It’s that most wonderful time of year again, and that means it’s time to monster mash. So from here until Halloween, I’m going to use my column space to give the biggest of ups to my favorite of all things that go bump in the night, The Vampire.

What I have for you right off the “bat” is a diverse list of classic cult films that are as refreshing today as they were when they were made along with some interesting newcomers to counter the lazy argument that vampire cinema is tired, played out, or just not worth our time. If that’s ever been true in your mind, you simply were not looking hard enough. This is a list of cinema to satisfy any discerning film fan with a lust for bloodsuckers. And when I say “lust,” I don’t mean any weak-ass tween romance. Twilight is over; time to get back to what vampires are really about: death and darkness. Embrace the dark side with these underappreciated gems.

5. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

My favorite of the dozens of Vincent Price films I’ve watched, and the best adaptation of Richard Matheson’s seminal classic story “I Am Legend” by a mile. Two miles, actually, but who’s counting? So why isn’t this one counted amongst the stone classics of vampire cinema? I honestly have no idea, but it is without a doubt one of the best.

In case you aren’t aware of the classic tale, this film has Price as the title character. Every night is spent in his home fortress while the local vampire population lays siege and every day is spent gathering supplies and hunting the undead as they lay sleeping.

If you’re only familiar with the Will Smith version of “I Am Legend,” then you have no idea what you are missing out on. This film and the book share one of the darkest and most ironic endings in the history of anything and you’ve really got to experience it to appreciate the story.

4. BLOOD: THE ULTIMATE DEATH

This Japanese tale of vamp sexuality and timeless love features a rather uncreative title that may turn prospective viewers off, but it’s worth looking for if you want a more adult take on vampire romance. Japan in general has a talent for coming up with excellent and creative takes on Western vampire lore, but this one keeps it fairly simple while adding an Asian sensibility.

When a detective investigates a murder, he meets a woman of unfathomable seductiveness and ends up as part of a love triangle dating back to the feudal period. There’s some solid samurai-style action, but the best reason to watch this one is Aya Sugimoto, who is too beautiful to not give off a supernatural aura, making her perfect for her role as a passionate vampire seductress.

3. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS

While we’re in the mood for sexytime, let me point out that in spite of its terrible title, this adaptation of Carmilla happens to be my favorite of Hammer Film Productions’ exceptional stable of classic vampire films. Not only is it red hot, but it is very faithful to the source material and has a lot of genuine creeps to balance out the abundance of female flesh on display.

It’d be easy to write this one off as softcore porn at a glance due to the girl-girl love scenes, but all the film really did was take what was very heavily implied in Le Fanu’s Victorian era novel and put it onscreen in the age of exploitation cinema.

Ingrid Pitt is the polar opposite of the character in the book, which is regrettable, but her commanding performance as a powerful and intimidating undead vampiress makes up for the deviation from source material. Consider this one a must-watch for fans of sexy vampires and classical vampire mythology as well.

 2. VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL

From the classic, seductive, and evocative to the batshit insane we go. Japan’s neo-grindhouse scene is a unique approach to filmmaking where the more offensive, violent, and generally ridiculous a film is, the better it is. And this one is the best.

So you’ve got a Vampire Girl. You’ve got a Frankenstein Girl. They attend the same high school and have a crush on the same boy. You know where this is going. But oh, how they get there. This may be one of my favorite vampire films, but in no way is it for everybody. It’s extreme in every sense and features more black comedy in its running time than America sees in a typical year’s worth of films put together.

Brace yourself for this one if you aren’t familiar with extreme Asian cinema. There is certainly more disturbing fare out there since this is a satire at heart, but it definitely has no aims on political correctness and features literal showers of gore so know what you are getting into before you take this recommendation.

1. THIRST

Chan-Wook Park is one of the best directors on the planet. Watch all of his films. This is a South Korean flick that offers a fresh perspective on the life of the undead with a dose of black humor and a great portrayal of the dilemmas of a moral man becoming a vampire.

When a Catholic priest receives a transfusion of vampire blood while dying and awakens with a new lust for life (and human blood), that’s a good set up. When he falls in love with a married woman, that’s pretty messed up. I’m going to avoid further spoilers, but let me just say that things don’t exactly get less screwed up from that point on.

“Thirst” is an excellent take on vampires that utilizes many of the familiar tropes but uses them in new ways to highlight the classic conflict between the human and the inhuman while also acknowledging that the two are often one in the same.
I could do this all day, but that’s all the bloodsucking I’ve got room for today. Just remember that no matter how many times some film critic declares the genre to be dead or the concept to be tired, vampires always comes back like Christopher Lee’s Dracula and somebody will always come up with a fresh take. It’s as inevitable as death itself. Sleep tight.
 



Comments are closed.