Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top Ten Vampire Films

Here's something that more precisely qualifies as content.

I like vampire films very much, and dare to call myself something of an expert. Certainly the number of such flicks I can honestly say I've seen is quite large. Hundreds, probably. But my tastes are not indiscriminate. Herein are the top ten of what seem like the best vampire films (to date) to moi...

Let The Right One In came out last year in limited release. Essentially it tells the story of a lonely, smart boy named Oskar who meets a girl his own age with whom he--quite possibly for the first time in his twelve years--connects. But all is not as it seems. She is a vampire. Yet they do come to love each other. Not in a saccharine, sweet or untroubled way. Not at all. Disturbing and brilliant, this is based on a Swedish novel. Now it is being adapted for an English-language version. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Bram Stoker's Dracula showed us how Francis Ford Coppola saw the classic vampire tale. For all its flaws, this lush and passionate version of Stoker's novel deserves loads of credit. Most of the cast is superb, and those who aren't are still very good. Tossed aside were virtually all the cliches --the cape, the quaintness of Van Helsing, even the shape of Dracula's boxes of earth! An excellent adaptation.

Interview With The Vampire, based on Anne Rice's bestseller, again shows what a top-notch creative team can do with this subject matter. When the casting was first announced, Rice hit the roof, insisting Tom Cruise was not and could never be Lestat. Which just goes to show that writers are not necessarily good judges of actors. After seeing the film, she paid for full page ads all over the country taking every word back. I agree. Cruise, by the way, comes across as a total ass as a human being. At one point, I feared this film had been ruined because I'd be unable to separate Cruise from his role. But--I could. The man is a ass, but an ass who can act extremely well.

Shadow of the Vampire exists around a lovely conceit. What if the actor playing "Count Orlock" in the famously unauthorized first adaptation of the novel Dracula was in fact a real vampire? Include with it a genuinely superior cast, and this is the movie one ends up with. A remarkable and compelling story about art and darkness.

Blood and Roses (French title: Et mourir de plaisir) was Roger Vadim's modern retelling of Sheridan LeFanu's novella Carmilla. Honestly, I'm a little reluctant to put this film here--not because it isn't good as well as genuinely interesting, but because it is a well-done version of what many adaptations do of this work. For example, a suitably male love interest is introduced, while the narrator of the novella becomes this virtual non-entity. Still, a fine film.

Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is silly. That is the point. It is a comedy about a struggle between "good" vampires and "bad" ones, who've taken up residence in ghost town. Vampire comedies have been tried many times. Most, like this year's Vampire Lesbian Killers, are just terrible. This one is hilarious, and has an outstanding cast--David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, Deborah Foreman, etc.

Nosferatu (the original silent version) deserves it status as a classic, not least because it is the first vampire film that actually has a vampire in it! Prior to this movie, vampires were always revealed to be a trick or some such. Although relatively few vampires in later films copied the horrific image of Count Orlock, many have borrowed images from this movie simply because what it did was often so iconic.

Nadja included David Lynch in a minor role, which could hardly be more appropriate. The whole thing came across as the way Lynch might have remade Dracula's Daughter, including taboos like menstrual blood and incest. Peter Fonda of all people as Van Helsing was an inspiration, as was using stock footage of Bela Lugosi from White Zombie as an image of Dracula himself.

Paris Je T'aime is the only non-full-length film on this list, but is still brilliant. The whole movie is an anthology, but the section "Quartier de la Madeleine" concerns this list. Less than six minutes long, it is a weird love story between a tourist (Elijah Wood) and a female vampire (Olga Kurylenko--Camille in Quantum of Solace).

The Vampire Lovers is, in my opinion, the best vampire movie every made by Hammer Studios. Another adaptation of Carmilla, it at least tries to adhere to the original story (although with the inclusion of yet another male love interest for the lead--whose name gets changed to Emma for some reason). Although reluctant male vampires are somewhat the rage, as per Bill Compton and Edward Cullen and Nick Knight and Angel and Barnabas Collins, etc., here is a realistic portrayal of a female vampire in the same straights--having fallen in love with her victim. Madeleine Smith frankly deserves kudos as well for making a waifish ingenue role something other than a pretty doormat.


Anonymous said...

I really liked that short in Paris Je T'Aime as well.

And as for your list -- what are you saying -- Twilight isn't in your top ten for vamp films? I'm so terribly shocked! (ha!)

Liz Strange said...

I loved Let the Right One In. Can't recommend it highly enough! The cinemotography is beautiful, the script was fabulous and both of the children actors were amazing! Take the time to watch it if you can.