‘Tis the season, and all that.
A great deal of my published writing has involved vampires in one way or another so it seems only fitting that I share a few of my favorite vampire films during this most festive of seasons.
I realize there are TONS of vampire films out there, and nearly as many “best of” lists pertaining to them, but hear me out, please: not all vampires are created equal, and some are downright ludicrous. This list will be, I hope, a few new films for you to check out, plus some favorites and a few classics. A couple of them I’ve recommended before, but all of them are quality films for your viewing pleasure. So without further ado…
Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula
My first choice may be controversial. True, Keanu Reeves’ and Winona Ryder’s British accents were terrible, and some of the over-the-top imagery lends itself beautifully to laugh-out-loud parody, but Coppola’s Dracula is a lush film with beautiful sets and costuming, and hews fairly closely to Stoker’s original story. Coppola inserts an unexpected reincarnation-themed love triangle, and I found that love story to be touching and full of genuine emotion. Gary Oldman is superb as the count, and solid supporting performances by Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost and Tom Waits add to the lushness of this production. Plus, bonus Anthony Hopkins leaving teethmarks of his own in every scene where he appears!
Only Lovers Left Alive
One of the more recent entries on my list, Only Lovers Left Alive is director Jim Jarmusch’s tribute to the genre, and he manages to craft something new while still creating a satisfying vampire film. The languid pace of the film doesn’t detract, it adds to the feeling of people outside of time. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are impressive as two famous lovers who seem to find their way back to each other even after years apart.
Eat Locals has British vampire council meeting in an out-of-the-way farm to hash out some business. Little do they know a well-funded and well-armed group of monster hunters knows about the meeting too, and is planning a little surprise party. Tony CUrran, Freema Agyeman, Eve Miles, and Charlie Cox all turn in solid performaces, and the film manages to offer a few amusing surprises despite a mostly predictable story arc. Eat Locals is my most recent discovery of this batch — and the newest of these films as well — and I’m glad I found it.
Shadow of the Vampire
Another of my favorites, Shadow of the Vampire takes place in 1920s Germany. Famed director F. W. Murnau is filming an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and has recruited a most unusual and secretive actor to play the part of the count. They meet up with this actor on location at a ruined castle, and he appears on set already in make-up and in character. Little do they know that actor Max Schrek is somewhat more sinister than a mere play-actor…
Based on the real 1922 film Nosferatu directed by the real F.W. Murnau, a stellar cast and a highly creative concept make Shadow of the Vampire a thoroughly enjoyable film. Willam DaFoe is brilliant as Max Schrek, and the rest of the cast includes John Malkovich, Udo Kier, Cary Elwes, and Eddie Izzard.
Let the Right One In/Let Me In
If reading subtitles in a film is a thing that bothers you, watch the Americanized version, Let Me In, which is faithful to the original but filmed in English. Let the Right One In utilizes the classic trope of the bullied kid who finds an odd friend, only in this case, the odd friend is also a monster. An original concept well-executed, Let The Right One In is powerful and creepy. I sympathized with Oskar’s new friend Eli, but was also afraid of her ferocity. Eli genuinely seems to care for Oskar, though we see by an earlier example that not everything about Oskar’s and Eli’s relationship is hopeful.
There are hundreds of vampire films available, so naturally this is only a small slice. What’s YOUR favorite vampire film? Leave a comment to tell me, and include a brief note on what you like about it.
I’d like to throw in a nod to What We Do In The Shadows – both the movie and the TV show. Quality representation of different kinds of vampirism. Also hilarious.
Agreed! And the TV series based on the film maintains the same high standards.
From Dusk Till Dawn / by Rodriguez and Tarantino . I think the first half of the film is superior (that opening sequence!) but the vampires take over the second half and it’s a full-on gore fest. Full of macho swagger that’s completely over the top but none-the-less enjoyable for some reason. Don’t ask me why.
Thirst (Bawkji) / by Korean director Park Chan-wook. Vampires in a different culture, and a Korean Catholic priest who becomes “infected” after volunteering for a possible cure for the disease. It’s a very different look at the genre while still keeping true to most of the tropes.
The lost boys / by Joel Schumacher. Keifer Sutherland has never been more menacing and even though it’s a teen-centered movie, it’s still pretty fun. A 1980’s vibe helps make me feel young too.
I like “Shadow of the Vampire.”
Malkovich is wonderful as Shreck and the premise is so bizarre that it’s brilliant.