1972, two inexperienced producers decided they wanted to make a “black vampire film” so they approached actor, playwright, and novelist Bill Gunn. Gunn was reluctant at first, but agreed and since the producers had no experience making films they gave him near complete creative control and so they ended up with something other than the blaxploitation vampire film they wanted. I love any film that manages to be two things at once, that allows you to experience the film on two different levels. Ganja & Hess does that very well. You can watch it as a vampire movie and there’s some cool stuff here. A lost tribe of African vampires, a mystical dagger. But you can also watch it for the deep subtext because it’s a very political film – Gunn uses vampirism as a metaphor for addiction and confines most of the action to Ganja’s mansion so the entire film becomes really Ganja’s angry awakening to the pains of the black experience in America. (Skip the unnecessary Spike Lee remake, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus)
2) Near Dark
If you’ve ever played Vampire: The Masquerade and felt like you didn’t really understand the Sabbat, then that’s probably because you’ve never seen Near Dark. The film started out as a revisionist western, but when Katheryn Bigelow couldn’t secure funding for a western, she and her co-writer Eric Red (The Hitcher) re-wrote their script as a vampire film. The film was a complete failure at the box office but, rightly, achieved cult status. The cast is great. There’s some amazing scenes and quotable dialogue. Tons of other vampire films and novels borrowed left and right from this dark vampire/western/road film. (If you crushed on Jenny Wright who played Mae like I did and you’ve never seen I, Madman you should track that one down for a watch)
1) Lost Boys
I love this film. The cast is good, from the Coreys to Jason Patrick to Kiefer Sutherland giving one of his best performances. The soundtrack is awesome (people love to make fun of the saxophone guy but if you saw this film when it came out and you were young and you didn’t think that shit was cool, you’re a liar). It’s immensely quotable. They do some cool things with vampires (not enough vampires fly). And one of my dream projects is to pitch a Lost Boys TV series to HBO (I have five seasons of that sketched out, if anyone at HBO is reading this).