Out of the box
Vampires. Never have they been so popular, now that scores of teens have discovered that the supposed creatures of the night are more sparkly than bloody. Bad Twilight jokes apart, the genre remains as popular as ever and, the good news is that there are actually some awesome productions out there for those who are lactose-intolerant and who prefer more horror than cheese.
The classics are the obvious starting point, with the added advantage that the thrill factor is dressed up in tons of style. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Francis Ford Coppola, is surely up there with the greatest love stories ever told.
The movie has everything – from fantastic period costumes to a delightfully innocent Winona Ryder, a beautiful soundtrack (I dare you to listen to Annie Lennox’s Love Song for a Vampire and not be touched) and the doomed lovers.
Next on the list, Neil Jordan’s Interview With the Vampire. Again, boasting a choice of locations and Anne Rice’s storytelling. If you are really into the classics and enjoy the old cinematographic techniques, do add Nosferatu (the F. W. Murnau, 1922 version – it really works as a projection during a party to create an atmosphere, by the way) and Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula to the list. They are not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but they are to the vampire genre what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy.
Also on the list of classics goes Joel Schumacher’s Lost Boys, with its legendary 1980s soundtrack and a host of Hollywood old-timers like Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldmen and Diane West – good, old-fashioned fun.
Which brings us on to the more modern offerings. The Blade trilogy is one of my favourites. Vampire movies don’t come any cooler than this. We have all seen the internet memes of what would likely happen were Twilight’s Edward Cullen to have a run-in with Blade.
I’m still waiting for some genius to actually buy the rights to make this happen – not that I can picture author Stephanie Meyer ever agreeing to having her precious creation butchered by the mountain of coolness that is Blade but who knows, everyone has their price.
If you like your ‘cool’ to be served with a dash of ‘gross’, expertly mingled with just a smidgen of sex, then Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn is your movie.
This film comes with a number of bonuses: a short appearance by Quentin Tarantino towards the beginning (Tarantino also wrote the script), one-line quips that are so hilariously cheesy you will be quoting them for the next few days; some rather good action sequences; just enough of a gross factor to keep you making faces throughout and... the jewel in the crown, the infamous Salma Hayek table dance.
If From Dusk till Dawn is all about the cheese, then Let the Right One In is all about the stark artistry of Tomas Alfredson’s cinematography. To be fair, even Matt Reeve’s Hollywod version is extremely good, but I would opt for the Swedish original any day.
The plot, which is both chilling and touching, centres around a bullied 12-year-old who makes friends with a girl who lives in his neighbourhood. The consequences of this friendship offer a wonderful insight into the human psyche and the complicated emotions of love, lust, jealousy and fear.
My last two choices: David Slade’s 30 Days of Night – bleak, genuinely horrifying, sporting the kind of vamps that will leave you too scared to switch off the lights at home, and also boasting one of the most poignant endings in the history of vampire movies.
Finally, for the fantasy lovers, Timur Bekmamtetov’s adaptation of Sergei Lukyanenko’s Nightwatch trilogy. Strictly speaking, the latter is not purely a vampire tale, given the amount of creatures that are part of the plot line, but it is a rollercoaster of fun and special effects from beginning to end. And yes... do read the books too.