From the Twilight phenomenon in print and at the multiplex to the ever-growing True Blood and The Vampire Diaries viewership on TV, the Undead have never been hotter. But Dracula and his ilk have fascinated and repulsed movie audiences ever since Max Schreck’s spider-fingered Count Orlock first crept from his crypt in 1922’s Nosferatu.
Currently, advance ticket sales are high for the moody teenage vamps, werewolves, and the women who love them in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which opens Wednesday. The latest Twilight film builds on the tortured love triangle between sparkling vampire Edward, impossibly cut werewolf Jacob, and brooding high school senior Bella as they cope with recent murders in nearby Seattle as well as their hormones.
Vampirism has often served as an easy metaphor for issues as diverse as desire, identity, isolation, and excess: In the ’80s, fear of deadly STDs such as AIDS (not to mention single moms) informed Fright Night and The Lost Boys, while Nicolas Cage’s masterfully unhinged performance in Vampire’s Kiss skewered yuppiedom. These days, the rights of the disenfranchised are just under the surface on True Blood, while institutional corruption and gunplay reign in films like the shallow but kinetic Underworld series and the recent Daybreakers. And in a twist on race, characters like Blade popularize half-human, half-vampire creatures sometimes known as dhampirs who have been forced to choose between the human and vampire worlds.
While the sharp-fanged types have always compelled moviegoers to some extent, we are currently in the midst of a longer-than-usual period in pop culture where bloodsuckers — mostly attractive ones — reign supreme. The classic vampiric qualities of immortality, power, and sex are appealingly escapist during this post-millennial era of deep recession, amoral business and political practices, and skyrocketing health care costs. But other bloodsuckers are purely monstrous, with recent film vampires like those in the underrated 30 Days of Night or I Am Legend crossing over into the sci-fi zombie apocalypse territory of 28 Days Later.
Below, we take a look at 10 of the best vampire movies of the past 30 years.
1 - Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, 2003
Guy Maddin’s stylized direction enhances the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company’s take on Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula story in this silent, mostly black-and-white film that pays homage to early cinema. This Canadian television production was given a very limited theatrical release after receiving rave reviews and buzz, but like previous Maddin films (including The Saddest Music in the World), it wasn’t for everyone.
2 - Let the Right One In,2008
A lonely, bullied 12-year-old befriends the new mysterious "girl" in his building in this gorgeous, unsettling Swedish film based on the novel of the same name. The film’s unforgettable climax is both horrifying and beautiful. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is currently helming an American remake that is said to have toned down some of the more "controversial" themes of the original (pedophilia, homosexuality).
3 - Fright Night, 1985
Teenage horror-movie aficionado Charley (William Ragsdale) seeks the help of a washed-up horror-movie actor (Roddy McDowall) when he’s unable to convince his girlfriend, his mother, his best friend, and the authorities that his new, debonair neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a dangerous vampire. This horror spoof was a surprise summer hit and spawned a less-successful sequel. Colin Farrell will be taking on the vampire role in the upcoming reboot. You’re so cool, Brewster!
4 - Thirst, 2009
After a sick priest begins to thirst for blood following a transfusion, spiritual angst, gore, and an adulterous love triangle ensue. This critically lauded South Korean film won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009 and takes themes from Émile Zola’s decidedly unsupernatural naturalist novel Thérèse Raquin.
5 - Shadow of the Vampire, 2000
This fictionalized making-of tale rides on the conceit that Nosferatu’s iconic vampire was played by an actual bloodsucker (a grotesquely made-up Willem Dafoe). The film, which utilizes silent film techniques such as intertitles, engages both filmmaking and horror tropes as director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) struggles to complete his vision despite the increasingly dire circumstances caused by his all- too-Method lead actor. Dafoe was nominated for an Oscar for his surprisingly tragic portrayal.
6 - Cronos, 1994
An insectlike device injects an antique dealer with a solution that causes him to regain his vitality but also crave blood. An unsavory businessman and his nephew are also after the device. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) provided both script and direction for his surreal Mexican feature debut.
7 - I Am Legend, 2007
This loose adaptation of Richard Mathison’s post-apocalyptic novella stars Will Smith as a solitary scientist who spends his days zooming around an empty NYC with his dog, trying to discover a cure for a virus that has turned most of humanity into seemingly mindless, UV-intolerant ghouls who resemble zombies more than traditional vamps. With its uneasy mix of action, effects, and character study, the film falls apart towards the end, though the original ending (available on DVD) restores some of the momentum. Dog lovers should beware.
8 - The Lost Boys, 1987
When his family moves to the sleepy California beach town that also happens to be the murder capital of the world, Jason Patric’s new buddies turn out to be more than just hoodlums. Joel Schumacher’s classic ’80s thriller features the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) as Patric’s brother and one half of a vampire-hunting duo, respectively, as well as a mulleted pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland at his hottest and most menacing and Jami Gertz as a hippie-vampy love interest named "Star."
9 - Near Dark, 1987
Recent Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) directed this gritty cult classic that features a doe-eyed Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as a young Oklahoman who falls in with white trash vampires played by the likes of Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Lance Henrickson. At the time of its release, audiences weren’t sure what to make of this biker-vampire-Western hybrid, though many critics dug the film.
10 - Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, 2001
In this stylish anime film, set in a post-apocalyptic future populated by vampires and demons, a half-breed vampire hunter (the be-caped and stallion-riding "D," channeling The Man With No Name) is hired by a wealthy man to find his daughter, who has seemingly been kidnapped by a vampire. Based on the Vampire Hunter D graphic novels of Hideyuki Kikuchi, the movie received a very limited American release.
- Reference/Source: Features.metacritic.com