Dracula and Other Monsters | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Dracula and Other Monsters

Having a bloody good time with vampires

I went to the movies this weekend specifically to watch and review, "The Last Voyage of the Demeter," a new vampire flick based on "The Captain's Log" chapter from Bram Stoker's "Dracula." The film is solid, if unremarkable, with a few good scares and a pretty disturbing design for Dracula himself, but there isn't much more to say about the movie than that. So, instead of focusing on a fairly mid vampire movie, how about I spend this time talking about some of the best vampire movies ever made that not enough people know about? Sound like a plan? Cool, because that's what I did!

click to enlarge Dracula and Other Monsters
Public Domain
Max Schreck on the set of “Nosferatu” in 1922.

"Near Dark" (1987): Not only is "Near Dark" one of the truly great unsung vampire movies of all time, it's also a Neo-western that helped reinvent how modern filmmakers kinetically use sound, editing and compositions to create mood and tone. Director Katheryn ("Point Break") Bigelow took the doomed romance of Terrence Malick's "Badlands" and gave it a hillbilly vampire twist that has been imitated but never equaled for decades.

"Thirst" (2009): From legendary South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook comes this bloody morality tale about a priest who is unwillingly turned into a vampire and becomes ruled by his desires for the first time. The balance this film walks between sexy, violent and hilarious is stunning, leading to one of the most operatic and visually breathtaking finales the genre has ever given us.

"The Transfiguration" (2016): A slow-paced character study focused on a teenage boy who slowly gains a taste for drinking blood. Set in a rough part of Brooklyn where drug deals, violence and sexual abuse are commonplace, the film asks interesting questions about how society builds sociopaths. For fans of the slow burn.

"Cronos" (1992): The first film from visionary monster maker Guillermo del Toro, "Chronos" is a re-tweaking of the vampire mythos with a wink in its eye. Featuring an early career performance from Ron Perlman, the film is such a wildly assured directorial debut that it manages to dance between operatic drama, spooky creature feature and a touching grandfather/granddaughter relationship without missing a beat.

"Rabid" (1977): David Cronenberg began his fascination with the deconstruction of the human body here, with this wholly original take on vampirism that mashes it together with body horror and zombies for good measure. After a beautiful woman gets into a motorcycle accident and goes through some horrific surgeries, she (among other things) gets a phallic stinger implanted in her armpit that allows her to drink blood. Look, I'm not saying you're going to like this movie, but I promise you'll never forget it.

"Nosferatu the Vampyre" (1979): F.W. Murnau's 1922 vampire classic "Nosferatu" is inarguably one of the top two or three vampire movies ever made, but the 1979 remake from Werner Herzog is brilliant in completely different ways, choosing to spend much of the runtime focused on the loneliness of being undead. While this wouldn't really scare modern audiences too badly, Klaus Kinski's Count Dracula is one of the greatest vampires put to film and, along with Gary Oldman, Bela Lugosi, Max Schreck and Christopher Lee, a truly immortal performance.

click to enlarge Dracula and Other Monsters
Courtesy of New Line
Willem Dafoe playing Max Schreck in “Shadow of the Vampire” in 2000.

"Shadow of the Vampire" (2000): Speaking of Max Schreck, this horror satire presupposes that Schreck, star of the 1922 "Nosferatu," was actually a vampire and had the bad habit of eating people on set. Bolstered by two incredible performances by John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Schreck, "Shadow" should be widely considered as not just a hilarious satire of Hollywood method acting, but also a deliciously creepy vampire movie.

"Vampire's Kiss" (1988): Nicolas Cage goes all the way to a thousand in this horror comedy featuring the mega-acting thespian eating a live cockroach among other things. A huge flop on its release, "Vampire's Kiss" probably would be completely forgotten if it wasn't for the genuinely strange script by Joseph Minion and the legendary performance from Cage.

Some other unsung, yet notable vampire classics: "Ganja & Hess (1973), "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" (2014), "Lake of Dracula" (1971), "Fright Night" (1985), "Only Lovers Left Alive" (2013) and "Let the Right One In" (2008).

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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