Tasked by Blast Magazine with assembling a top ten vampire movie list that does not include any of the Twilight films, my first thought was: there’s no way any of the Twilight movies should be on a top ten vampire movie list to begin with.
I confess I only saw the first “Twilight” (on DVD) and didn’t think much of it. From the outset it seemed quite silly that Bella had to go live with her father because her mother hooked up with a minor league baseball player. Couldn’t they come up with something better? I don’t care if it was in the book, either, because it still was an odd choice. And then Bella gets to a rural, logging community in Washington, but the high school seems as diverse as Cambridge and all the kids there appear to have sprung from an Old Navy ad. And why would vampires be going to high school anyway?
OK, I could go on. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have included the Twilight movies in my top ten vampire film list even if Blast had not placed that restriction upon me. Below are my top ten. Feel free to tell me I don’t know this genre or I should have included “A Vampire in Brooklyn” with Eddie Murphy. Just don’t come looking for me during daylight.
10. “Vampyr” (1932)
I’m being a little film schoolish with this choice, but Carl Dreyer simply cannot be left off this list. More well known for the silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr is a brooding work of light and shadow that typifies Scandanavian filmmaking. Perhaps more notable for its form rather than content, homage must be due in the vampire genre to one of cinema’s greatest directors.
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9. “Horror of Dracula” (1958)
This one could be filed under “lifetime achievement,” but if you are talking horror and then, more specifically, if you are talking vampires then any top ten list has to include Christopher Lee. The man played Dracula six times! Horror of Dracula is reputedly the best of his vampire movies (many of them being quite campy). And even if that’s wrong, this movie also stars Peter Cushing. What does that mean? Both Lee and Cushing would later go on to be featured in Star Wars movies.
8. “Salem’s Lot” (1979)
This was a made for TV movie and based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Others may not rank it that high, but there’s one scene that I can never forget from this movie. It’s when a man is asleep in a jail cell and a fog rolls in. He wakes to be confronted by ‘the master.’ He is paralyzed with fear as the master takes him, and it’s truly a horrifying scene. When Stephen King inspires any movie one has to take note.
7. TIE: “Vampire Hunter D” (1985) and “Blade” (1998)
Vampire Hunter D is 1980s Japanese animation. Blade is late 1990s when Wesley Snipes was one of the hottest action stars around. Both spawned sequels, and I’m not super huge into either series, but they have been influential in the genre and both feature a half-man, half-vampire warrior taking it to other undead. I’m cheating a bit with this double whammy, but some monsters don’t play by the rules.
6. “Fright Night” (1985)
Let’s introduce a little levity to this list. A teenage boy must enlist the help of a washed up minor TV celebrity to battle a vampire in his neighborhood. Yeah, it’s ridiculous but that’s what makes it fun and memorable. It also tackles the interesting theme of ‘belief.’ The TV host doesn’t believe in monsters at the outset, so he is unable to fight the vampire, but by the end he has been “converted” and can now wage war against evil.
5. “Interview with the Vampire” (1984)
A cast full of pretty boys, erotic undertones, and directed by Neil Jordan—not to mention adapted from an Anne Rice novel. What could be better? What makes this interesting is the way the genres are cross-pollinated. It’s half vampire story and half memoir or journalistic style. It’s an odd combination but stretched the genre in a way that works and must get inclusion on this list.
4. “The Lost Boys” (1987)
It’s a good movie, but if there’s any vampire film that captured the spirit of its age this is it. Packed with teen heartthrobs, only the inclusion of Kirk Cameron could have cemented this film as its own issue of Tiger Beat magazine. The Lost Boys is 1980s to its core. Big hair, a fatherless home, and an MTV look and feel, this movie is a fun ride and well written. It’s style and substance unify to make it a top 10 lister for sure.
3. “Dracula” (1931)
There probably is no better Count Dracula than that played by Bela Lugosi. Directed by Tod Browning, who was a master of the horror genre before there were academics to break down genre filmmaking, Dracula might even be able to rise beyond on its genre trappings to be considered among the finest of American films. This is American studio filmmaking at the dawn of its power and brilliance.
2. “Let the Right One In” (2008)
Here is a good contrast to Twilight in terms of everything that a teen vampire movie should be. This Swedish film is not about product placement or TMZ segments and has no head-slapping moments of “should I suspend my disbelief any further?” Stylistically beautiful with characters that are compelling and moving, Let the Right One In is gruesome the way serious vampire films should be and doesn’t end at the senior prom. The conclusion of this movie is one of the creepiest sequences you will ever see on celluloid.
1. “Nosferatu” (1922)
If Bram Stoker started it all with his novel, then Nosferatu, directed by the German master F.W. Murnau, is the cinematic equivalent. There may have been a few other vampire movies before it, but this silent classic not only is the epitome of German Expressionism, but is also, simply, a great vampire movie. I last saw this a few years ago at the Williamstown Film Festival where a live orchestra provided the music. This movie does not date, and if it’s not among your top 10 vampire movies I’ll be visiting you in the dead of night!
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