Here at 25YL we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews… you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites – whether it’s moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever! – in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Laura’s favorite Vampire Movies.
There’s something about vampires. Some are ludicrously sexy, some are grotesque, some sparkle in the daylight, which is just silly, and some you really don’t expect. But however they appear on your screen there is something extra special about a vampire movie. For me they are instantly more appealing to watch than any other ‘horror’ genre. So here are my Top 6 favourite Vampire Films. There won’t be too many surprises in here I’m sure, choosing only 6 out of literally hundreds of brilliant films meant the stakes were high (I know, I hate myself) so I have gone for those that I can and do watch over and over again. So counting down to number 1…
6. Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow (1987)
Back in the late 80s and early 90s my parents would take themselves off to the local boozer every Friday night to meet up with friends and play the pub quiz, leaving me in the care of my older brother, who of course would go out with his mates, leaving the house to me and my best friend Claire. Friday nights were THE BEST! We were allowed to choose two movies from the video store (oh how I miss those days), one ‘safe’ film and one a little bit too grown up for us. This is how I found Near Dark. Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire western wasn’t a big hit at the box office upon release, but it found a cult following on home video.
The story follows Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) a sweet boy who lives with his dad and little sister on a Texas farm; he meets a girl named Mae (Jenny Wright) who accidentally turns him into a vampire (as you do) instead of killing him one night. Mae comes from family of vampires who travel the country in an RV causing mayhem and devouring folk wherever they go. Three of the vampire clan are played by Bill Paxton, Lance Henrickson and Jenette Goldstein, who all starred in Aliens just the year before – making this film immediately kick ass. Caleb doesn’t really fit in with this vicious tribe and does his best to leave, and although they don’t really want him there either, it’s not like he can just carry on as normal anymore. The youngest vampire decides he wants a buddy and they try to kidnap Caleb’s little sister to turn her, but Caleb fights. With some spectacular action scenes – vampires being run over, exploded and burned alive in the glorious sunrise, this film is mighty cool. It’s not sexy, you don’t want to be part of this gang; they’re a bit scabby, and you don’t want these guys to win, which in many vampire movies is just the opposite. Bill Paxton is just totally obnoxious and brilliant and makes this film for me, and it still shocks and saddens me when I remember he’s no longer with us.
5. From Dusk Til Dawn, Robert Rodriguez (1996)
When this movie came out in 1996, Quentin Tarantino was the hippest guy in Hollywood, having just written and directed Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. His friend, director Robert Rodriguez, had also recently launched himself with El Mariachi, and together they teamed up to make a film where they could share their mutual love of exploitation horror films, with Tarantino writing and co-starring, and Rodriguez directing.
The internet was nowhere near what it is today back in 1996 when this came out. Thus it was totally possible not to be spoiled by the surprise twist the story took half way through. I don’t think this would ever be possible now (though Sorry to Bother You does appear to be keeping its secrets hidden by respectful viewers).
The first half of From Dusk Till Dawn plays very much like your typical Tarantino crime thriller. George Clooney and Tarantino play bank robbing brothers. Tarantino’s character Richie is particularly unpleasant, deciding to rape and murder a hostage during a robbery. After which they kidnap a family – which includes Harvey Keitel as a pastor experiencing a crisis of faith, and Juliette Lewis as his daughter – to use their RV to make a run for Mexico to live the good life. RV’s seem to be a common theme in my fave choices so far!
Then, everything changes. The gang get trapped inside a bar run by vampires south of the border called The Titty Twister. From that point on all hell breaks loose, pretty much literally. It becomes Tarantino and Rodriguez’s modern homage to the exploitation horror movies of the ’70s, only with a LOT more money spent on it. Pretty much everyone gets bitten, turns into a vampire and dies in some truly mesmerizing and unique way. And it must be said that despite very brief screen time, Salma Hayek’s vampire queen Satanico Pandemonium is one of the most memorable lady vamps in cinema history. Good lord that woman is just perfection!
Endlessly entertaining, ridiculous and offensive, this film goes down as one of the best vampire films of all time without a doubt. The one negative is the number of dreadful tribal neck tattoos spawned in its wake.
4. The Hunger, Tony Scott (1983)
Oh I am in 80s Goth heaven… The first few minutes of Tony Scott’s debut film The Hunger are among the best opening moments to any horror movie, possibly any film, ever. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie star as a vampiric couple who stalk a New Wave club for fresh victims, all to the tune of Bauhaus’ goth music anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Watch this. It is just perfect to me.
While it is not explicitly stated in the film, the characters are ultimately vampires. Miriam Blaylock (Deneuve) is an ancient vampire who can pass on her immortality to her human lovers. However, after a few hundred years her ‘companions’ start aging rapidly — this is what happens to her lover John (Bowie) in the first half of the film. John realises her promise to him of eternal life did not quite mean eternal youth. Not so appealing now eh? Nope, Miriam places him in a coffin (alongside her other former companions) where he screams in torment at his eternal living death.
Susan Sarandon enters the movie now as Sarah, a scientist studying aging. Miriam wants her to be her next companion and lures her into bed, bites her arm and infects Sarah’s blood with her own. Sarah begins her transformation into vampire, and kills her own boyfriend out of hunger. But Sarah gets the last laugh, maybe? Miriam slices her own throat and drips her blood into Sarah’s mouth hoping it will somehow stop her own inevitable rapid aging. It doesn’t work, all her former lovers — now mummified, wake from their coffins and drive her off the balcony of her home. They turn to dust and are, it appears, released from their torment. Unlike Miriam who is kept screaming in a coffin for eternity in Sarah’s new place in London. Ah, everyone loves a happy ending.
The Hunger is totally pretentious, and somewhat like a very long 80s music video, but it’s also heartbreaking, beautiful, and very erotic, making it the perfect vampire film.
3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola (1993)
Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman and Sadie Frost and Anthony Hopkins and Richard E Grant and Monica Belluci and Tom Waits and… Keanu Reeves. Yeah, Keanu does let this film down a little with his preposterous British accent and the fact that he just cannot shake that incredulous look of ‘Ted’ that’s plastered all over his face, but I still love it SO much. What a cast! Oldman is so brilliant as our Vlad The Impaler, totally perfecting the mix of romantic hero and evil beast. Winona Ryder I’m not sure has ever been bad in anything ever but I am a little biased I admit. Her journey as Mina is fascinating. She plays her evolution from prim and proper school mistress, to desperately in love, to lustful seductress so wonderfully. When Winona is on screen she is always captivating.
The story pretty much follows exactly the way the novel was written which makes for a pretty crazy structure, but it works. The visuals are stunning, the mood and feeling is, I don’t know, like Halloween and Christmas combined? The accompanying musical score certainly turns it up to epic levels and I am totally a sucker for a devastating romance, this film plays all my heart strings.
2. Let The Right One In, Tomas Alfredson (2009)
2008 was a peak year for vampire popularity in our culture, what with the Twilight obsession and the debut of True Blood on HBO. But as big as both of those became, the greatest vampire production to come out of that year wasn’t from Hollywood… it was from Sweden.
Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvis, tells the story of a young bullied boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), who lives with his single mother in a modest apartment complex in 1980s Stockholm. When an older man with a young girl move into their apartment block, Osker eventually befriends the girl, despite her telling him they could never be friends. He soon discovers that his new friend Eli (Lina Leandersson) isn’t a little girl at all… or, as she describes it, she’s been a little girl for a long, long time.
Oskar is bullied in school badly, and dreams of getting revenge. Eli becomes his best friend and shows him how to stand up for himself; the two develop a deep bond. The budding relationship between Oskar and Eli is incredibly charming and moving, capturing the beauty of first love with sincerity. The performances by the two child actors are just outstanding. This is one of the few films on my list that truly transcends its genre, and isn’t just a great vampire movie but a great movie, period. It was a tough decision to make this number 2 on my list; it is joint number 1 for all intents and purposes. As vampire films go it is pretty understated. There is not a lot of blood, gore or violence, that we see at least. Eli feeds purely out of survival, she is an animal, but aren’t we all? This is more a story of outcasts finding their way in the world. Filmed mostly in dark and snowy Stockholm, the film feels cold and quiet, eerily so, and that’s what makes it so magical. A fairly faithful American remake was made a few years later called Let Me In, but as is often the case with big Hollywood remakes, its best to stick to the original. The remake just lacked the charm.
1. The Lost Boys, Joel Schumacher (1987)
“Sleep All Day. Party All Night. Never Grow Old. Never Die. It’s Fun To Be a vampire.”
So here’s my number one! It had to be The Lost Boys. Much like its tagline, it never grows old and it will never die. Almost 30 years later, and all the elements of the movie which make it dated — the hair, the clothes, the music — are also part of what helps make the movie remain so endearing.
When teenagers Sam (Corey Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric) move with their newly single mom (Dianne Wiest) to the seemingly idyllic small California beach town of Santa Carla (a barely disguised Santa Cruz) they can instantly tell something is amiss. Turns out the group of motorcycle riding, MTV video-style bad boys are vampires, and they want Michael to join their club. Only the geeky Frog Brothers, played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander who, of course, work in a comic book store, are clued up to the vampiric plague that’s taken over their town, and they volunteer to help Sam kill the bloodsuckers off. Comics save lives!
Vampires have never been cooler, or hotter, than those in Kiefer Sutherland’s gang, and I wanted more than anything to be part of it, or more precisely to be the stunningly beautiful Star (Jamie Gertz). Still do really. The film captures that feeling of every great John Hughes teen movie, mixed with the Goonies sense of adventure and humour. And the soundtrack! The theme tune ‘Cry Little Sister’ by Gerard McMann is still awesome despite it being very much of its time, plus INXS and Echo & The Bunnymen, which is always a bonus, but it’s Tim Cappello’s cover of The Call’s “I Still Believe” that actually tipped the scales and put this film in the number one spot for me. I mean who doesn’t love an oiled up, hip shaking, pony tailed, saxophonist? Take it away Tim!