Above: What We Do in the Shadows
Yes, it’s the middle of August. Yes, it’s 84° in Malvern. Yes, Halloween is 76 whole days away. (Not that we’re counting.) It’s objectively way too early for trick-or-treating candy displays to be up (I see you, Wegman’s) but we can’t afford to let our guard down when it comes to vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. Folk-punk music alone might not be enough to save us.
With some serious vampiric activity brewing in the People’s Light rehearsal rooms, our staff is delving into some...scholarly...films for, ahem, research purposes. Here are some of our favorites (in chronological order) to get you started:
The grandfather of all vampire movies. F.W. Murnau’s direction and use of light and shadow makes the film creepy to this day.
Yes, Tod Browning’s classic retelling of the Stoker novel doesn’t get the same respect it once used to, and Bela Lugosi’s broad performance isn’t for everyone. But Lugosi brought a suave (if at times campy) charm to Dracula that was missing from earlier vampire films.
Availability: free on Vimeo
The Lost Boys (1987)
“First vampire movie I've ever seen, loved it. Still love it.”
Fast forward to Buffy for a minute, Joss Whedon also cited The Lost Boys as a big inspiration for the way it depicted vampires: “The idea of them looking like monsters and then looking like people, that was in [The] Lost Boys, and that was very useful for us.”
My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987)
A movie from the 80's with a comedy spin on a teenage boy trying to figure out what being a vampire is after trying to lose his virginity and getting bitten instead. Ouch.
Vampire Hunter D (1985), Vampire Hunter D: Blood Lust (2000)
Anime. Takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a half vampire struggles with his nature, and has a talking hand that constantly mocks him. He ends up being dragged into situations where he has to save people when he would rather remain neutral to everything.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Does Buffy even need an introduction? Well, no, you technically can start with the better-known Sarah Michelle Gellar-led TV series which re-vamps (ba dum tss...) Buffy’s backstory, but the original movie starring Kristy Swanson is still worth a watch. SoCal teenager goes from care-free cheerleader to Chosen One with mystically-granted super powers, joining an ancient line of young girls destined to fight vampires. Cue rebel on a motorcycle love interest (played by Luke Perry), British mentor Merrick Jamison-Smythe (Donald Sutherland), and Lothos, the first Big Bad of them all (Rutger Hauer.)
Bonus: The TV series is currently streaming on Hulu
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
If the wordsmithing of author Anne Rice doesn’t knock you back in your seat, the star power alone will. The unmatchable intensity of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Bandaras, and a young Kirsten Dunst… whoa! The 90s never had it so good. Rice was surprised by the selection of Cruise as an egocentric vampire, but through the lens of 2018, are you? Dunst keeps dead women as friends, Pitt faces moral incumbrances, and Christian Slater interviews a vampire.
It’s Blade’s 20th Anniversary, but that’s not the only reason to include it on this list. Starring Wesley Snipes in the title role as a no-nonsense human/vampire hybrid in a full-length black leather trench coat with perfect 90s styling, Blade is The Matrix meets Underworld before either of those were a thing. It gave us vampire politics – old guard born vampires vs. new turned vampires – and plenty of action with Snipes showing off his martial arts skills on his quest to hunt other vampires to avenge the mother he never met and save humanity from annihilation. Plus, it’s Marvel’s first success in the movie business and features a Black lead. Serious, yet deliciously campy. Way ahead of its time.
For your consideration: did Blade: Trinity have any bearing on Ryan Reynolds’ eventually making Deadpool? Discuss.
Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Okay, okay, so...the best way to watch the five Underworld movies is definitely in marathon format (I give you permission to skip Underworld: Rise of the Lycans if you’re pressed for time) but #1, #2, and #5 are undeniably the best of the series. Kate Beckinsale plays a leather corset-wearing, @ss-kicking, lycan-hunting Death Dealer with a troubled past, and that should be enough of a pitch for anyone to start watching.
Night Watch (2004)
A Russian film, it's not completely about vampires (there are werebears and such) but vampires cause a good deal of trouble in it. It's a really awesome film with amazing subtitles if you get the right version.
Let the Right One In (2008)
A bullied 12-year-old boy becomes "friends" with a vampire child in a Stockholm suburb. Although it’s set in the early 1980s, a great decade for loud and campy Vamp flicks, this 2004 Swedish romantic horror film is largely unconcerned with horror and vampire conventions. It won several awards, including the “Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature” at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. It’s both creepy and tender.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead (2009)
Is it a good movie? Nope! But is it fun and campy? Absolutely. In a film sure to appear on MST3K someday, Julian is directing a truly poor version of Hamlet when it turns out his Horatio is the vampire who wrote the play with Shakespeare and is searching for the Holy Grail. It’s theatre, vampires, and conspiracies: what more can you ask for?
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are vampires who have loved each other for centuries and reunite in the face of Adam’s state of existential ennui about human society. You’re not going to get a lot of scares in this Jim Jarmusch film, but it’s beautifully shot and incredibly acted, not just from the leads but from supporting players like Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, and the late, great John Hurt as a vampiric Christopher Marlowe.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which is also required viewing) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) wrote, directed, and starred in this mockumentary horror-comedy about four vampire roommates living in Wellington, New Zealand. It's got chore charts, long lost love, masquerade balls, erotic dancing, cross-species friendship, YouTube...
The Carmilla Movie (2017)
Did you know Dracula was both significantly predated and probably inspired by a novella about a lesbian vampire named Carmilla? This movie is an adaptation of that story, plus the Bronte sisters, making the weird crossover you never knew you needed. It's actually a crowdfunded continuation of Carmilla, the "little webseries that could" (Canadian, free on youtube and highly addictive!) so the movie doesn't necessarily make as much sense if you watch it before watching the series - but it's still enjoyable and a win for representation.
Vampires New Plays Pop Culture