Ever since Nosferatu hit the silver screen in 1922, not a decade has gone by (and rarely even a year) without a vampire film to creep out the masses. So, there are hundreds of vampire movies to choose from… and only so much blood to go around. But if you want to go deeper than Interview With A Vampire, the Twilight films and True Blood, here are some recommendations, ranging from cinematic classics to trashy fun.
Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Bela Lugosi, of course! And Dwight Fry
Plot: Reinfeld goes on a business trip to Transylvania where he unfortunately tries to do business with Count Dracula, who turns out to be a… you guessed it! He falls under the Count’s power, and then smuggles his new master to London and after that… hide your daughters, hide your wife!
Reception: The classic, the gold standard. If you’re OK with a slow moving film, this is a rewarding one, and the one that informed all vampire movies to come. Fun fact: two of the stars were immortalized in rock songs decades after the film came out: goth-rockers Bauhaus’ debut single was 1979’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”(which itself was used in the 1983 vampire film The Hunger, starring David Bowie). Alice Cooper, meanwhile, paid homage to the actor who played Reinfeld in “The Ballad Of Dwight Fry” from his 1971 Love It To Death LP.
Followed By: There was 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter and 1943’s Son Of Dracula (starring Lon Chaney Jr.). But really, every Dracula movie ever followed this one.
Director: Tom Holland
Stars: Chris Sarandon (Susan’s ex!) and Roddy McDowell
Plot: A horror film buff discovers that he’s living next door to a vampire (played by Sarandon). No one believes him. Yes, it’s a comedy (and a glorious ’80s one at that) as well as a vampire flick.
Reception: Sort of a cult classic, cited more often by tastemakers than the general public, it sports a 93% approval rating from critics on the website Rotten Tomatoes, although only a 71 percent rating from the audience.
Followed By: The 1988 sequel Fright Night II didn’t make the same kind of splash (or splatter). Nor did a 2011 remake starring Colin Farrell as the vampire-next-door.
The Lost Boys
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman,Dianne Wiest
Plot: Two brothers (played by Haim and Patric) move to Santa Clara, California, with their mother. It turns out that the town is run by gangs. But no, they’re not just any gangs, they’re vampires!
Reception: The film offered a different take on vampires. The tagline, “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire” made it the perfect scary movie/teen flick crossover of the era. Add to that the soundtrack – INXS’s cover of The Easybeats’ “Good Time Tonight,” Echo & The Bunnymen’s take on The Doors’ “People Are Strange” and Roger Daltrey’s version of Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (which lyricist Bernie Taupin probably didn’t write with vampires in mind) – and you have a perfect storm to get teens back into the vampire genre.
Followed By: Lost Boys: The Tribe in 2008 was a straight-to-DVD release; 2010’s Lost Boys: The Thirst followed. Neither featured Keifer Sutherland (although The Tribe featured Angus Sutherland, Keifer’s half-brother!), and neither made an impact.
From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: George Clooney (making his leading-man debut), Quentin Tarantino (who also wrote the screenplay), Juliette Lewis and Harvey Keitel were the main cast members, but the film also featured Cheech Marin (in multiple roles) and horror flick mainstays Danny Trejo, Fred Williamson and Tom Savini. Oh, and Salma Hayek. As a snake-charming exotic dancer who turns out to be a (surprise!) vampire.
Plot: Two brothers (played by Clooney and Tarantino) are bank robbers trying to make their way to Mexico. They hijack Harvey Keitel’s family’s RV and stop at a bar in Mexico, with a name that we can’t use here. Anyway, it turns out almost everyone there is a… well, you know.
Reception: Mixed. If you like Tarantino and Rodriguez’s takes on ’70s flicks (a la their Grindhouse collaboration), and you prefer your vampires as feral beasts rather than angst-ridden human-like creatures, this might be for you. Also, you should like blood and gore. Lots of it.
Followed By: Lots of George Clooney films that had nothing to do with vampires! Neither he, nor the rest of the main cast, appeared in the little-known sequels 1999’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money or 2000’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (which is actually a prequel to the first film). Danny Trejo appears in both 2 and 3, however.
Let The Right One In
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, both barely 13 when they filmed this.
Plot: A young Swedish boy is bullied at school… until he meets a girl who, as it turns out, is a vampire (and vampires never age once they are “turned,” so she will spend the rest of her days preserved as a 13 year old).
Reception: Not too many Swedish romantic horror films starring children make it to these shores. But this one did, and got a 97% rating from Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics, and an impressive 89% from their audience.
Followed By: In 2010, an American English-language version, Let Me In, came out. It got decent reviews as well, but if you don’t mind subtitles, stick with the original.
There are plenty of other great and/or vampire films: 30 Days Of Night, Andy Warhol’s Blood For Dracula, Shadow Of The Vampire, the 1932 Danish film classic Vampyr, and the ultra-trashy Suck (starring Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Alex Lifeson of Rush).
What are your favorite vampire movies? Sound off in the comments below!
— Brian Ives, CBS Local