For me, vampires are the pinnacle of gothic glory. In my last series of posts in 2017, I reviewed the movies: What We Do in the Shadows (my current favorite to start Halloween season), Nosferatu, Fright Night (the old one), and Let Me In (American version). These are solid vampire flicks, and well worth a watch depending on what you are seeking, such as dark humor, film noir, 80's creepy camp, or maybe something truly disturbing. I have a massive backlog of vampire movies to watch, so I'm glad to have this excuse to do that and then wallow in their gory glory.
SPOILERS! LOTS! (No really)
4. Let the Right One In - 2008
As I mentioned above, in my first series in 2017, I reviewed the American remake of this movie (Let Me In - 2010).
It was one of the most disturbing vampire movies I'd ever
seen. I decided to revisit the story through the lens of the original
film. The remake is basically the same movie, but there are
enough differences that comparing them reveals more depth to this depraved tale.
Both of these movies deliver a wallop of vampire
horror that will leave you reeling. Certainly the movies ask the
viewer, "What makes a monster?" both in terms of how people
become monsters, and how we define that word. In spite of the American
version being more outwardly violent, this original film is more
emotionally brutal and unforgiving, showing the hideous truth of
vampirism with an unflinching gaze.
The vampire child Eli has a generally androgynous aspect, but wears dresses and appears to everyone to be a human girl. She is cold to her henchman Hakan, ordering him about as she fixates on her growing interest in Oskar. The remake shows the vampire (Abby) to have more apparent compassion for her henchman Thomas, although we cannot know if some or all of this is feigned. The remake has removed other creepy content including a hoard of cats attacking a newly made vampire, and that same vampire intentionally allowing themselves to be set on fire by sunlight.
5. Queen of the Damned - 2002
In spite of my vampire addiction, I've never been an Anne Rice fan. I tried several times to read some of the novels and stories in her vampire universe, but I've found them kind of boring. The characters are all so unrelatable that I never cared what what happened to them. Lestat, the main vampire of most of the stories, is particularly useless. He is utterly unsympathetic, and as I tried to read the stories I kept hoping he'd get immolated at some point. Then realized he was going to be a main, continuing character; I lost interest.
So why did I bother with "Queen of the Damned?" The soundtrack. I found the soundtrack years back and added a bunch of songs from it to my gritty Halloween playlist. I finally decided I'd just watch this movie and see if it had any redeeming qualities in addition to the music.
Nope. Instead this movie is sort of about Lestat deciding that mortal life is precious from an I-can-destroy-humans-whenever-I-want-to-and-isn't-that-beautiful view. It does not make him more palatable. The glorious Queen only shows up near the end of the movie. She's looking for Lestat to take him as her King; a kind of consort-slave-trophy to enjoy as she dominates humans and vampires alike. The actress is terrifyingly perfect, lithe, and lethal. At a glance you know this thing is not human and only sees you as furniture, at best. Once you see her, you realize she's the only real vampire in the flick.
I still suggest the movie if only for the one scene where she literally tears the heart out of another vampire and eats it. She does not look angry or happy as she kills him - that would be too human. Instead, she's entertained, and perhaps mildly pleased with herself. But neither he nor the twenty other vampires she kills in that scene are worth a second thought to her. She does not, as they say, even break a sweat. The other reason to watch is in fact the soundtrack, which is indeed quite fine. Otherwise, this movie does not work as either camp, or dark humor, or real scares, or an exploration of mortality, or parody, or an examination of the nature of humanity, or really anything at all ...
6. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - 2012
I had a great time watching this movie in spite of its many problems. I'll start with what I liked. The special effects are pretty good, and the vampires look totally gruesome. The scenes of the Gettysburg battlefield aren't realistic, but are impressive anyway. Having Lincoln as an action hero with a classic tragic backstory puts you right into the comic-book plot of the film. The training montage is over-the-top axe-wielding fun. There are all kinds of fantastic moments where the bad guys get pwned with improbable, cheer-inducing magnificence. The women in the film such as Harriett Tubman and Mary Todd are shown as intelligent, bold, and resourceful. The surprise ending to the climax is actually quite satisfying, and I think for once I won't spoil it.
It's not unsurprising that I feel compelled to compare this movie to its parody, the 2012 "Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies." I reviewed that one in 2017. That is a movie that knows exactly what it is trying to do and hits the bullseye. Plus the Abe actor is utter perfection. If you are looking for camp-parody-dark-humor-fun and don't mind trading vampires for zombies, then go there. If you want a bigger budget, slicker production, and a race-to-the-finish climax, then this vampire flick is where you want to be. In spite of the issues, it's a great addition to the genre.
7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - 2014
Actually, it does not matter what mood you are in, you should give this a try because it is nearly flawless.
This film is so visually captivating that I probably should just post a pile of images here, rather than any words. That would be consistent with the bare-bones dialog. Everything is spoken in Persian, and the English subtitles rarely wrap to more than one line on the screen. It's all in black and white, and every single shot is a tiny masterpiece. This film is described by many as a vampire/ spaghetti-western, as it includes elements like violence, irony, anti-hero(es), a rough-and-tumble setting, deceit, lack of social order/stability, terror, and many of the visual cues and trappings of both of those genres.
The setting is a fictional Iran, with a town so bleak it's called "Bad City." A place where there is an open channel filled with bodies that never decay, and no one gives it a second glance as they walk by. The strong prey on the helpless amid a town of squalor surrounded by desolation and oil rigs pumping endlessly up and down like vampires draining the ground of life.
The pace is slow, sometimes even literally slow-motion. I can't usually sit still for tense scenes where I can't predict what might happen, but I was mesmerized. This is a terrible beauty that comments on wealth, class, status, materialism, family, duty, revenge, feminism, power, age, desire, patriarchy, ambition, need, and most of the rest of life and death, too. Just having the titular character skateboarding down a street with her open chador flowing out behind her like bat's wings is enough commentary to fill an entire book.
I could obviously go on and on about this vampire-art-noir creation, but it really would be better if you just watched it and enjoyed this refreshing and transformative take on the vampire genre.