Magnolia Pictures via Everett Collection
The Twilight Saga is one of the most financially successful film franchises in history... which is perplexing, considering that the movies aren’t any good. For better or worse, the series has renewed audience interest in vampiric mythology, as exemplified by the success of The Vampire Diaries and the proliferation of more vampire films and television shows each year. This is fine, but those who believe that Twilight represents the best of vampire movies clearly haven’t seen much else. In order to correct this, below are 10 vampire movies that are better than Twilight.
Nosferatu is widely regarded as one of the most influential horror movies ever made. See it for the haunting visuals that represent the best of German Expressionism, and the terrifying depiction of evil on the actors’ faces. Unlike other silent films, Nosferatu isn’t dated, and still holds up to many horror films released today.
Let the Right One In
The American remake with Chloe Moretz doesn’t match the brilliance of this Swedish masterpiece by Tomas Alfredson. Essentially, Let the Right One In is Twilight for grown-ups, and it’s a reminder that vampire movies can be smart and sophisticated. The final climactic scene in the pool, in particular, is a work of art.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark isn’t as well-known as her Oscar-winning war flick The Hurt Locker, but it’s one of the best movies she’s ever made, and one of the coolest vampire films you’ll see. Even if you don’t care about Bigelow’s sly commentary on ennui and despair in Middle America, you’ll get a kick out of the lunatic vampires on display.
Even if you don’t like subtitles, it’s impossible to resist Chan-wook Park’s Thirst. Not quite an art-house experiment, not quite a horror film, Thirst is best understood as a melancholy love story. Be forewarned: it’s violent, sexual, and a little disturbing.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Everyone has their favorite version of this story, but mine is Francis Ford Coppola’s widely misunderstood rendition with Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps Coppola was never able to escape the high expectations he set for himself with The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, but his version of Dracula remains the most moving vampire film ever made.
The Fearless Vampire Killers
Before Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown made him a star, Roman Polanski directed The Fearless Vampire Killers, an incredibly funny take on the vampire mythology. The film is worth seeing for its successful slapstick humor and satirical point of view.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Quentin Tarantino. Robert Rodriguez. Harvey Keitel. George Clooney. Juliette Lewis. Salma Hayek. Cheech Martin. Danny Trejo. Enough said.
Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon star in The Hunger, a movie so bonkers it isn’t worth explaining. All you need to know is that it’s director Tony Scott’s first movie, and that Deneuve plays a vampire.
Horror master George A. Romero shows everyone how it’s done with Martin, a story about a teenage boy who may or may not be a vampire. Romero is known for his zombie films, but Martin proves that he’s a master in more than one horror sub-genre.
Interview with the Vampire
In order to truly appreciate Interview with the Vampire, you need to understand that director Neil Jordan turned a hopelessly sappy novel into a surprisingly mature motion picture. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise play everyone’s favorite vampires (before Robert Pattinson stole their thunder), and Kirsten Dunst gives a star-making performance.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.