I realize that many folks at this point have declared that the land of the vampire movies has been a little over saturated as of late, likely leaving people to wave a hand and sigh, “Another vampire movie? Ugh”.
Possibly for that very reason, some high quality stories have been told that unfortunately, but not surprisingly, have flown under the radar.
So in honor of it being October 1st, I would like to share with you several vampire films that, in my humble opinion, are worthy of your time.
Byzantium focuses on the story of Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronin), a vampiric mother and daughter duo who have spent most of their long lives on the run from those who wish their kind extinguished. This isn’t your typical vampire vs. vampire hunter story though as Byzantium does something unique in how it deals with both gender and class disparity as well as doing some fresh and visually arresting in its take on the vampire transformation process.
While Byzantium has some great performances by Arterton and Ronin, it also has the added weight of a wonderful supporting cast in the way of the immensely talented Caleb Landry Jones as well as the intensely nuanced Johnny Lee Miller and the reserved yet charismatic Sam Riley.
With a June 2013 limited release in the U.S., it’s not surprising this film didn’t garner much in the way of box office success. It’s almost as if the studio said, “yeah, it’s a vampire movie, why even bother promoting it, people are tired of vampires”. Or maybe they just didn’t think American audiences would gravitate towards it. Whatever the reason was, it’s disappointing that this film didn’t receive the coverage and attention it deserved.
At the time of this post, the film is currently available on Netflix streaming in the U.S.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is one of those very simple yet effective films. Shot entirely in black and white, we follow the residents of a ghostly Iranian town called Bad City where a young female vampire resides. A little bit Noir, a little bit spaghetti western and a whole lot of atmosphere makes this an intriguingly melancholic ride. A quiet movie in terms of dialogue;it is enhanced by its atmospheric and haunting soundtrack, with a little bit of Iranian New Wave sprinkled in.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the debut film by Ana Lily Amirpour, who both writes and directs. Amirpoir’s style is such that nearly every frame seems to be shot so thoughtfully that they could inhabit the walls of any reputable art gallery. Or at the very least, I’d put them up in my living room.
At the time of this post, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is available on Netflix streaming.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive centers around two long separated vampire lovers, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) . When we meet up with the pair, we watch as Eve spends her nights wandering the streets of Tangier as well as procure blood and conversation with long time vampire buddy Christopher Marlowe. Adam, being a bit of a recluse, stays inside his beautiful yet decaying Detroit home to work on his music with only the occasional visit from his assistant/rare item procurer, Ian (Anton Yelchin).
While Eve finds joy in almost every aspect of the world; Adam is consistently pained by the progress of human life. So Eve reunites with Adam in “his wilderness.” All seems good with the pair as we watch the two lovers reconnect until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) crashes the party.
If you’re looking for violence and flash, this isn’t your movie. What Only Lovers Left Alive is, is a beautifully brooding story about life and the never-ending struggles of change. Lovers is filled with rich atmosphere and just the right touch of cynicism with help from its masterful soundtrack.
Of all the films on this list, Daybreakers likely has the highest production budget of the bunch. Despite its financial heft it received very little in the way of promotion and was released nearly two years after its initial completion.
Starring Ethan Hawke and Willen Dafoe, Daybreakers takes place in the not-to-distance future where vampires are the dominate species. All is not well for those who are higher on the food chain as food supplies, i.e. healthy humans, are low in numbers leaving the world with a very hungry and irritable populace.
One of the most remarkable things about Daybreakers is the very beautiful and pain staking efforts of its cinematography. Spanning from city-scapes to the serene countryside, the film makes the effort to capture some extraordinarily striking scenery along with an eye-grabbing color palette. This is evident early on in the film’s opening scene.
What We Do in the Shadows
I’ve written about this film in a previous post but thought, as one of the few truly funny laugh out loud vampire comedies in recent memory, it deserved to be mentioned again.
Shadows centers around three centuries old vampires, Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav as they deal with the struggles of practicality in the modern world in their New Zealand home. The film features Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement along with Boy director Taika Waititi and Tangwai actor Jonathan Brugh.
As I’ve previously stated, “What We Do in the Shadows kept me, along with my fellow movie goers, in an almost constant state of laughter. Much of the film’s success is owed to its ability to blend classic horror tropes with modern day pragmatism. We watch as vampire Viago is frustrated with his flatmates’ refusal to “lay down some newspaper and towels” before drinking of their victims after ruining his couch. “The red one?”, they ask. “Well, NOW it’s red!” he replies. Later, Viago inadvertently displays why this seemingly practical approach doesn’t do much to enhance the ambiance of an evening’s blood-lust as he awkwardly attempts to woo his unwitting victim.”
Simply put, if you like your horror mixed with humor (or vice versa) this is a must see film.