July 27, 2011

My Top Ten Vampire Films

With the "Fright Night" remake due to hit cinemas everywhere on August 19th, here's an updated list of my favourite vampire films.

Although I can no longer find my original vampire films list anywhere on this blog, I'm sure that I've posted one before. I've now written so many things in so many places over the years that it could just as easily have been somewhere else. If it ever turns up, it'll be just as fangtastic as this one though some of the titles may be in a different order. The irony of my top ten vampire films list being a remake is, of course, not wasted on me.

Salem's Lot1. Salem's Lot (1979)

"Vampires are invading a small New England town. It's up to a novelist and a young horror fan to save it."

Definitely the best Stephen King miniseries and the most memorable. Directed by Tobe Hooper, of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" fame, this is very scary stuff. The scene with the little Glick boy floating through the window has damaged me for life. Although David Soul will always be thought of as Hutch, he does a credible job as Ben Mears. James Mason is also suitably icy as Straker, but not enough is made of Barlow, his Nosferatu-like master.

Near Dark2. Near Dark (1987)

"A young man reluctantly joins a travelling 'family' of evil vampires, when the girl he'd tried to seduce is part of that group."

Kathryn Bigelow's stylish journey into a very different world of the undead with a beautiful soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. It often has the feel of a really dark road movie and there is a surprisingly erotic undercurrent provided by Jenny Wright, but psycho Bill Paxton tends to get all the best scenes and memorable lines. This is what "The Lost Boys" should have been!

Let The Right One In3. Let the Right One In (2008)

"Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire."

Gore effects are realistic and minimal so think vampire drama rather than horror and you'll be on the right lines. The best analogy is to say that "Let the Right One In" is like a children's version of "The Hunger" (1983) mixed with the kids' scenes from "Near Dark" and "Interview with the Vampire". It also has beautiful cinematography and vicious CGI cats.

Horror of Dracula4. Dracula (1958)

"After Jonathan Harker attacks Dracula at his castle (apparently somewhere in Germany), the vampire travels to a nearby city, where he preys on the family of Harker's fiancée."

Hammer's Dracula (aka "Horror of Dracula") is the quintessential vampire film for all lovers of the genre. It may not be strictly accurate to the book (but then again, what Hammer film is?), but it's certainly the most enjoyable and watchable version ever made. A great atmosphere, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing fighting it out, beautiful actresses, rubber bats on wires, and all done on a budget which wouldn't even pay for Keanu Reeves' voice coach in a more modern production.

Daughters of Darkness (2-Disc Special Edition)5. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

"A newlywed couple are passing through a vacation resort. Their paths cross with a mysterious, strikingly beautiful countess and her aide."

If you want a really sexy Countess Dracula film, forget Hammer and buy this. Although it is a bit slow, this adds to the considerable sexual tension which is unrelenting throughout the film. John Karlen is loathsome as the homosexually repressed husband, but all the women are very beautiful. The downbeat ending is very derivative of "Girl on a Motorcycle" (1968) but that is its only real flaw.

Innocent Blood6. Innocent Blood (1992)

"Marie, a female vampire with a conscience, decides to restrict her feeding requirements to the violent Pittsburgh gangsters who are at large in the city."

Chic French beauty Anne Parillaud (from "Nikita") who plays the sexy Marie is possibly the best reason to watch this romantic comedy/thriller but all horror buffs will love it more for the endless in-jokes and clips from the classic Dracula films. A certain handcuff scene, however, is likely to cause more hot flushes than this movie's fiery climax.

Blade7. Blade (1998)

"A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires."

Great special effects, and awesome fight scenes made this the "must see" vampire film of 1999. This is still one of the best vampire action films I have ever seen, if not the best.
There are two poorer sequels featuring far too many CGI effects, but if you really like Wesley Snipes then it is worth buying the trilogy on DVD for all the special features.

Bram Stoker's Dracula8. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

"The vampire comes to England to seduce a visitor's fiancée and inflict havoc in the foreign land."

This is the most ambitious, not to mention the most expensive, try at making the definitive version of the oft-filmed tale. Criticism has been levelled at certain actors not quite managing to retain their assumed nationalities and accents, dude, but the Oscar winning music and costumes tend to cover such lapses.

Lust for a Vampire9. Lust for a Vampire (1971)

"In 1830, forty years to the day since the last manifestation of their dreaded vampirism, the Karnstein heirs use the blood of an innocent to bring forth the evil that is the beautiful Mircalla - or as she was in 1710, Carmilla."

This nicely erotic Hammer horror is often confused with "The Vampire Lovers". This is mainly due to almost identical plots and lots of lesbian bloodsucking. The big difference is that gorgeous Yutte Stensgaard is far more sweet and innocent looking than Ingrid Pitt. Rumour has it that Yutte deeply regrets ever having starred in this film, but she has nothing to be ashamed of at all.

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles10. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

"A vampire tells his epic life story: love, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger."

Anne Rice's book was hardly brilliant but this film tries hard to recreate the best bits even though it doesn't always manage to make them any more interesting. Forget Cruise, Pitt, Rea, Banderas and Slater, it's little Kirsten Dunst as Claudia who steals the show and is the only reason that this gets a place in my top ten.

Vampire films that I didn't include are "Dracula - A.D. 1972" (1972) which is still very underrated, "Fright Night" (1985) because I can't stand Charlie Brewster, "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996) because Tarantino is far too smug, "The Lost Boys" (1987) because "Near Dark" is better, "Vamp" (1986) because it's too comedic, and "Nosferatu" (1922) because my life isn't long enough to watch boring silent movies with big chunks missing from them.

I also deliberately didn't include any of the "Twilight" movies because, as much as I might like them, I know that most people over the age of 15 don't unless there is something very wrong with them.

What are your favourite vampire films?

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