I have said many times that I grew up on the classic Hammer Horror movies of the 60’s and 70’s and have gone on the record saying that Christopher Lee is my favourite Dracula, I even had the vampire inspired board game ‘I Vant to Bite Your Finger’ as a kid… But I just don’t like vampire movies.
It’s true, I am a gore hound and with vampire movies (for the majority at least) there just isn’t enough bloodshed involved. Most romanticise the fact that vampires are undead killing machines hell bent on drinking blood, the blood of the living… your blood.
But no, there’s always some gooey love story linking the vampire to some daft cow and then the heroic vampire hunter turns up to save the day and gets the girl. Yawn.
Don’t get me wrong I still love the old Hammer classics and I still get all excited when Peter Cushing breaks out a stake in his big coat to thwart some Christopher Lee arse, but still, where’s the splatter?
And we can talk for hours about the outstanding Werner Herzog adaptation of Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and how great the cinematography is and the undercurrent of brooding bleakness that leaves the viewer at ill ease pretty much all the way through but still, it doesn’t hit the right ‘horror’ buttons for me.
If you dissect the majority of classic vampire films they are for the most part low budget period drams that happen to be about vampires. Add a light sprinkling of romantic intrigue, a handful of buxom wenches, a dash of fake blood, some fangs and a generous helping of action/adventure and you have a dish fit for the cinema.
This has been the blueprint for most of modern cinemas vampire flicks to date.
Take for example Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Great cast… Sure, great direction… Without question, great visual and audio effects… Straight out of the top drawer but it is the seminal romantic horror movie but the love story swamps what is essence darker subject matter.
It’s a flawless movie and I guess you can’t blame the film makers as they stuck pretty close to the original story but in my opinion it’s a romantic drama for goths.
Sorry goth friends if you find my opinion on this a little out of step but that scene where the Count (not Sesame Street) and Mina Harker are on the bed drinking each other’s blood is straight out of the ‘how to pull a goth’ handbook. Show this movie to a goth chick and you’re halfway there.
“Take me away from all this death.” Come on, really?
One movie that really put me of the genre is Razor Blade Smile (1998), a British super low budget SOV effort written and directed by Jake West (Evil Aliens, Doghouse, ABC’s of Death) that just came across as pretentious. I hated ‘sexy’ PVC clad vampire hit-woman Lilith (Eileen Daly). At points I wanted to punch her in the face. For me it sums up everything that is wrong with the goth and vampire movements and left me feeling like the film maker was trying too hard to be hip leaving all involved looking like a pack of twats.
Yes it did away with the romantic element and threw off the shackles of period gothic ascetics and yes, it updated a stagnating genre but I just hated the main character. The actress played her too uppity and her voice just turned me off, to posh and condescending.
She bowled around like she owned the place and spoke like she was constantly talking down to a housemaid during her voice over parts and it came over like she believed that vampires were better than everyone else.
Yeah, if you’re such hot shit get to the beach and top up your tan or have some garlic mayo with your fries you stuck up bitch.
Ahem, let me clear my throat a moment… There have been a few exceptions though.
In 1987 Zero Dark Thirty (amongst many other class big budget movies including surfer crime caper Point Break) director Kathryn Bigelow made the very much under the radar vampire film Near Dark. Any seasoned horror fan will tell you that this film is a beast and if you haven’t seen it and are a fan of all things ‘fang’ then you should very much check it out.
As with the majority of vampire movies there is a heavy romantic theme when farm-boy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) falls for cute drifter Mae (Jenny Wright). After a whirlwind encounter Mae turns Caleb and he gets to meet her dysfunctional family that includes stone faced Lance Henriksen and alien ass-kicker Bill Paxton. Trust me when I say the two throw in a master class performance that easily rivals their turn in Aliens.
Let me just say that this movie goes there.
There is a bar scene that will leave you gasping and shows a novel use for a set of spurs and the end sequence is so good you will want to watch it over and over. I did and I don’t like vampire movies.
The character back stories are fantastic and sometimes light-hearted in their darkness and it shows vampires not only in a thoughtful manner but also for the monsters that they really are. Their dead for fuck sake, they kill people for food for fuck sake.
Another of my ‘must watch’ children of the night movies is the 1986 trash-a-thon, Vamp.
I first saw this movie when I was a teenager and I was blown away by how trashy it was, it ticked all the right boxes then and it still does now.
Some fraternity jocks go looking for strippers in some back ally dive and run into all sorts of trouble, not only from a local bike gang but from a pack of vampires that run the strip joint to feed on drunken businessmen looking for cheap thrills.
And cheap thrills are what you get with this film.
Slap bang in the middle of the already horror healthy 1980’s it crosses generous portions of camp sleaze with gnarly vampire gore and for me is a better movie than Fright Night which came out a year after.
Add Grace Jones into the mix as the demonic vampire queen and you’re on to a sleazy, gory, rib tickling winner.
Nineties and noughties
Now were going to make a big time jump here and miss out the majority of the 90’s as the vampire film gets all slushy again with Bram Stoker’s (which we’ve already covered) and the critically acclaimed Interview with a Vampire which for me was an excuse for Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas to pull orgasm faces at every close up opportunity. Seriously, next time you watch that movie, every time there’s one of those drawn out close ups of one of them just think to yourself ‘cum face’.
It’s like a drinking game but with underlining homo-erotica.
It may ruin the movie for you… Or enhance is slightly.
So yeah, a big jump into the future and we land in 2007 with one of my favourite modern vampire films, 30 Days of Night. Hell, I’d even go out on a limb and say it’s my favourite full stop.
Based on Steve Niles’ brilliant comic book series director David Slade brings us one of the most brutal vampire movies ever to grace the screen.
This film does not let up on the bloodshed from pretty much the get go; blood everywhere and vampires straight from the bowels of hell. The vampires in this are genuinely creepy with their own language and a weird way of moving like they are another species let alone just undead humans.
I know why I like this movie so much and it isn’t just the gore factor, it’s because it’s basically a zombie movie but with vampires.
It’s a survival movie more than anything; Josh Hartnett and co is cooped up in attics and crawlspaces trying to hide from the marauding pack of ruthless ghouls outside. It almost feels like a post-apocalyptic movie due to its setting and subject matter.
There’s no romance (other than the backstory relationships between some of the characters), no touching moments between a love struck blood sucker and some tart he thinks is his long dead girlfriend, no, just violence, blood and death. There really is a lot of blood in this movie.
And as for Danny Huston’s vampire character Marlow, forget it, unsettling and oh so savage.
The down side of this film is that Slade went on to direct one of the Twilight films… Fuck, I really didn’t want to mention Twilight, sort of inevitable really but I think we all know what a pile of steaming camel turd that series is.
Less said the better me thinks.
There are many more that come to mind like the afore mentioned Fright Night, the James Woods late night classic Vampires, the Tarantino/Rodriguez chuckle fest From Dusk Till Dawn, the slick Californian hip The Lost Boys, and the deeply disturbing yet moving Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos.
Whatever, I still am not a fan of the genre and that’s without the addition of a pack of sparkling freaks that look like they should be in a Dawson’s Creek spin off.
Fuck Twilight… Thank you and goodnight.
Still better than Twilight: