10 Vampire Films That Broke The Mould

Posted: October 11th, 2012 | Author: |

Obviously when I’m talking about vampire legends here I’m sticking to what’s been established through 19th century writing and 20th century cinema, frankly dredging through the world’s entire collection of differing vampire mythologies would take forever and some have stupidly broad definitions of what makes a vampire.

When we think of a classic vampire standard we tend to think Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Nosferatu, the ones that established most of the rules for modern vampire fiction; drinking blood, aversion to sunlight and religious paraphernalia as well as the lack of reflection. Just for the sake of keeping this list from going on forever I’m not including any of the ‘disease’ vampires so no ‘I Am Legend’ (the book is more vampire heavy than the film anyway) or ‘Day Breakers’. Also it’s only going to be good films on this list, no sparkling pretty boys.

So here it is, the unconventional vampires that didn’t suck… well you know what I mean.

The Hunger

The vampires in this ‘80s gem are pretty unconventional, not only is sunlight not a problem for them but there’s a hidden cost to immortality, at least for those who are turned by a vampire. The two main characters Miriam and John are vampire lovers, Miriam turned her lover in the 18th century promising him eternal life only for him to start rapidly aging in the ’80s. This is apparently the curse of all Miriam’s lovers, while they will live forever they won’t stay young.

The other interesting thing this film does is play around with the idea that some vampires might not have a complete picture of what they are or what it means to live forever.

 

Vampire’s Kiss

As with most things Nicholas Cage you either love it or hate it. This is a darkly comic take on the genre and it may or may not even have any vampires in it.

Peter Leow (Cage) is an overworked literary agent who’s slowly having a breakdown. During a night of hard partying he meets Rachel, a woman he believes is a vampire. While we see him get attacked there’s absolutely no telling if it’s all in his head, after the encounter he firmly believes that he is a vampire despite the fact that he has no fangs (leading him to buy some plastic vampire teeth).

Throughout the film it’s a little uncertain whether it’s all in his head or what he’s seeing is real. The only certain thing is the consequences for his actions, delusional or not. Even if you aren’t into vampire films or most Nicholas Cage stuff this is sort of worth a watch just to see him go bats***t insane on camera, it also has him making the face that spawned all the ‘ya don’t say!’ memes.

 

Blade

Forget the sequels for a moment (and a lot of the early exploitation style comics, they were just ridiculous) and take a little time to remember the first film in all it’s glory. While most of the vampires in this film conformed to a number of the modern vampire tropes, the star of the show was the exception. Blade was the sole vampire capable of withstanding the sun and resisting the urge to feed. Did this make him a wimpy simpering mess like Edward Cullen? Hell No! He took what he had and used it to try and make a difference in the world rather than stalk and emotionally abuse a mentally deficient teen. He hunted vampires.

seriously look at all the kinds of ass he kicks

While a number of the more traditional vampires in the film are shown as wealthy, reclusive and more than a little detached from even the bulk of other vampires they weren’t exactly reclusive Dracula types, stuck in the habits and fashions of another time. These were modern, sleek vampires in suits. Their minions bore the hallmarks of a variety of subcultures. There’s not a single bit of 18th century eveningwear to be seen in this film, which is a blessing considering how much they want to differentiate the older ‘pure-blood’ vampires from the younger and more common turned vampires.

Not only was Blade a different kind of vampire compared to the Hollywood standard but it also broke genre, with most vampire flicks usually being horror/thriller stories with a disturbing romance subplot. Blade was all action all the time.

The first film had him stand out from the other vampires (who blend in pretty well) by having him in black head to toe; A big leather coat, black trousers and combat armour. Unfortunately in the sequels everyone wears this kind of stuff.

 

Dusk Till Dawn

A lot about the vampires in this film has the hallmarks of popular vampire mythology, then again there’s a lot in this film that doesn’t. The vampires themselves have an aversion to crosses, holy-water sunlight, stakes kill them outright and they can change form. Where they differ is a little more interesting, a bite is a near instantaneous transformation, there’s almost nothing of the original personality left either, the victim becomes someone/something else entirely. The way they transform doesn’t really conform to the typical mythology, they don’t change into animals but rather bizarre and horrific fanged monsters that can have mouths practically anywhere. Lastly, these aren’t sophisticated aristocrats, they aren’t planning world domination or anything really… they’re just running a strip-club and eating the customers… in the middle of the damn desert! How many customers could they ever possibly have being that remote?

 

Cronos

I suppose the only thing that should really need to be said about Cronos is that this is a Guillermo del Torro vampire film, what more could you ever need?

If anyone can do classic mythology in a different and visually stunning way it’s him. The vampire featured in this film isn’t ancient or even turned by another vampire, instead the protagonist, an elderly antique dealer, is transformed by a 16th century alchemical device designed to grant eternal life… at a cost.

This clockwork bug start restoring his health and youth, as well as giving him a thirst for blood. The film has many of the hallmarks of classic vampire fiction but in the end it’s very much a man-made vampire.

 

Martin

This is a very odd vampire film, it’s never fully certain throughout the film whether or not Martin is really a vampire or a delusional killer. Despite being treated like a real, old-world vampire by his uncle, crosses and religious relics have absolutely no effect on him, Martin even explains that “There’s no real magic… ever.” as an explanation for why none of the more traditional methods of deterring vampires work on him. While he does kill people and drink blood, he drugs his victims and cuts their throats with razors.

 

Habit

This is a film that keeps the on screen evidence for vampirism subtle, mostly this is a film about the rapid decline of a depressed artist into alcoholism and paranoia. His encounters with the vampire Anna are intense and lead to a mounting tension and some truly creepy moments. There’s plenty of blood letting and some hints at more classic vampire lore like not being able to enter without an invitation and an aversion to garlic but it’s done subtly enough that you can still be left wondering if it’s all in the main characters head.

 

Blood The Last Vampire

Of course I mean the animated film, not to be confused with the bland, poorly written live action version. Vampires in this film mostly turn into gigantic, bat-like creatures that feast on blood and can’t be killed by anything other than an incredibly sharp blade (later changed in the series to the blood of the main character).

The main character, the perpetually teenaged Saya has none of the weaknesses typically associated with vampires and is far more in control of her hunger than any of the other vampires featured in the film.

The other thing that stands out about Blood the Last Vampire is that it doesn’t really try to explain anything, it just throws unrelenting action and gore at you and leaves you to try and fill in the blanks

 

30 Days Of Night

This is probably one of the most brutally gory vampire films ever, aside from a need for blood and a lethal reaction to sunlight most of what we know about vampires is thrown out of the window.

There is no clever deception to hide from humans or the convoluted plot to pick people off one by one. These vampires turn up to an isolated Alaskan town and wholesale massacre everyone they can get their hands on.

 

Shadow Of The Vampire

Shadow of the Vampire actually features a more traditional vampire so it’s a little bit of a cheat. Actually it features THE vampire that we get a lot of our modern vampire lore from (before him sunlight wasn’t a problem for vampires). The thing about it is that it’s the fictional ‘making of’ for Nosferatu but instead of an actor the director instead finds a real life vampire to pose as the star Max Schreck.

It’s a bit of a slow burner but it’s pretty different and makes the already creepy aesthetic of the classic Nosferatu even creepier with the introduction of this ultimate ‘method actor’. There is an interesting scene where Schreck is picking apart the Dracula myth pointing out the inaccuracies. It also explains the way he dresses, rather than the sophisticated clothes and finery we might associate with some of the classic versions of Dracula’s costume on screen, he’s in a simple, drab coat and trousers.

 


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