This Halloween I’m celebrating the holiday by re-visiting some of my favorite vampire movies. Vampires have been one of my favorite monsters, and I’ve seen every title I could get my hands on from Dracula 1931 to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have typically have a soft spot for vampire movies, and have quite a large list of films about bloodsuckers that I can’t boast about enough. While I have a large library of films from the sub-genre I’d love to re-visit someday, I narrowed it all down to five of the best vampire movies I’ve ever seen. These five have constantly popped in to my repertoire time and time again, and never wear out their welcome. These are my five best vampire movies of all time.
What are some of your favorite vampire movies?
5. Salem’s Lot (1979)
Director: Tobe Hooper
This was one of my favorite horror movies growing up. It’s a tale of pure evil consuming a small populace, and eventually the world. Tobe Hooper’s vampire tale is a classic adaptation of the Stephen King novel, starring David Soul as author Ben Mears who realizes that vampires are taking over his small town of Salem’s Lot. The movie features a lot of build up to the explosion of blood suckers as Hooper’s film chronicles the introduction of the head vampire, and then views how he is able to seep in to town and begin slowly destroying residents of the suburb. From there the terror escalates further and further as the vampires are able to not only take on the persona of their victims, but garner beaming eyes that can hypnotize their victims allowing them to compel their prey in to falling victim to their fangs.
“Salem’s Lot” thrives on horribly haunting imagery, including Ben Mears staking out a morgue awaiting the rise of a neighbor, and Geoffrey Lewis‘s character Mike digging up of the grave of one of the victims who rises to bite him. There are also the iconic scenes of undead Brother Ralphie visiting his brother in the middle of the night to claim him as one of the undead, a series of horrifying scenes that became synonymous with Stephen King cinema, and vampire cinema as a whole. “Salem’s Lot” doesn’t mind building up to the scares, and when it does, it’s a bleak look at an unstoppable force of evil destroying a small town from the inside out and building hellish minions out of even the most likable and heroic characters. Hooper’s film isn’t just scary, it’s haunting.
4. Fright Night (1985)
Director: Tom Holland
Tom Holland’s “Fright Night” mixes “Rear Window” and the classic seductive vampire in what is one of the best horror comedies ever conceived. Mixing all sorts of horror in-jokes, and tropes of the genre, “Fright Night” pictures what it would be like if a very powerful vampire moved in to a small sleepy suburb, using its non-threatening surroundings as a hunting ground for his prey. Charley Brewster is a hardcore horror fan thrust in to the horrific situation of dealing with powerful vampire Jerry Dandridge, when he immediately suspects him of being a vampire.
Dandridge slowly begins destroying Charley’s life when he begins posing a threat to him, and then aims for his virginal girlfriend Amy. Charley elicits the services of horror host and cult expert Peter Vincent who is forced to fight the pure evil when he accidentally discovers Jerry is a vampire as well. “Fright Night” is filled with laughs, creeps, and a wonderfully atmospheric narrative that transforms another suburban dwelling in to a den of terror, as seemed to be a norm for horror in the eighties. Holland’s film is a classic featuring top notch performances by folks like Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall. It’s a childhood favorite that’s thankfully aged beautifully and is still a brutally entertaining horror film.
3. Near Dark (1987)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark” is a very underrated Western Vampire entry with vampires that are more cursed with vampirism than anything else. Bigelow’s film is an antithesis to “Lost Boys” picturing vampires less as charismatic rock stars, and more as repressed nomads stricken with desperate loneliness, isolation, and the ever dreaded immortality. When young farmer Caleb falls in love with Mae, Mae bites Caleb in a moment of passion, turning him in to a potential blood sucker. Caleb is kidnapped by Mae’s clan of nomadic traveling vampires, all of whom struggle to seduce him to the dark side and lure him to killing his first victim and drinking their blood.
Caleb’s fights the urges while gain a look at their rather tortured lives, which include the clan murdering innocent people, and looking for some form of companionship. Though they are loyal to one another, they crave connection with other people, which becomes dangerous soon enough as Caleb’s young sister becomes a target for the youngest member of the clan. “Near Dark” is teeming with dread and the strong theme of familial bonds, as Caleb’s father and sister struggle to keep him pure and noble, while the clan tear his soul apart and try to initiate him as a creature of the night. There are a ton of great performances from Bill Paxton, and Lance Henriksen, to Adrian Pasdar and Tim Thomerson. It’s especially excellent for fans that love their vampire movies more adult.
2. From Dusk Til Dawn (1995)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino team up to deliver one of the most unusual and unorthodox vampire action movies of all time. It’s also one of the best movie going experiences I’ve ever had. Rather than focusing on regular people and enhancing it with a slow boil horror, “From Dusk Til Dawn” is like a violent freight train from minute one. Typical of Tarantino, our main protagonists also happen to be ruthless murderers and criminals on the run from the law. When they take a small family hostage, so they can make it across the border, the hostage situation transforms in to a fight for survival.
What seems like a normal stripper bar, “The Titty Twister” is where our characters are forced to fight for their lives, as they learn the hard way that the bar’s strippers and bartenders are all blood hungry vampires. “From Dusk Til Dawn” takes off running once the façade of the bar is dropped, barreling down with a ton of references to horror movies, a slew of wonderful performances from genre veterans like Tom Savini, and Fred Williamson, and an excellent climax involving the remaining survivors, and a legion of hellish blood suckers. There’s also the iconic dance by Salma Hayek, a trio of hilarious roles by Cheech Marin, and some amazing special effects. It never fails to entertain.
1.The Lost Boys (1987)
Director: Joel Schumacher
This is a film that’s been in my life since I was a child. Growing up, I spent so many days sitting through “The Lost Boys” and quoting every single moment verbatim. “The Lost Boys” is a horror vampire comedy filled to the brim with action, compelling characterization, a ton of healthy ambiguity, and some of the best transformations of common vampire lore I’ve ever seen. It also works partly as a mystery, since while David and his clan of teen vampires are destroying Santa Carla by feeding on its residents, you have to wonder who really is leading them, and what the ultimate goal is. “The Lost Boys” is that pure battle of good and evil where a disjointed family is trying to pick up the pieces have to come together to battle something heinous and supernatural.
Big brother Michael is almost certainly going to become a vampire, while his brother Daniel is realizing that he has to work fast to keep his brother from falling in to the darkness. “The Lost Boys” is a raucous horror comedy from beginning to end, and a goddamn great vampire movie to boot. The vampires in this movie are horrific, menacing, deadly, and relentlessly blood thirsty. And there’s just nothing more horrifying than a vampire with puffed up eighties hair coming at you. “The Lost Boys” has something for everyone, with a young cast of eighties regulars like Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Keifer Sutherland, paired with a seasoned cast of film veterans like Dianne Wiest, (the late) Edward Hermann, and Barnard Hughes. It also packs not one, but two surprises in the climax.