The image of the vampire took a bit of a beating a few years ago when Twilight made them teen-friendly. Sure, there was sexual intrigue (of the Mormon-influenced, unrequited variety) and violence (but nothing too graphic), but it was tame even by the standards put down by Buff the Vampire Slayer.
Suddenly the bloodsuckers were moon-eyed, sparkly-faced teenagers spouting about love while skipping geometry. They made Anne Rice’s vampires look like the redneck cut-throats in Near Dark. Thankfully a few directors went overtime to let us know that it wasn’t all smiles and hearts. These creatures took back the night.
Here are 10 New Vampire Films To Help You Forget About Twilight.
Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)
Cult favorite filmmaker Takashi Miike has made an average of three movies a year since the early 90s, so it’s kind of a small miracle that he never made a Vampire film during that time. Small miracle is also a great way to describe what happened when he finally took it upon himself to make a bloodsucking opera in his inimitably crazy style.
A local Yakuza boss seems to have it all, until a rival clan of vampires shows up (led by a man-tortoise seer who takes orders from a man who never leaves his plush Frog costume…for real) and takes him down. The boss’ favourite underling gets the gift of vampirism and starts taking his turf back from the bloodsucking out-of-towners. A non-stop parade of the sublimely ridiculous, Yakuza Apocalypse is a movie that never says “no” to anything.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Billed as an “Iranian vampire western” on its release (though it was actually filmed in California), Ana Lily Amirpour’s shimmery post-punk vampire odyssey finds a rich vein of influences and bites down harder than her vampire heroine. The mythic town of Bad City is haunted by two specters: a lecherous drug dealer, and the adorable loner vampire who’s going to end his reign of terror.
Shot on silky black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a feminist parable which chases a hazy idea of cool down and wallows in it with glee. A film of visual immediacy and simmering musical longueurs, it’s the distaff answer to the films of Ryan Gosling.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
While ostensibly about a pair of vampires living out their days in a house in Detroit, Only Lovers Left Alive is more concerned with trying to make a marriage work when your friends don’t come around anymore.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play a vampire couple who’ve outlived just about all their friends and now live their undead lives as hipster packrats, making awesomely sad music in a home studio and wondering whether there’s any point in going on. What they decide is a moot point; their languorous antics make for one of the best hang out movies ever made. That stuff about eternal love and bloodsucking is just icing on the cake.
An erotic daydream by the great Neil Jordan, Byzantium gave the ubiquitous Saoirse Ronan her best role, channeling her eternal ennui productively. She plays a vampire living under the care of her “big sister,” played by Gemma Arterton, who’s too wrapped up in the daily operation of her seaside brothel to be much fun. Ronan’s wanderings and Arterton’s memories of her past life blend together and create an unspeakably pretty atmosphere of unease.
Jordan, who loves playing with legends, myths and ancient stories, dips in and out of the past, stitching their suffering and displacement across centuries. It’s a magical little movie that fits right alongside past Jordan fairy tales like The Company of Wolves and Ondine.
Park Chan-Wook’s retelling of Thérèse Desqueyroux was never going to be ordinary. The South Korean stylist never does anything the easy way, and Thirst is both a classic romance, a gory vampire movie, and a pitch-black comedy of manners.
When a priest’s act of kindness leaves him with a thirst for blood, he tries to console himself with a beautiful young woman trapped in a loveless union. Outrageous complications ensue. Park shows with grim, exacting detail the depths that lovers will go to rid themselves of guilt in order to enjoy being together – but at what point is that the sole purpose of their union? It’s an exhausting and exhilarating experience, and like all of Park’s films, it stays with you.
The Spierig Brothers, whose great transgender time traveling movie Predestination was recently released to no fanfare, joined the big leagues with their vampire noir Daybreakers. After vampires have become earth’s dominant species, Ethan Hawke plays a bloodsucker who discovers an underground society of human beings, led by Willem Dafoe, intent on bringing down the new world order.
A movie as fun in its nuts and bolts as in its big picture marginalia, you could walk away enjoying the car chases, or the sight of thousands of human bodies being farmed for blood, Matrix-style. With Daybreakers, the Spierigs announced themselves as having a lot of ambition, a few very specific reference points and a lot of ingenuity.
Stake Land (2010)
It isn’t often that a horror film reminds you of lyric poets or movies like The Thin Red Line, but Jim Mickle had every intention of making his vampire thriller outlast the competition. Sure it has the trappings of your average low-budget horror movie – vampire cult chasing a burly vampire hunter and his young sidekick across a post-apocalyptic landscape – but it’s in the editing that Mickle lets his vision expand.
The beautifully desolate landscape gradually creeps into frame, becoming a phantom character and influencing everything from the forlorn looks on every character’s face, to their decisions regarding how far they can travel and how much hope to hold onto. When it opens Stake Land looks very ordinary. When it ends you’ll feel like you’re in the wilderness, too.
Part Dario Argento/giallo tribute, part haunted house operetta, Livid snuck by most audiences a few years ago. Which is a crime because despite its obvious influences, it’s still one of the most unique horror films of the last decade. Three kids break into a spooky old house before realizing that it houses the ghost of a vampire and a lot of bad memories that want to come out to play.
Like a rusty music box, Livid’s jagged dreamy images dance around the viewer, creating a sickly disorienting spell broken by bouts of extreme violence. This is one lesser-known vamp movie you don’t want to miss.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s deadpan vampire mockumentary is largely a showcase for the oil and water chemistry of its central characters. That they’re undead is nearly irrelevant, which is brilliant.
A group of decadent 17th century holdovers (who all look like they escaped from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) try and mostly fail to live in 21st century New Zealand. Their attempts to gain access to clubs to look for virgin blood are thwarted when the bouncers won’t invite them in. Their newest inductee into the vampire lifestyle insists on inviting his best human friend to live with them. If those sound sitcom-ready, that’s exactly the point. Banal human foibles clashing with robust vampiric cliche has no right being this hysterical but Clement, Waititi and their cast nail it.
Let Me In (2010)
There was no way to improve on Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In that doesn’t involve fixing the CGI cats. It’s 99% perfect. Nevertheless, Matt Reeves gave it the old college try with his 2010 remake Let Me In, which transposes the Swedish first-love chiller to a snowy Colorado town.
Richard Jenkins’ performance as the Renfield to Chloe Moretz deceptive vampire foundling is deeply moving and Reeves has a few trick camera moves that pull you further into the lonely, cold world of its star-crossed lovers and their hormonal awakening. It may not be a patch on the original, but there’s much to recommend this icy horror.
If you’re looking for another vampire fix, you could also try indie offerings like Midnight Son, Children of the Night or The Stranger. What are some of your favorite new vampires? How do they hold up against the classics? Does anyone out there think Twilight got it right? Let us know in the comments!