I am currently reading Bram Stoker's Dracula (for the first time since, I don't know, middle school) and yesterday got the "box set" (more like a two double-sided DVD set) of four Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee as Count Bloodsucker himself. With the Satanic Rites of Dracula that I already had, as well as Brides of Dracula, this means I have something like six of the seven or eight "main" Hammer studio Dracula-series. It has all added up to a very vampire-centric week of entertainment for me.
I am a zombie-man, in that way some guys describe themselves as leg-men or breast-men. I am sure that a die hard fan of the female breast does not mind a leg, and I do not mind the other icons of horror (there are some arguments as to what these are, and maybe it would make an interesting follow-up post, but let's just say, for now, that vampires and zombies make up two of them). I like vampires ok. I do not particularly like the sort of simpering wells of the over-emote that are poised to completely dominate vampires (unless said simpering wells are really well done), and I am somewhat middling on the sexpot sassafrass working gal and her vampire consort sub genre; the domain of the two (ranging from the series of Anita Blake to Sookie Stackhouse to Bella Swan to, you know, all the various gals and dude that simper around Lestat) comprising probably a full 90% of what my usually female friends who adore vampires spend their time pouring over. I am not a pure classicist when it comes to vampires, but to me they work best when they are treated like a plague, not like an excuse to bemoan the meaninglessness of life. You don't need vampires to do that. You don't need vampires to study plagues either, but I like a little bit of death in my bloodsucker lore.
While watching The Horror of Dracula last night, I kept thinking about my "core list" of vampire movies. The ones that I can watch over and over, and likely have watched over and over (at least in piecemeal). The 1931 "orginal" is not really one of them, nor the 90s remake that tried adding in some more sex and some more flash to see if that was what was wrong. I have a boxset of the Dracula Legacy Collection coming sometime in the future, but I'm more interested in seeing the 1931 Spanish language version. I will likely buy Bram Stoker's Dracula at some point, since it was one of the movies that got me into horror, though upon more recent rewatches it did not sit as well. I have not seen Blacula nor Near Dark, though both are somewhat esteemed by the sort of horror critic that I like. The former is assumed to be more of a joke than it is, and the latter was kind of shoved aside as trivial by the vampire lovers at large ("more EMOTE!" was needed, maybe?). The Blade series does not make the list, though each of the three (I have not seen the television series) has some special place in my heart.
While there are three versions of the now famous vampire rewrite I Am Legend, the latter two have focused more on the leading man than the monster, the latest did away with the vampire angle all together, and while the original movie surely does has vampires, you could go the whole movie thinking that the plague victims just hate garlic and right angles. I do not remember enough about Vampires to judge if it could be on this list (I need to re-watch it) and I am sure that Fright Night would make the list if I had watched it in the past decade (haven't watched it since moving to Huntsville). Sure there are dozens and dozens of others to point out, but I will end this will saying that 30 Days of Night did not make the list, yet, but might on subsequent viewings. As much as love the mythology of the graphic novel series, the movie only slightly brushed against it. That, and The Horror of Dracula will likely make the list, too, but I want to wait and rewatch it. I do love me some Peter Cushing, though. One of my favorite all-time actors.
[NOTE: BOTH HORROR OF DRACULA AND FIGHT NIGHT HAVE NOW BEEN ADDED TO THE LIST, I RECENTLY BOUGHT THE LATTER AND UPON REWATCHING THE FORMER, MY SUSPISCION WAS CONFIRMED THAT I DIG IT]
This, then, is the six [NOTE: NOW EIGHT] movies that I can and have watched over and over again (including a rough number of times I have seen it) that focus on vampires (though in one case, they are not the only focus). If you have not seen any of these, I do recommend. I list them in chronological order, not order of rating. In fact, I would have trouble sorting these movies. I'm pretty sure that #s 1 and 6 are my favorites from the list, and #3 is probably the least favorite (relatively only), but the rest would be sorted from best to worst based merely on a flip of the coin.
(1) Nosferatu: F. W. Murnau's classic expressionist silent film, whose depiction of vampiric Count Orlock is still one of the top depictions of the genre. A great many people who have never seen the film probably can picture the weird, bald, thin form of Orlock or the clawed shadow reaching across the room. It hits and misses on the original novel, containing a very similar story with names and locations changed due to copyright reasons. It also changes the nature of the Count to a direct representation of the plague, with his victims numbering in the hundreds (at least a dozen caskets marching down the street is one of the more haunting scenes). Eschewing the gothic for the moody, it works as much as a visual collage as as a story. Recommend the color tinted, German-centric Kino version. [Have watched it four times, only once all the way through.]
(A) The Horror of Dracula: (note: addendum to original list of six). Christopher Lee plays Dracula mostly silently, and Van Helsing has a slight edge, here, that he is missing in many movies. No longer a slightly doddering old man (though he was kind of such in the original book) but a force of will equal to, and eventually greater than, Dracula himself. Some rampant changes to the plot, and who knows that the geography of the movie is, it still manages to get a bit of the old gothic feeling mixed in with characters that you can get behind. And the final fight with Dracula is the kind of stuff that epics are made of.
(B) Fright Night: (note: addendum to the original list of six). Peter Vincent (tribute to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) is a washed up old horror star who gets sucked into the teenage drama of a boy and his new next door neighbor. While most movies would have slowly revealed that the neighbor was a vampire, this one gets it out of the way almost immediately, and instead we are treated to the tension of the boy living next door to something that wants him dead. Combines the plot of the old Mummy movies (reincarnated love as the hero's love interest, possibly an inspiration to Bram Stoker's Dracula), a lot of random comments on the horror genre itself, and a really unlikable best friend (not quite sure what they were going for with Evil, but as memorable as he was, he was kind of annoying). This is the source of the oft-repeated "You've got have faith for that to work" unless I am missing an earlier movie.
(2) Lost Boys: Some people detest this movie, I guess, but I used to watch this a lot. Have only watched it two or three times in the past few years, but still find the mix of 80s-kitsch, youth culture, and quirky respect for vampire lore appealing. Much like Ginger Snaps made werewolves an allegory for menstruation, Lost Boys made vampirism, and vampire-hunting, an allegory about fitting in, acceptance, and drug abuse. More one-liners than the rest on here, and the soundtrack is pretty effective still, if you like that sort of thing. [Watched probably about 10 times, maybe 15, almost assuredly the most watched movie on this list.]
(3) From Dusk till Dawn: If there are a lot of them, and they can be killed relatively easily, are they vampires, or just bloodsucking undead that come in packs and are killed relatively easily? It's kind of a metaphysical question, but Robert Rodriguez made this into a action-packed little movie about sex, drugs, blood, and fallen preachers. From the most complete listing of, um, flavors ("...STRAWBERRY!") in movie history to the questionable practice of putting holy water in condoms, its the least "kid friendly" movie on this list. It is buckets of fun, though. Bonus: watching Harvey Keitel out badass George Clooney while playing aforementioned fallen preacher. [Watched only a couple of times, with 2-3 more watchings starting either in the middle, or watching the first half, but want to change that.]
(4) Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: The anime based off the third of Hideyuki Kikuchi's Vampire Hunter D novels. Somewhat less coherent, and a a bit less weird-goth than the original anime (based off the first novel); it tops the original in beautiful animation and emotional impression. Like Nosferatu, you can almost ignore the storyline and just focus on the images at hand. The added (as in, not in the novel) scene of the blood countess towards the end was a nice touch, and a good excuse for more crazy visuals. Dig those flying giant sand manta rays, too. [Watched probably 4 times, maybe 5. Watched the original 3-4.]
(5) Night Watch (and Day Watch): It seems sort of piss-ant-y for me to exclude Last Man on Earth from a list that has both FDtD and the Night Watch "series" (the two movies fit so much together, its hard to think of them as separate, really), but I guess I did. While vampires are neither the only nor even the baddest buggers on the block in these movies, the vampire hunting scene in Night Watch, and the vampire neighbor scenes in both (but especially Day Watch) go a long way towards shaping this movie to the strange, addicting example of Russian cinema that it is. Come from the vampires, stay for the fractured dope trip through the nature of good versus evil and the travails of Anton Gorodetsky (#5 on my list of favorite fictional characters of all time). [watched Night about 5 times, Day probably 3.]
(6) Let the Right One In: This movie has received tons of praise, not only for itself but also as something of a backlash to the Twilight phenomenon. Probably half of it's reviews start with "Showing what Twilight was not" or "A real vampire youth tale!" and half of the remaining sneak the attack further down. A similar tale—a young daydreaming outsider grows up in a household of a single parent after a divorce, meets a vampire that seems to be about their age but isn't, is both repulsed and attracted to said vampire, and ends up getting caught up in a struggle not meant for pathetic humans while falling in love—Let the Right One In is a lot more about finding someone to love in a world where you eventually die, and how perfect lovers are not exactly perfect (or even anything like you expected), oh, and Sweden is cold as hell in the winter. The movie truncates the novel of the same name (well, now with the same name, Let Me In was the original English interpretation) by dropping most of the sordid (in both the grimey, dirty sense and in the sexual sense) affairs of the adults, which are a strong indication of the subplot between the two kids, as well as only including highlights from the abuse that Oskar takes in school (simultaneously changing him from overweight and downplaying his obsession with horror and real-life killers), somewhat lessening the viewers understanding of his suffering; but gets a lot of the emotions and the strange emptiness, where the first real friend Oskar has lives in a mostly empty apartment full of trash, while his dad chooses drinking buddies over him and his mom lectures and clings to her "baby" more than realizes he is starting to grow older. The ending is terrifyingly beautiful, and there is room for interpretation about the outcome. [Watched 4-5 times.]
While confirming some facts in this list, I found this: Snarkati's Top 70 Vampire Movies of All Time. As you might can guess by the not-exactly-small number in that title, the list is as filled with as many duds as hits, but it might have a lot of suggestions for you to look up. The one I am most curious about is George Romero's Martin, though who can resist titles like Vampire Lesbos and The Vampire Lovers? Seriously, though, that vampire ballet Vampire: Pages from a Virgin's Diary does sound neat, and I noticed a couple of others that I either watched some time ago and forgot about, or have been meaning to watch.
So, what's your favorite rewatchable vampire flick?
Si Vales, Valeo
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