A literary agent told me not too long ago that vampires were dead, gone from the minds of the populace, out bid by trendier fantasies and that they will stay buried until such a time, years from now, that the public deem them interesting enough to dig them up again.
My argument is this. Vampires are immortal. They live forever. They exist outside of trends. Perhaps when Twilight exploded it all got a bit out of hand but vampires are not going anywhere and whether its books, TV shows or movies, there’s a vampire story to suit every taste. Herewith find my top ten vampire movies, (in order of release) to feed your insatiable thirst this Halloween.
1. The Hollywood classic – Dracula (1931)
The first official portrayal of the Count from Bram Stoker’s novel to grace the silver screen. Taken from the stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston and starring their leading actor Bela Lugosi, the first half of the film is a masterclass in atmosphere and creeping intensity as Renfield (Dwight Fryre) visits Castle Dracula and succumbs to his powers, slowly losing his mind. The second half plays more to its stage roots, seating itself firmly in the drawing room for much of the action as Dracula and Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) engage in a battle of wits. Lugosi’s performance would cement Hollywood’s notions of Dracula forever, with Christopher Lee (who’s own ‘Dracula’ comes in a close second in the classics category), even wearing a copy of Lugosi’s ring while shooting as a tribute to him. When Lugosi died in 1956, he was buried in his Dracula cape.
2. The scariest – Salem’s Lot (1979)
When writer Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his childhood home of Salem’s Lot, he soon finds it’s taken over by vampires. While Reggie Nalder’s Nosferatu-like vampire gave us the jitters, nothing could prepare us for the sight of young Ralphie (Ronnie Scribner) appearing through the mist at the bedroom window, his nails scraping on the glass, demanding to be let in. Directed by horror master Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and based on the Stephen King bestseller, it’s one of the creepiest and disturbing of all vampire movies.
3. The western – Near Dark (1987)
You’ll never look at an RV in the same way after seeing this. Forget Walter White, you do not want to end up on a road trip with this dysfunctional and psychotic family of vampires. Bad news then for Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) who meets the gorgeous Mae (Jenny Wright) in a bar and finds himself ripped from his life on the farm for an initiation he wants no part of. Marking Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut, Near Dark is a western horror about love and family loyalty with terrifically creepy performances from Lance Henrikson and Bill Paxton. The scene in a bar where the vampires prey on the night’s patrons is a classic, notable for showcasing Paxton’s unhinged psychopath. Chilling.
4. The teen rebels – The Lost Boys (1987)
When teenage brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) move to Santa Carla with their divorcee mom (Diane Wiest) they have no idea they’re now living in the murder capital of the world. For the boardwalk is hunted by a gang of vampires, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland) who will seduce Michael into their way of life. Director Joel Schumacher took over the project when Richard Donner bowed out to make Lethal Weapon, changing the family friendly comedy to a teen horror classic. That hair, those motorcycles, that soundtrack – that greased up man playing the saxophone – yes, our love for The Lost Boys remains very much intact 30 years later. Sutherland’s David is scary, charming, cool and mysterious. “They’re only noodles, Michael.”
5. The stunner – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a sumptuous, lavish treat and therefore essential vampire viewing. With stunning costumes, rich production design, and easily one of the finest scores of the 90’s by Wojciech Kilar, Coppola’s reinvention of the Count is one to savour. Gary Oldman embodies the shapeshifting Count with grace and passion, a monster when he needs to be, a lover when his heart demands it. With great chemistry between himself and Winona Ryder, a sparky performance from Sadie Frost and Anthony Hopkins layering up his performance with suitable genre theatrics as Van Helsing, it’s a feast for vampire lovers.
6. The class act – Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst, the film was mired in controversy when casting was announced, with author Anne Rice publicly voicing her objection to Jordan’s choice of Cruise to play her vampire Lestat. She later took out a full-page ad in Variety when the film was released, retracting her objections and praising Cruise for his performance. An authentic depiction of her 1976 novel, it’s a rich, powerfully emotional look at the toil of the immortal life and the price they must pay to live forever. Kirsten Dunst’s performance as child vampire Claudia will break your heart, while Stephen Rea, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas bring strong support. Classy, authentic, passionate, bloody – perfect.
7. The craziest – From Dusk Til Dawn (1996)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez from a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, From Dusk Til Dawn perfectly paired two very different ideas. The film begins in classic Tarantino mode as a pair of criminal brothers (Tarantino and George Clooney) go on the run after a robbery, taking hostages including preacher Harvey Keitel and daughter Juliette Lewis. Taking refuge at a border dive bar, they get more than they bargained for when the locals turn into vampires and all hell breaks loose. Smart, funny, sexy, crazy, it’s a wild ride that exorcised Clooney of ER’s Doug Ross forever.
8. The Kick-ass one – Blade (1998)
Loosely based on the Marvel comics character of the same name, Wesley Snipes is Blade – half man, half vampire and the only one who can stop a horde of the undead, led by Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) from all out hell on earth. Snipes and Kris Kristofferson, who plays the chemist and weapons expert Whistler, make for an unconventional duo with Snipes killing it in his action scenes in a role he was born to play. As a Marvel inspired piece, Stan Lee shot a cameo but ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. Easily one of the best scenes is the opening rave as hungry vampires are treated to a shower of blood through the sprinkler system.
9. The funny one – What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
The one that truly shows us warts and all, what it is to be a vampire and how ultimately, they still need the same things we do – food, friends and a roof over their heads. Written and directed by Jemaine Clements and Taika Waititi and largely improvised, it is a hilarious mockumentary that follows a group of vampires sharing a house in New Zealand. The scene where they square up to a gang of werewolves on a night out is pure gold. Consistently funny, sharp, and clever as hell, it will leave you wanting more – not only a vampire classic but comedy genius.
10. The cool, edgy one – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
You know you’ve seen a good vampire film when you wish you were that vampire, even just for a little while. Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, in her feature debut, created a vampire in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night that will immortalise her among the greatest blood drinkers captured on film. Her vampire, known only as the Girl (Sheila Vand), haunts the streets of Iranian ghost town Bad City, walking among its pimps, prostitutes and misfits, clad in her long flowing black chador. It’s a stunning image that startles you ever time you see her on screen. Shot in black and white, the Girl is beautiful, dangerous, cool – everything a vampire needs to be.