Vampire Movies It’s Okay to Like

It’s mid-October, and we’re fast approaching the central holiday of horror, Halloween. Trends within the horror genre have come and gone, but there is one particular type of monster that seems truly unable to die. The vampire is arguably more popular than ever, and of course for all the wrong reasons. Today the vampire is popularized by movies like Twilight and shows like True Blood, which plays up the schmaltzy romance angle and plays down the ferocious lasciviousness of the creatures. People forget that vampires are monsters, meant to scare and seduce in equal measure. Here are seven vampire films that get the creatures right.

The Lost Boys (dir. Joel Schumacher 1987)

There's so much mousse being used in this picture

Whenever I hear the word zeitgeist, The Lost Boys is what immediately comes to mind to me. The Lost Boys is the epitome of 80s culture in all its excess, glory and bad fashion sense. One of the best parts of The Lost Boys is that despite all of the 80s flourishes, like the spookily synthesized theme song “Cry Little Sister,” it’s a pretty classic vampire story. Jason Patric and the Two Coreys (Feldman and Haim) have to use the standard stake and hammer tactics to defeat Kiefer Sutherland and his band of vampire brothers who maintain perfectly groomed and heavily moussed hair. Stylish and gory with lots of atmosphere and fun performances by Sutherland, Patric and The Two Coreys, The Lost Boys remains one of the most enjoyable vampire films.

Extra Bite: While it won’t let me embed, make sure you check THIS video out. I can’t help but crack up into laughter every time I watch this clip. Just look at the way Corey Haim looks grossed out that Jason Patric would rather stare at the sexy vampire girl dancing.

Fright Night (dir. Tom Holland 1985)

Roddy McDowell looks uncomfortable without his ape costume.

Another vampire gem from the 80s, Fright Night is without any of the cultural flourishes of the 80s like The Lost Boys, and instead focuses on Charlie Brewster’s fight against neighbor vampire Jerry Danridge while trying to avoid losing his virginity to his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse from Married With Children). Jerry Dandridge (played with a perfect amount of smarmy charm by Chris Sarandon) is one of the better vampires on film. At once both seductive and vicious, Jerry feels like he’s just as likely to fuck you as he is to suck your blood. Aiding Charlie in his quest is his demented pal Evil Ed and Horror Show host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), none of who really know what they’re doing. Funny and spooky, Fright Night is as traditional a vampire story as they get.

Extra Bite: Stephen Geoffreys, who played Evil Ed, went on to suck something other than blood in his career as a gay porn star!

Near Dark (dir. Katherine Bigelow 1987)

Bill Paxton as a punk rock vampire.

Rounding out the three 80s vampire films on this list, Near Dark was the directorial debut of Katherine Bigelow who would go on to be the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Near Dark is part-western, part-horror film, as it eschews the traditional gothic setting for the deserts of the Southwest. The word vampire is never uttered in the film, and traditional means of killing the vampire are put aside as only the power of the sun can kill (which truth be told I find rather boring. Give me a stake and hammer over sunlight any day in my vampire movies.) To compare the three musically, Fright Night is the traditional mainstream rock, The Lost Boys is trendy New Wave, and Near Dark is punk rock.

Extra Bite: Near Dark boasts nearly half the cast of James Cameron’s Aliens, including Lance Henriksen, Jeanette Goldstein and Bill Paxton. Katherine Bigelow was married to Cameron from 1989-1991.

Nosferatu (dir. F.W. Murnau 1922/Werner Herzog 1979)

Murnau's Nosferatu creeping up the stairs

The first great vampire film was shot nearly 90 years ago in Germany. Nosferatu is a silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (aka the most famous vampire story ever told) starring Max Schreck as Count Orlock. Murnau was not able to actually attain the rights to Dracula so he changed the names and Dracula became Orlock. Murnau’s film is a perfect example of German Expressionism, an early film movement that utilized shadows and abstract geometry as a way to symbolize themes and ideas. Werner Herzog would later faithfully remake Nosferatu in 1979 with the great Klaus Kinski playing Dracula. Herzog’s film is probably the best film to be made out of the Dracula novel and is one of the first to depict the count with some pathos. Dracula in Nosferatu is depicted as a monstrous looking creature, and has none of the sexual appeal of most vampires. This is a decidedly expressionistic choice as Murnau uses Dracula’s horrific appearance to symbolize the ugly emptiness of his soul. Despite this Dracula here is depicted as being an incredibly lonely creature who just can’t help but feed his desires.

Herzog's Nosferatu keeps Kinski in the dark.

Extra Bite: There were rumors that Max Shreck was in fact a vampire himself. It’s not true, but they made a movie about this starring Willem Dafoe as Shreck and John Malkovich as Murnau called Shadow of the Vampire.

The Horror of Dracula (dir. Terence Fisher 1958)

Christopher Lee has been in more movies than every other actor combined.

This Technicolor Hammer Production stars the incomparable Christopher Lee as the famous Count and his portrayal leans more heavily on the seductive side when compared to how Murnau depicted him. Like most adaptations of Dracula, many of Stoker’s characters were amalgamated to streamline the story, which sees a centuries old vampire attempting to move from his Transylvanian castle to London where he hopes to wreak havoc and feed on the blood of virgins. In many ways Christopher Lee may have been the most accurate depiction of the character as he is described in the book. His Dracula is downright evil, yet oddly magnetic.

Extra Bite: Peter Cushing played Dracula’s arch nemesis Van Helsing here, and he and Lee would star together in many other Hammer horror films. Both would later serve as villains in Star Wars films. Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original 1977 film, and Christopher Lee as Count Dooku in 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. I also talked a bit about Christopher Lee here in my Best of Bond post.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola 1992)

It's cool to cut your tongue on a knife when you're a vampire.

Without a doubt this is the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, but at the same time it gets as much wrong as it does right. That being said it still remains a rather interesting take on the immortal Count. Some of the missteps include Coppola being a little too literal with the novel. Stoker’s book was written as a collection of letters and journal entries from different character’s points of view. For some reason Coppola got into his head that it would be cool to show the characters writing these said entries while voice-over reads what they are writing. It’s unnecessary and kind of dumb. Also really dumb is Keanu Reeves’ terrible British accent, which is probably the worst British accent ever recorded. But the movie also gets a lot right. Gary Oldman is great as Dracula, bringing both menace and romance to his portrayal, which seeks to imbue him with way more pathos than usual (even more so than in Herzog’s Nosferatu). Also great is the inclusion of a bunch of characters which usually get cut out when the story is adapted, including Quincey Morris, a Texan who is actually responsible for slaying Dracula with his Bowie knife. We also get Tom Waits as the lunatic Renfield and Dracula takes advantage of all of his vampire powers, turning not just into a bat but also a wolf and mist.

Extra Bite: Keanu Reeves was cast solely due to the fact that Coppola thought he would bring in the young lady audience.

Martin (dir. George Romero 1976)

He looks nothing like Martin Lawrence.

George Romero didn’t just direct zombie movies, and Martin is probably his best film apart from his original Living Dead Trilogy. Martin is an unusual vampire film because it is never quite clear if the character of Martin is actually a vampire or not. Martin is a young teen boy who is sent to live with his uncle from the old country. Both Martin and his uncle are convinced that he is a vampire, but Martin has no fangs and instead uses a razor blade to draw the blood he feeds on. Martin claims he has lived hundreds of years, and we see flashbacks of his younger days as a vampire, but these flashbacks all resemble 1930’s Universal Horror films. Is Martin just a troubled kid with identity issues or is he really a vampire. Martin is a great take on the vampire story and it has a really killer ending-that I dare not spoil it here, but I will say that Tom Savini lent some of his skills to the proceedings.

Extra Bite: This movie has nothing to do with the Martin Lawrence television series of the same name.

There are still a few other films I didn’t have space to mention. What other vampire films deserve a place in the pantheon of vampire movies it’s okay to like?


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Categories: Film

Author:Colin Holmes

I love movies. I love watching them and I love writing about them. My taste ranges from Jean Pierre Melville to Jean Claude Van Damme and everything in between as long as it isn’t mediocre. I’ll take a crazy failure of a movie over a middle of the road one any day. I'm an American currently living abroad in Oz and am relishing how my accent makes me sound like a cowboy to everyone I meet here.

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6 Comments on “Vampire Movies It’s Okay to Like”

  1. 10.17.11 at 9:30 PM #

    Dear God, Lost Boys is probably one of the best vampire movies ever.

  2. 10.18.11 at 1:40 PM #

    Death by stereo

  3. ron
    11.1.11 at 11:41 AM #

    I would add Dracula (1931) with Bela Lagosi, Interview with the vampire, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, Salem’s Lot (1979) original, The Addiction, 30 Days of Night, and Let Me In.

  4. ron
    11.1.11 at 11:44 AM #

    I would add Dracula (1931) with Bela Lagosi, Interview with the vampire, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, Salem’s Lot (1979) original, The Addiction, Shadow of the Vampire, 30 Days of Night, and Let Me In.

  5. 02.29.12 at 1:02 PM #



  1. Great Crazy-Weirdo Actors | List Off - 11.21.11

    […] he truly was an incredible personality, he was able to be tender when it was called for (like in Nosferatu) but for the most part his characters feel like they might erupt at any second, like there’s […]

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