"Screw Twilight"? Yeah, it's a bold title. But as much as you might shamelessly love watching them with copious amounts of alcohol, the Twilight films aren't exactly masterful in any way. They get the job done for some audiences, but when it comes to vampire works, there's plenty better.
In years past, there have been a mountain of delightful works about these bloodthirsty beings, including but not limited to Nosferatu (both Murnau and Herzog's), all sorts of Dracula films, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Underworld, and even From Dusk Till Dawn. Over the last ten years, though, the great pickings have been slim. Now it's time to look at what five films are ultimately deserving of being called the best of the vampire canon.
5. Only Lovers Left Alive
Let's start with the freshest, sneaking into Miami at theaters like O Cinema and Miami Beach Cinematheque just now, and in part, the inspiration for this list. Only Lovers Left Alive presents us Adam and Eve. One is looking to the modern world as something to be fascinated by, while the other is trapped in a past he can barely keep in his life. Contemplation on immortality and potential death is nothing new to those who have written vampire narratives before Jim Jarmusch. Few, however, can truly envelop their entire film in an atmosphere that encapsulates the tortured souls being depicted on the screen. It's a film that understands how valuable the past is, but isn't above joking about how foolish it is to only want to live in that world long gone. A vampire's life hinges on survival, and at the end of the day, these lovers have to remain alive.
Survival and love are recurring themes to vampire stories, but it all depends on how they're applied to the narrative. Byzantium, directed by the same man who brought the world Interview with the Vampire 20 years ago, is a gorgeous tale of two women trying to live quiet lives while keeping their pasts secret. The gorgeous photography (courtesy of DP Sean Bobbitt) is enough to solidify it in anyone's memory, with blood red coursing through every other scene. Meanwhile, writer Moira Buffini gives both Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arteton's characters a depth and back story that isn't usually allowed to bloodsuckers. Part period film and part modern romance, Byzantium is an original tale of immortals worth anyone's time.
Speaking of films that are drenched in the color of blood, Thirst is another that fits that description beautifully, with red occasionally lining the walls of its muted color palette. Park Chan-wook, who is among the best South Korean directors around, delivers this darkly comic tale of a priest turned vampire. The lines between horror and comedy are blurred in a much different manner than something along the lines of something camp like Fright Night, but the dialogue offers enough laughs to match its punches. It's a creative film, heavy on bringing about great-looking visuals (as is typical of the man who made Oldboy and Stoker), and arguably the best film of the bunch.
2. Let the Right One In
While Thirst hasn't been subject to an American remake, one film on this list has. Many people likely saw Let Me In years back, which wasn't all that bad, but it pales in comparison to Tomas Alfredson's brilliant adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist. Even more intimate a film than Only Lovers Left Alive, Let the Right One In is, simply put, a tale of boy meets girl. The bond of friendship that forms between a bullied young man and a young girl who meets him in the cold night is what propels this touching story. No remake could capture the beauty that the original presented, and it's worth going out of your way to watch it, even if you're one of those folks who complains about subtitles.
1. Vampire Academy
So we knocked Twilight earlier, but now we're including Vampire Academy of all things? Hear us out. Yes, it's another piece of young adult literature turned film, but this film is criminally underrated. From the minute one hears all the quips that its lead character Rose (Zoey Deutch, who could practically be the spawn of Linda Cardellini's Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks) shoots off, it's impossible to deny that the folks who made Heathers and Mean Girls are striking back against the typical YA paranormal romance narrative. By no means is it perfect, but Vampire Academy is the kind of adaptation that young adult audiences deserve: a self-aware film with smart, entertaining protagonists that aren't ever-reliant on the men they fall in love with.
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