From the earliest days of cinema, the vampire has held a place at the heart of horror movies. From romanticism to gore and comedy our fascination with shadowy eternal beings who cannot resist a carotid artery has given rise to some of cinema’s greatest films. But, not all vampire movies are created equal, with some boldly taking us to new worlds. In these films, the vampire is given the freedom to expand, develop and evolve. The result of which creates new visions, fresh interpretations and rebirth. So join us as we explore five bold and brilliant vampire movies in our Bloodlust collection.
1. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Romance, art, literature and music sit at the heart of Jim Jarmusch’s divine 2013 journey into vampire folklore. In a movie where the classic prerequisites of vampiric evil and abomination are duly thrown into the gutter. With Jaramush replacing these with a lighthearted yet in-depth exploration of eternal life, loneliness, and the need to protect a hidden past. Meanwhile, the need for blood in aiding survival plays on the universal themes of drug addiction and secret deals. The hit of each last drop of the good stuff only elevating the artistic endeavours and curiosity of both Adam (Tom Hiddleston), and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Their lives spent reminiscing and debating the very foundations of the universe and the human zombies who plague its development.
Here, Jarmusch delicately unpicks and celebrates the romanticism of the vampire. His movie joyously lampooning Twilight’s soft glow while celebrating the work of authors such as Anne Rice in the characters he brings to the screen. Meanwhile, his fascination with art, physics, and nature sit centre stage in a film that mixes romance, humour, addiction, and music into a seductive cocktail. The result of which is a unique trip through an intoxicating haze of magnetic sexuality, mortality and art.
Only Lovers Left Alive is available to stream or buy now on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
2. Let the Right One In (2008)
Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is as close to a vampiric masterpiece as you can get. It’s themes centred on the links between vampire mythology and coming of age. As it delicately layers its story of first love with loneliness, anger and teenage anxiety. Here the vampire takes the form of a 12-year-old girl (Eli), her life perpetually trapped in the first throws of adolescence, as she meets young Oskar (also twelve) in Stockholm’s snowy suburbs. And while Oskar may not be trapped in his twelve-year-old body for all eternity like Eli, he is a prisoner of local bullies. His life held in a bubble of fear and anxiety that he dare not challenge.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson, Let the Right One In offers us a complex story of two lost souls finding a powerful sense of belonging in the presence of the other. One a bullied, scared and friendless human and the other an isolated and vulnerable young vampire. However, where Let the Right One In excels is in its eerie, poetic portrait of teenage friendship, love and protection. Here, Eli and Oskars’ budding relationship finds itself held within a thin veil of security that is slowly replaced by the reality of Eli’s bloodlust and her need to protect Oskar. The resulting film stripping back the deepest fears of early adolescence in exploring personal power, place, and belonging.
Let the Right One In is available to stream or buy now on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
3. Near Dark (1987)
Not only does Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 classic glow with the soul of a western, but it was also born in the wild west of 1980s indie film production. Her original, genre-defying screenplay rejected by every major studio, leading her into the independent sector, where her film could freely play with its unique western constructs. The result of which gave us a gory, freewheeling tale of nomadic vampire life that burns with intensity. Its only flaw sitting within a romance that, at times, sits squarely in a 1980s gooey pastiche. However, placing some of the films minor romantic pitfalls to one side, Near Dark revels in its brutality. The isolation, lawlessness and violence of Bigelow’s dusty vision enthralling and enticing from the first scene to the last.
Here, our nomadic vampire family survive on human flesh, in a serial killer existence of isolation and cover-ups—each town a new playground; each victim a mere tool of survival and growth. However, when you combine the dust, dirt and exquisite performances with delicious cinematography and the unconventional soundtrack of Tangerine Dream. Near Dark becomes dream-like in its intensity and vision, sweeping away its audience into a nightmare world that burns with ferocity.
Near Dark is currently unavailable to stream or buy in United Kingdom
4. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
By the 1980s, the godfather of all vampires ‘Dracula’ had become a cinematic joke. His rightful place at the head of the horror table replaced by gritty, urban vampires who wore leather and rode motorcycles. But, one man was determined to bring Dracula back from the shadows of obscurity; Frances Ford Coppola. And in doing so, he created an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original novel that was both visually stunning, faithful and yet boldly different. Here, Dracula was reborn in the skilful hands of Gary Oldman, with romance, sex and gore sitting centre stage. With Coppola’s final picture not only epic in its vision but rooted in a flamboyant gothic beauty.
However, Coppola’s exquisite masterpiece often lacked the praise it was due and is rarely discussed as one of his finest films. His vision alongside writer James V. Hart giving birth to the modern Dracula template we now know and love, as seen in BBC’s Dracula of 2020. However, to this day, no adaptation has managed to capture the visual beauty, orchestral power and bloodlust of Coppola’s genuinely groundbreaking work.
Bram Stokers Dracula is available to stream or buy now on Amazon Prime and Apple TV
5. Martin (1977)
Mention the name George A. Romero, and it is more than likely zombies come to mind, rather than vampires. However, in 1977 Romero brought us one of the most unique, bold and distinctive vampire movies ever made with Martin. A film that has long since been consigned to the vaults of horror, rarely making a public appearance. And more the pity, because this low budget handheld picture is both unique and creatively complex.
Romero dispenses with the classic horror template of the vampire from the outset, as the 19-year-old Martin boards a train for Pennsylvania. His delicate looks, soft persona and loneliness only emphasised by Donald Rubinstein’s experimental jazz-inspired score. However, this lost, lonely and insecure boy is also a vampire. But, not in the classical sense, after all, he has a reflection, his teeth are not sharp, and the religious cross plays no significance in his wellbeing. No, for Martin, his need for nourishment comes through carefully selected victims. Each one, drugged before feeding, in an urgent and often fumbled final struggle—his guilt, coupled with a need to find intimacy in the arms of his victims.
Martin is an outsider, confused teenager, and sexually ambiguous figure, while also being a killer, predator and sexual offender. His vampire status both a blessing and a curse as he struggles to define his place in society. And when this complex, enthralling and fascinating character study dovetails with Romero’s hand-held camera, inner-city decline, and a documentary-like realism, Martin becomes a film unlike any other. Its roots sitting in both coming of age drama, urban thriller and socially conscious horror.
Martin is currently unavailable to buy or stream in the United Kingdom