Quick and dirty people, I’ve got things to do, reviews to
catch up on, and poisonous drugs to cram into my veins. Here’s my list of
vampire movies to seek out and enjoy instead of drowning your sorrows in Twilight
Saga: Eclipse this weekend, in alphabetical order.
I’ve written about this one in the past for DVDActive.com.
An Aswang is basically one of many Filipino vampire equivalents. It has a long
tongue, which it uses to drink the blood of babies still in the womb. Not as cool as Malaysia’s Penangglalan, but still pretty unique. This
low-budget marvel features creative camera work, gore, and energy worthy of the
original Evil Dead, and a surprisingly complex plot, given its moderate
This French oddity, also known as The Evil Within on US VHS
releases, isn’t exactly a traditional vampire story, but makes a good double
feature with Aswang, as it sort of inverts the Filipino mythology. In the
rather epic little film an ancient evil (pre-dinosaur) impregnates a circus
performer with itself (stick with me here), and forces her to kill so that it
may partake in her victims’ blood. Eternally strange and gory, with genuinely
touching moments. Shockingly enough I recommend the English dub over the
original French just for the baby’s voice.
I already suggested this one last Halloween, and risk overselling
it, but this strange take on swinger culture and vampire lore, where a brother
and sister ‘vampire’ team rent out a spare room to a bored husband for his
sexual escapades, is worth watching, assuming you can find a copy. It’s not on
DVD in any country as far as I can tell.
Black Sabbath: The Wurdalak
Any excuse to pimp Mario Bava. Black Sabbath is a nearly
perfect horror anthology, with a central section called The Wurdalak that is
more or less a traditional vampire story. The story concerns a traveling man who
stumbles across a family locked in a century’s long battle with vampire-like
creatures called Wurdalaks. The family’s grandfather, played by Boris Karloff,
returns from battle acting suspiciously, leading to the assumption that he’s
been infected. What follows is a smoky, dreamy, Technicolor nightmare with a bevy of unsettling
moments, and one of my all time favorite
Though clearly not one of Guillermo del Toro’s best films,
it’s a solid preview of things to come, and one of the most original takes on
vampire mythos ever put to film. Instead of an undead human, the vampire here
is represented by a mechanical golden bug, which turns a once good man into an
anemic murderer. Del Toro presents a multi-layered, subtext filled story, and
begins perfecting his now trademarked visual style.
Let the Right One In
Really this one is too obvious. I’m guessing most people
that pay attention to this sort of thing have already seen this particularly
masterful take on traditional vampire/mortal relationships. I’m including if
for the four people still outside of the ‘know’, and for direct comparison
reasons. I personally saw this one back to back with the original Twilight,
which was unfortunate.
If you were to ask me my all time favorite vampire film I’d
spout Martin without giving the question much thought. George Romero’s melancholy
look at the life of a man that may or may not be a centuries old vampire is
taught, dramatically satisfying, and was a total original at the time of
release. Martin is often overlooked in favor of Romero’s Dead films, and his
more popular comic book inspired work (Martin does feature a EC friendly ironic
ending), even by fans, who often consider Knightriders the director’s real
overlooked masterpiece. I’ll continue championing this little arthouse quickie
for the rest of my life. See it!
Chinese vampires, or Jiang Shi, are featured in nearly as
many films as their Western counterparts, and come with their own set of rules
and mythology. This world is worth exploring, and I can’t think of a better
place to start than Ricky Lau’s Mr. Vampire, a quirky kung-fu horror comedy
that revels in the strangeness of the mythology without alienating an
unprepared Western audience. Mr. Vampire isn’t a bad place to begin one’s first
trip into all of supernatural
cinema, as a matter of fact.
Another mega-obvious one that I expect everyone’s already
seen, but I can’t bring myself to take cheap swipes at Twilight without at
least a mention of Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red’s mini-masterpiece, especially
now that Bigs won herself two major Oscars. It’s not the archetypal
vampire-laced Romeo and Juliet story, but it’s similarities to the Twilight
series are pretty telling. The Blu-ray looks pretty terrible, by the way.
I’m cheating again, because technically speaking Ravenous is
a historical satire with cannibal and Western themes, but the Wendigo mythos
shares a lot in common with traditional vampire mythos, and Antonia Bird’s film
takes some of its cues from the super-popular Anne Rice books, which saw
vampirism evolve into a rather hammer-headed metaphor for homosexual urges.
Ravenous also features warring monster idealism, i.e.: the monster that enjoys
the power, and the monster that can’t handle the moral dilemma of murdering
human beings for food. This is generally damn good, well acted,
original, and sadly overlooked film.
Taste the Blood of Dracula
I can’t really decide on my favorite Christopher Lee
staring, Hammer studio produced Dracula films, so this entry should probably be
read as a recommendation of the entire series. Yeah, even Scars of Dracula,
Dracula 1972 AD and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Okay, maybe not Satanic
Rites, but I’ll defend Dracula 1972 AD to the death, God dammit. Anyway, Taste the Blood of
Dracula is probably the most well rounded of the series, and the first to
really delve head first into nudity and violence. The only thing it’s missing
is Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
José Ramón Larraz’s Vampyres is my personal favorite entre
in the peculiarly abundant, and mostly European lensed lesbian vampire
sub-genre, with the possible exception of Harry Kümel lavish
Daughters of Darkness (which could also go on this list). I can’t think of a
better antidote to the anemic and chaste non-adventures of the Twilight films
than an old-fashion soft-core sex and violence festival, plot and artistic
integrity be damned. Other suggestions under this category – the Hammer
produced Vampire Lovers, Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in
Ecstasy, and just about any film in Jean Rollin’s filmography.