If I sit down to watch a horror movie, more than likely vengeful ghosts or bloodsucking fiends will have starring roles. I’ll save my favorite supernatural spook flicks for a future blog post. I think I’ve seen far more notable vampire films in my life than any other kind of cinematic horror.
Here are my top faves, oldest to newest.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) – Directed by John Hancock, with Zohra Lampert as Jessica and Mariclare Costello as Emily. This one is a low budget, eerie film about a recently released mental patient (Jess) who goes to a farm on an island off the coast of Connecticut to finish recuperating from a breakdown. She comes across a mysterious woman, Emily, who has been squatting on the land. Is all the weirdness in Jess’s mind, or is it really happening? For weeks I couldn’t get the song (sung in an early scene by Emily) “Stay Forever, My Love” out of my head. Very haunting, just like the movie.
Love at First Bite (1979) – Directed by Stan Dragoti, starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James and Richard Benjamin. Not scary at all, but quite funny. Dracula in love – in the 70s.
Salem’s Lot (1979) – A made for TV movie based on my favorite novel by Stephen King. Directed by Tobe Hooper and starring David Soul, James Mason and Bonnie Bedelia. There are scenes in this film that gave me nightmares. Writer Ben Mears (Soul) returns to his hometown in New England and discovers it is being terrorized by vampires.
Fright Night (1985) – The original, directed by Tom Holland, starring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall. Nobody believes Charlie Brewster (Ragsdale) when he discovers his new, charismatic neighbor (Sarandon) is a bloodsucking fiend. Creepy and amusing. (I also like the 2011 remake directed by Craig Gillespie, starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and David Tennant. It’s completely different, and quite suspenseful.)
Near Dark (1987) – Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (first Oscar-winning female director), starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henrikson and Bill Paxton. Lots of gore and black humor. A midwestern farm boy falls for a young vamp and joins up with her bloodthirsty, nomadic family.
The Lost Boys (1987) – Directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. Two teens move with their newly divorced mother to a California town infested with vamps. Cool, creepy vamps. Lots of humor – mainly due to The Frog Brothers. I must confess I like the soundtrack, too.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula ( 1992) – Francis Ford Coppola’s colorful, erotic, humorous, gory version of the classic novel. Starring Gary Oldman as the lovesick count, Winona Ryder as Mina, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. Anthony Hopkins provides some comedic relief in the role of Van Helsing. (And yeah, Keanu has a terrible English accent, but he still looks cute and troubled.)
Interview With a Vampire (1994) – The film based on my favorite Anne Rice novel. Directed by Neil Jordan, starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Slater and Kirsten Dunst. The adventures of eighteenth century vampires, Louis (Pitt) and LeStat (Cruise). Switches back and forth between the interview with Louis and a modern day reporter (Slater), and how Louis became a reluctant vampire, thanks to bad boy LeStat. (I have to admit that Cruise did a much better job in the role of LeStat than I expected.)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Written by Quentin Tarantino, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring George Clooney, Tarantino, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis. Over the top action-suspense, with lots of gore and humor. Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek refuge in a Mexican desert establishment populated by vicious vamps.
Blade (1998) – Based on the Marvel comic character, directed by Stephen Norrington. My fave role for Wesley Snipes so far. Also starring Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson. Snipes plays “Blade” – a different sort of superhero – a vampire-human hybrid who can walk in the sun and protects humans from bloodsuckers. I really like his sword.
Let the Right One In (2008) – Swedish original, based on the novel by John Lindqvist. (Don’t bother with the American version.) Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Starring Lina Leandersson and Kare Hedebrant. One of the most unique vampire tales I’ve seen on the screen. So much to love about it, I’m happy to say. Excellent plot and splendid acting. Oskar (Hedebrant) is a twelve year old bullied boy who develops a crush on his new young neighbor, Eli (Leandersson). But, as Eli tells him, “I’ve been twelve for a very long time.” Vampire love is really complicated.
And that’s all, folks. Some people will probably think I’ve left a great many noteworthy films off my list, or they’ll completely disagree with my taste in vampires. Well, they can just, you know….bite me!