A couple of weeks ago I ran into Tim League, the founder of the Original Alamo Drafthouse and the head man at Fantastic Fest, when he was in LA for the American Film Market. AFM exists to give distributors and festival programmers a chance to see brand new movies – hundreds of them – and buy or program them. Tim was looking for movies to bring to Fantastic Fest 2010, and I wanted to know if he had seen anything he liked.
One of the movies Tim had enjoyed was a vampire movie. ‘I’m so sick of vampires and zombie movies,’ Tim said, ‘But they keep making good ones.’
Yeah, on the surface that sounds crazy as The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens to huge box office this weekend, but the truth is that the very tired vampire genre still has some life in it. Here are four recent (and upcoming) vampire movies that are one hundred percent worth your time.
Let the Right One In (available on home video. Click here to buy it through CHUD)
The movie: If I were to make a top ten of the decade, Let the Right One In would be a major, serious contender. Think about that: a vampire movie that is one of the best films of the last ten years. Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the Swedish novel by John Ajvide is sweet and creepy and scary and wonderful. It’s a beautiful coming of age story and a genuine horror story at the same time.
The vampires: Like many of the best vampire story, Alfredson and Ajvide don’t need to reinvent the vampire. Young Eli was changed long ago and lingers in the body of a (seeming) young girl. Sunlight’s bad, she needs to drink blood (which is attained for her by a human familiar; while not Renfield in nature her sidekick is just as enthralled with her), and she’s got super strength, can fly and perform other supernatural feats.
Thirst (available on home video. Click here to buy it through CHUD)
The movie: Park Chan-Wook’s take on vampirism is just as strange as you might expect it to be. When a good-hearted Catholic priest becomes infected with vampiric blood he suddenly finds him plunged directly into the world of the body, while people begin to think he’s a messenger from the world of the spirit. Unable to contain his new desires he begins drinking blood and then carrying on with a childhood friend. Park doesn’t keep a tight rein on his themes, but he does create a perfect downward spiral for these two.
The vampires: Again, mostly traditional. Interestingly, crosses have no impact on this priestly vamp, although that’s becoming more and more common as the vampire myth has evolved from the supernatural to the science fiction (Thirst and Daybreakers really treat vampires as more or less scifi concepts). Blood needs to be drained, and it brings with it super strength and plenty of intense sense – the vamps in this can hear your heart beating from very far away. And sunlight remains a big no no for these vampires.
The Revenant (looking for distribution. Keep up to date at the official site)
The movie: Hey, I didn’t say that all of these films would be easy to get your hands on. This one’s worth the wait. You can read my review from Fantastic Fest here, but the gist of it is that writer/director Kerry Prior has created an oddball, bad ass, rambling and epic story about a GI who comes home from Iraq seemingly dead. But in fact he’s a revenant, which is a fancier way of saying vampire. He gets together with his slacker buddy and all sorts of really unexpected things happen; Prior ups the ante again and again and he keeps taking the story in new, strange and fun directions. A truly one of a kind movie.
The vampires: The revenants sleep during the day – they just conk right out and appear to be dead – and they have extraordinary strength and reflexes. Like the orginal Dracula, the revenants must drink blood to keep themselves from decomposing. They’re also extraordinarily hard to kill – a disembodied revenant head lives on and speaks using a vibrator to stimulate its mangled vocal chords – but sunlight does seem to do the trick.
Daybreakers (hitting theaters in January)
The movie: I love this movie. It does right everything that Stephenie Meyer did wrong with Twilight. Australian filmmaking duo the Spierig Brothers have envisioned a complete, enveloping world that is rich is detail and mythology. It even includes a vampire chimpanzee! Set in the near future, after a vampire plague has turned most of the Earth’s population into bloodsuckers, Daybreakers follows a vamp hemobiologist who is looking to create synthetic blood to replace the rapidly dwindling real blood supplies. See, the vampires have hunted humans to the edge of extinction. When he runs into a human resistance group he unlocks a secret that might forever change the balance of power in the world.
The vampires: Very traditional, although very science fiction. The vampire plague began ten years prior to the film’s opening and it swept the globe quickly. There’s a whole industry that has sprung up around sun-proofing cars, and vamps use extensive tunnel and subway systems to get around during the day. They need blood and if they don’t get it they begin devolving into awesome looking savage bat monsters called Subsiders. But there’s one key element to the Spierig Brothers take on vampirism that feels unique and shouldn’t be revealed until you’ve seen the movie…