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Posts Tagged ‘vampires’

The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012) is loved and loathed in equal measure, it does however give us a different type of vampire in a different type of vampire movie. Here are a few more vampire movies with original ideas.

Sunlight in Nosferatu (1922)nosferatu

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; or simply Nosferatu (1922) directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck was adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula the names were changed, not to protect the innocent, but because the studio did not obtain the rights to the novel. They didn’t even use the word vampire, instead replacing it with Nosferatu. Despite being an adaptation, Nosferatu has some original ideas, one of them has become a mainstay of vampire movie ever since (except Twilight). Sunlight. In the original novel Dracula avoids daylight as he is weakened by sunlight. Orlok (as he is called in Nosferatu) is destroyed by sunlight.

Kung Fu vampires in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Blade (1998) reinvented the vampire movie, not as a horror but as an action movie. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) was a co production between Hammer Studios and Hong Kongs Shaw Brothers Studio. Having lost its way from Scars of Dracula(1970) onwards a change was needed and in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was certainly a change. Relocating the story to China and utilising the skills of both legendry Hong Kong action director Chang Cheh and Roy Ward Baker, a veteran of several previous Hammer films. The result is a bonkers 83 minute action horror that is both brilliant and original.

Realism in Near Dark (1987)near_dark

Vampire movies are fantasy as any movie containing a fictional species is, however vampire stories tend to be more complicated than that. With stories of good and evil, darkness and light, they are often more religious or spiritual stories. The weapons that destroy vampires often signify purity, they include crucifixes and holly water. Near Dark takes a different approach. Essentially a modern day western, a dustland fairytale were salvation comes not from a mysticism but from a blood transfusion.

It’s fun to be a vampire in The Lost Boys (1987)jun 52

Those who only know Joel Schumacher as the director that killed the Batman franchise in the 90’s will be surprised by his pop culture credentials. As a twelve year old , The Lost Boys was amongst my favourite movies. Although the conclusion is the usual good over evil scenario we have come to expect from a vampire movie, the hour leading up to the conclusion is exactly what the tagline promises: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.

Melancholy in Interview with a Vampire (1994)Interview with the Vampire

Based on the novel of the same name by Anne Rice is the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), a man who following the the deaths of his wife and child has lost the will to live. Offered death by the mysterious Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) he instead asks to live and in return is given the eternal “life” of a vampire. What follows is a an existential story based around the melancholy of an unusually long life. Not a completely original idea but probably the best example of the idea.

30 Days of Night in 30 Days of Night30 Days of Night

Ever since Nosferatu vampires have seen vulnerable to sunlight so why did it take so long to set a vampire movie in a place with no sunlight? 30 Days of Night was originally an unsuccessful film pitch, in 2002 it became a three issue graphic novel mini-series written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Five years later it became a movie directed by David Slade. Both comic and movie tell the story of the fight for survival as a group of vampires descend on Barrow, Alaska during its month-long “polar night”.

What happens when the food runs out? in Daybreakers (2009)daybreakers elvis and edward

Vampires are mysterious creatures that exist in the shadows, it is often the case that they appear in movies without the other characters knowing of their existence. But what happens when vampires are take over the world and become the dominant race? Simple they run out of food and that’s the premise of Daybreakers (2009).

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After being discover by a mysterious organisation who is tracking them a pair of female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) flee and end up in a rundown English seaside town. It quickly becomes clear that the duo are mother and daughter (posing as sisters) and they are being hunted by other vampires. Living a lonely existence they do what they can to survive, in Clara (Arterton)’s case them means reverting to the only profession she knows, prostitution. Meanwhile Eleanor (Ronan) forms a bond with young local man Frank (Caleb Landry Jones).byzantium poster

It is interesting that in a month when biggest cinema release (The Great Gatsby) tries to get to grips with a character wishing to relive the past that there is a better film that will go largely unnoticed that has a more telling angle on the same idea. While Clara is always looking to the present and the future trying to forget or deny the past, her daughter Eleanor wallows in the misery of the past and is chained to the limitations of it preventing her from enjoying the present and planning for the future. This is explored in a particularly well handled scene when a character who is clinging on to what life he has mocks Eleanor for the desperation and unhappiness she carries with her into immortality. Like Gatsby, the prison the characters create for themselves is in the lies that live by hiding their past, and like Gatsby the freedom that may come honesty is fraught with danger.Byzantium Gemma Arterton

Every vampire story has to create its own “lore” whoever it by Nosferatu’s (1922) invention of sunlight killing vampires (that’s right it wasn’t in Bram Stoker’s novel) or Twilight’s glittering vampires. Other than the drinking of blood Byzantium does away with most conventions of the genre. These vampires don’t even have fangs. They do have another more subtle but equally as effective way of taking their preys blood. They are also more human and vulnerable than we have seen in other vampires in other years, making them more interesting. This vulnerability and humanity along with the tone of the movie and lack of cliché’s helps create a fantasy setting that feels closer to reality and more believable than many other vampires. The difficulty of introducing this lore is handled with the lightest of touches. There is almost no exposition, it is all implied of neatly worked into the plot of the movie. There is a scene where we see Eleanor watching Terence Fisher’s classic Hammer Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), interestingly they show a scene not involving Christopher Lee as the eponymous Count. This is a scene that like the rest of the film is handled supremely well. With a more heavy handed aproch it could have come across as either exposition or could have been an alienation device. These pitfalls are avoided, instead we get to see a nice juxtaposition of the perception of vampires and the reality of them (within the confines of the movie). This is further explored in aspects in reaction to things the characters say for example: When Eleanor explains that she learnt to play piano so well (she plays Beethoven’s complicated Piano Sonata Opus 2, No. 3) by practicing for 200 years, frank brushes it of as it feels like 200 years when you are practicing.Saoirse-Ronan-In-Byzantium

When you see Neil Jordan’s name attached to a vampire movie, you immediately think Interview with the Vampire (1994), while it may have plot similarities, Byzantium feels closer in tone to his earlier film The Company Of Wolves (1984). The story of lonely vampires travelling through a world where they have no place looking for love or acceptance chimes with many other vampire stories. Notably Tony Scott’s movie The Hunger and Mark Burnell’s novel Glittering Savages. Let the Right One In (2008) is certainly (in my opinion) the standout vampire movie of the generation, there are lots of parallels that can be drawn between the movies both in theme and tone. There is something about the seaside in winter that feels bleaker than any other place, this is used to full effect in what is essentially a melodrama of extreme melancholy. The charred remains of Hastings Pier (that burnt down a couple of years ago) give us a foreboding feeling of an inevitable ending. This has a similar effect as the snow and concrete architecture of Let the Right One InGemma Arterton Byzantium

Arterton and Ronan are both perfectly cast and play of each other brilliantly. Arterton is brash, loud and overtly sexual, Ronan is quieter, more reserved and introverted. The difference between the characters forms the crux of the plot and had we not believed in them the whole movie would have fallen flat. As it is the movie works supremely well. It isn’t going to bring any new fans to the vampire genre and those who come with certain expectations will be disappointed. It doesn’t have the action of Blade, the comedy of From Dusk Till Dawn , the sexuality of The Hunger, the horror of Near Dark and it certainly isn’t Twilight, but it does have the tone and style of Let the Right One In. And it is on that level that the movie works, it is beautifully shot, perfectly acted, expertly directed modern gothic melodrama that may just be the antidote to twilight and its imitators.  It lacks the depth or clear subtext that enervates some films to greatness, but don’t let that put you off, it is still a very good movie in a genre that hasn’t had many really good movies in recent years.   

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