Five Vampire Films To Watch Instead Of Twilight

You might not realize it, but this week brings a major event in the history of vampire lore. Finally, after five long and painful years Twilight is coming to a close. With any luck, vampires will soon return to being horror movie terrors rather than the sparkly-skinned shirtless cornball romantics.

Yep, Stephanie Meyer’s reign of terror over Bram Stoker’s frightening creation is mercifully over. To celebrate, we thought we would provide you fine readers with a selection of five vampire movies to watch this weekend instead of Boring Dawn Part 2. Hopefully within a few years, this brand of vampire will dominate the genre again, bearing fangs and unleashing buckets of blood instead of pouting and prancing. There are of course far too many vampire classics to condense to a definitive list of five. So if it hurts you that we left off greats like George Romero’s Martin, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, Roman Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, John Landis’ Innocent Blood or anything from the Hammer Horror era, please know that it killed me to do it. However, I think you’ll find that if you’ve got a sweet tooth for vampires this weekend, these five blood-sucking masterpieces will do the trick (and each comes along with a potential double bill partner if you really want to go all out.

Blade II (2002)

Since comics are in the title of this magazine, we may as well kick things off with the big screen treatment for the finest vampire in the funny books. Good old Blade has been staking vampires across Marvel pages for years and when he made his big screen debut in 1998 with Wesley Snipes wearing the fangs, the film was such a surprise hit that it kicked off the current superhero movie renaissance that we’re all enjoying. The first blade is a solid work of horror superhero entertainment, but like most comic book franchises, the series peaked with the sequel. Monster maestro Guillermo Del Toro took over the sequel and delivered a deliriously entertaining action/horror romp with some specially designed super-vampires with gaping mouths. The film isn’t exactly art, but it’s not boring for a second either. If you want to see vampires operating at the peak of their ass-kicking abilities, this is the movie to watch. Of course, if you’d prefer to see vampires being spooky, then keep scrolling through this list.

Double Bill Partner: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up for their first grindhouse mash-up with this underrated 90s gem that plays as a sadistic crime comedy for the first half before making an unexpected gear shift into a gangsters vs. vampires war in the second half. It was dismissed at the time because Tarantino was coming off Pulp Fiction and anything less than a genre masterpiece was deemed a disappointment. However, divorced from those unfair expectations, From Dusk Till Dawn offers some of the finest fanged entertainment around (Cheech Marin plays three roles for gods sakes, what more do you want?)

4) Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

You can’t have a vampire movie list without giving a slot over to at least one movie with Dracula in the title. I’m going with a less conventional choice out of the legion of Stoker-derived classics, but that’s only because the others are so widely seen. Francis Ford Coppola had a little juice in Hollywood in the early 90s after delivering Godfather Part III (bad movie, but it was a hit which is all that matters to the studios). He capitalized on that success by delivering his take on Dracula. The film is over-the-top in every conceivable sense, filled with ridiculous melodrama, championship quality overacting, and a parade of visual pyrotechnics to make your eyes go boom. Sure, Keanu Reeves delivers possibly the worst performance of his career, but the movie is dripping in camp comedy anyways and that only adds to the fun. What makes the film so special is Gary Oldman’s deranged Dracula and Coppola’s astounding in-camera special effects that still stun in the CGI age. You might not necessarily be scared by Coppola’s creation, but it’s also impossible that you will ever be bored. An underrated classic from one of the great masters of cinema.

Double Bill Partner: Dracula (1931)

There are so many possibilities for a Dracula double bill and certainly you couldn’t go wrong with any of Christopher Lee’s iconic Hammer Horror takes on the character or the Andy Warhol camp-fest Blood For Dracula. However, I’ve got to give the edge to the Bela Legosi starring Todd Browning masterpiece that kicked off Universal Studio’s monster factory. Though dated, the film holds up well over 80 years later and Legosi’s take on the character is the one that impressionists still go to. Plus it just came out in Blu-ray so that you can properly admire Browning’s gorgeously gothic visuals. A must see.

3) Salem’s Lot (1979)

 

Alright, so I’m cheating a bit with this one. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper’s adaptation of Stephen King’s vampire opus was a TV miniseries and not a theatrical release. However, it’s also one of the best vampire movies around and one of the finest Stephen King adaptations for that matter. It’s a tale of a family moving to a new town with strange pale-skinned residents. It’s clear something is deeply wrong with the Salem’s Lot and as you probably already worked out since it’s included in this list, vampire’s are to blame. Hooper carefully ratchets up tension throughout the film and when the scares come the impact is all the more devastating. Working with 70s television restrictions means that it’s one of the least bloody films on the list, but carefully constructed atmosphere and well-timed jumps always pack more of a punch than gore. Scene’s like the above clip (famously parodied on The Simpsons) kept countless 70s kids awake for weeks and they’ve still got an considerable impact. Put your TV movie fears aside on this one. Not only where TV movies given decent budgets in the 70s, but with young filmmakers like Hooper behind them, they also had skill and craft that could top anything playing the theaters. An under appreciated gem desperately in need of rediscovery.

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Double Bill Partner: Shadow Of The Vampire (2000)

Explaining the connection between these two movies would be somewhat of a spoiler, but if you’ve scene Salem’s Lot before, you’ll understand completely. This darkly comic film about the making of Nosferatu with an actual vampire is an ingenious piece of work that has been unfairly forgotten over the last decade. It’s a creepy and witty film featuring an unforgettable turn from Willem Dafoe as easily one of the most disgusting vampires to ever strut across the silver screen.

 2) Near Dark (1987)

 

If you try to pick up a copy of Near Dark today, you’ll find a DVD with two pale undead lovers on the cover trying to trick little girls into thinking they’ve found a 1980s version of Twilight. Oh how I wish I could be a fly on the wall for one of the many slumber parties ruined by this down n’ dirty vampire flick. It’s very easy to see how audiences could be tricked into thinking that they’re getting Twilight as the movie opens with a farm boy falling in love with a mysterious girl who then turns out to be a vampire and invites him to join her family of bloodsuckers. However, that’s where the similarities end. This family is led by cult movie icons Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, who soon take the farm boy to a redneck bar and slaughter the entire clientele for a country-fried bloodfeast. It’s one of the most intense and memorable scenes to emerge out of 80s horror movies (made all the more disturbing by the family’s pre-teen member who excitedly participates in the attacks/feedings). Near Dark is possibly still the best movie that recent Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) has made to date. The film’s vampires are almost like a gang who won’t just suck your blood to survive, they’ll do it for fun. Few big screen vampires have ever been more frightening than Bill Paxton’s Severen, mainly because few have seemed to genuinely enjoy the lifestyle more.

Double Bill Partner: The Lost Boys (1987)

Released the same year as Near Dark, The Lost Boys is an 80s pop vampire classic. Featuring both Coreys (that’s Feldman and Haim for those keeping score at home). Sure, it’s not particularly scary but it is a riot to watch from start to finish, with the Coreys playing out every teen geek’s fantasy of killing a hoard of vampires with their extensive comic book knowledge. Not to be missed by any lover of 80s cheese.

1) Nosferatu (1922)

 

Nosferatu wasn’t just the first vampire to make his way to the big screen, but he’s also arguably still the most frightening. There’s no pretty boy image for the mysterious actor Max Schreck to hide his fangs behind. This is a disgusting rat-like creature with sunken, soulless eyes and long skeletal fingers. It’s the kind of image that nightmares are made of and one of the few movies that can lay claims to still frightening audiences 89 years after it first premiered in Germany. F.W. Murnau’s stark, expressive black and white photography is beautiful, hypnotic, and eerie in every scene. Sure, you’ve got to have the patience for silent features, but it’s still worth a shot. Every year public school teachers show their kids this movie on Halloween as a safe spooky treat and every year classrooms full of children are traumatized. This is where movie vampires began. It’s hard to imagine running into Nosferatu in a dark ally and being less terrified of the creature than any other bloodsucker on this list. Unless you have a silent movie monster fetish of course and if that’s the case, you have far bigger problems to deal with than this guy.

Double Bill Partner: Vampyr (1932)

Writer/director Carl Dreyer is normally remembered for his challenging art house fare like The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, but the man also dipped into silent horror with the black and white nightmare that is Vampyr (ok, so there’s some dialogue against Dreyer’s wishes, but it certainly plays like a silent feature). Like Nosferatu, Dreyer’s work is so effective that even cynical viewers who have never sampled silent fare will be covered in flop sweat and clutching their couch by the time the film is over. Worth seeing for the shadow play alone.