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100 years of cinematic vampires

| Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Emma Kirner | The Observer

“Nosferatu” — 1922

This is THE vampire film. The expressionistic lighting and set design, underlying sense of dread and one of the most frightening vampire designs put to film all combine to make this the definitive vampire film. “Nosferatu” is best viewed at midnight on a moonless evening in the dead of winter.

“Vampyr” — 1932

Despite being overshadowed by Tod Browning’s “Dracula” — which came out a year prior to Carl Th. Dreyer’s take on the vampire film absolutely blows “Dracula” out of the water. “Vampyr” is brimming with unsettling imagery and stunning visual effects. It is one of the most original takes on the vampire film that I’ve seen.

“Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”— 1948

Listen — the ’40s were a bad time for vampire films. Despite this, Universal managed to pull together a wholly funny satire of their own films starring Abbott and Costello that features a rogues’ gallery of Universal monsters, including Bela Lugosi reprising his role as Count Dracula. Fun for all ages and altogether goofy, this one might not be nearly vamp-y enough for some.

“Horror of Dracula”— 1958

This is the last Dracula film on this list, I promise. After Hammer Films purchased the rights to the Universal monsters in the ’50s, they set about making them actually scary. Gone was the black and white austerity of previous films, replaced with vibrant technicolor and rivers of blood. Christopher Lee embodies everything that makes the Count terrifying, right down to the bloodshot eyes and deadly fangs. Lee is the highlight of this film and gives perhaps the best portrayal of Stoker’s infamous bloodsucker ever put to film.

“Black Sunday”— 1960

The crown jewel of Italian gothic horror is Mario Bava’s directorial debut, following a witch who was burned at the stake and her undead henchman as they seek revenge for her death by killing her executioners’ descendants. It sounds like a wild ride, and it is. Filled with stunning atmospherics, amazing costume and set design, chiaroscuro lighting and brilliant direction from Bava, this is probably the best vampire film that you’ve never heard of.

“Salem’s Lot”— 1979

I know it’s a miniseries, but I don’t care. This adaptation of Stephen King’s chilling novel is helmed by “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” mastermind Tobe Hooper — and I feel like that should be enough to get you to watch it. If not, it is one of the most genuinely chilling pieces of vampire media I have seen and has my favorite vampire design of all time. Go watch it.

“The Lost Boys”— 1987

Joel Schumacher’s stab at a horror film is dripping with style and is one of the more unique takes on vampires that I’ve seen. Decking out the vamps in ‘80s goth glam fashion like a crew of rejects from The Cure is certainly a choice, and I love every second of this film. The soundtrack also goes way harder than it needs to. Come for vamps, stay for the mullets and quippy dialogue.

“Interview with the Vampire”— 1994

This is by far the most sympathetic vampire film on this list. It’s strange to care about a vampire, let alone be moved by their stories and feel a deep connection to them, yet “Interview” succeeds on all of these fronts. Bolstered by brilliant performances and beautiful design choices, this is an utterly immersive film that is unforgettable.

“30 Days of Night”— 2007

A town on the Alaskan tundra is besieged by vampires in the dead of winter. The inhabitants of the town must learn to fight or die. Need I say more?

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”— 2014

This is a feminist vampire film about a female vampire in Iran who skateboards around killing men who disrespect women. Perhaps the most unique take on the cinematic vampire on this list, Ana Lily Amirpour is one of the most exciting voices in horror and is a filmmaker every self-respecting fan of the genre should keep on their radar.

“Midnight Mass”— 2021

It’s a Netflix show. Get over it. I make the rules around here. I can’t tell you too much about this series or else I run the risk of ruining it, but the gist of it is priest brings miracles, renewed faith and a whole lot of mysteries to a small, dying town. Go watch it — it’s only seven episodes.

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