Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: My Favorite Vampire Movies

I realized the other day that I haven’t done any Top Tens (or whatever) yet. I developed this aversion to Top Ten lists a couple of years ago and have been consciously avoiding them for a while now. It just seems like a cheap post and I don’t ever want to rely on them too much.
But from time to time I think they’re perfectly okay, particularly when presented as part of a larger whole. So today I’m going to return to the world of Top (whatevers) and tell you about what I think are the very best vampire movies.
            It’s been a while since I’ve been able to generate any sort of enthusiasm for a movie about vampires. Twilight and The Vampire Diaries and that sort of thing have really made the creatures seem lame and uninteresting. Movies featuring the violent, asocial monsters I grew up knowing are few and far between – for the time being, anyway. I’m not going to go on and on about the whole Twilight thing because it’s been done to death and honestly I don’t have any real problem with it. I mean, I think it’s terrible, but I don’t think these sparkly, angsty vampires should just cease to be. Clearly there is a huge market for such things and good for them. Someday my vampires will come back around.
Curious about what my vampires are? Read on…


13) Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood
There was this weird time in the early 90’s when we got theatrical Tales From the Crypt stories. The first was Demon Knight and it was really good and made lots of money. The second was Bordello of Blood. I don’t think it made a whole lot of money, but it was fun and Angie Everhart is a mega fucking redhead babe. Dennis Miller is surprisingly likeable as the protagonist, snarking his way through a nightmarish whorehouse full of bloodsuckers. This one is just good fun.

12) Fright Night (1985)
Ah, William Ragsdale. If only Herman’s Head was still on today. But that’s neither here nor there. Long before the extremely clever sitcom that introduced us to the face behind 97 percent of the voices on The Simpsons (Hank Azaria) debuted, we got Fright Night. This is the first movie that I ever remember being utterly confused by. There were parts that were totally funny and parts that scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know what to do. I remember sneaking downstairs to watch it on HBO (this was prior to sneaking downstairs and accidentally catching the pilgrim porno on the Playboy Channel that made me stop sneaking downstairs). It was also the first time I had seen Roddy McDowall without ape makeup on.

11) Vampire In Brooklyn
This was another one that confused me, even though I had already experienced the brain fuck that is Fright Night. I thought I would be getting a straight-up comedy, like Once Bitten or Love At First Bite. Instead, this is another horror comedy hybrid with a strong emphasis on the horror. What other movie could ever depict the mind-shattering horror that is Zombie Dwayne Wayne? And I have to give extra props to Eddie Murphy here for being genuinely horrific when he needed to be. And to Wes Craven for balancing things so well.
10) Fright Night (2011)
Sacrilege! I know! But I just honestly enjoy the remake more. Anton Yelchin was brilliant in William Ragsdale’s role, Colin Farrell was very utterly sinister and malignant as the vampire, and David Tennant portrayed the same basic character as McDowall in such a different way it was amazing. We had an absolute blast watching this movie and it is one of the few I’ve bought in the past year that I’ve already watched more than once. Excellent effects combined with a clever script (by Buffy alum Marti Noxon) and a great cast just made this one a complete win for me.
9) Near Dark
I didn’t actually see this until the DVD came out a few years ago. I bought it on the recommendation of a friend and it blew my mind. There is a certain sick humor to it, but Near Dark is a gritty, twisted take on vampires and on rural life. It’s kind of a weird coming of age/country boy makes good story except rather than making good the country boy has to deal with a bunch of white trash vampires. Bill Paxton is – of course – excellent in this one and Lance Henrikson is at his creepiest; which is pretty fucking creepy.

8) Lair of the White Worm
If you don’t know, Ken Russell makes really fucked up movies. Like, the kind of movies that stain your brain. This one is no different, despite the fact that it stars lovable stutterer Hugh Grant. This was prior to his breakout success as a ladies’ man in rom-coms and way prior to his failure as a covert hooker-user. This won’t spoil anything, as the entire thing is bugfuck crazy and you should watch it anyway, but the climax of the movie comes when a crazy snake/vampire lady puts on a strap-on that looks like… I don’t know what it looks like… and tries to fuck/sacrifice a young girl to a giant snake god while Hugh Grant plays the bagpipes. I should really do a full review of this one.

7) Underworld
Probably the height of mindless vampire action flicks, Underworld incorporates werewolves (irritatingly called “Lycans”) into things, but still remains mostly a vampire flick. I like the style and story of this first one and Kate Beckinsdale running around in skintight latex doesn’t hurt, either.
6) Ultraviolet
Speaking of hot vampire girls in skintight clothes, Ultraviolet is awesome. I put off seeing it for a long time, but once I watched it I was mesmerized. I don’t know what it is about Milla Jovovich (it’s not just that she’s hot), but she is just so very watchable. And this movie provides the perfect surroundings for her to run around in. The story is about a society of vampires and Milla Jovovich’s character rebelling against the ruling government/corporate entity thing. The story is okay, but the visuals of the movie have to be seen to be believed. The first time you see Ultraviolet you will just sit on the edge of your chair with your mouth open.

5) Blade
Most people seem to credit Bryan Singer’s X-Men with birthing the past decade-plus of mainstream comic book movies. But Blade predated that movie by two years and surprised everybody by being a massive success. I don’t know that Singer’s mutant masterpiece would have happened in the way that it did without Goyer’s Blade. But besides that, Blade is a unique and fascinating vampire flick that brought the bloodsuckers into the new century. It’s slick, stylish, and cool. And the vampires are utterly evil. Wesley Snipes might be my favorite vampire ever.
4) The Horror of Dracula
Christopher Lee is my Dracula. This wasn’t actually the first Hammer Dracula movie I saw – that was Dracula Has Risen From the Grave­ – but it is the best. Don’t get me wrong; they’re all very good. But this is the one you would show to somebody you were introducing to the world of Hammer Horror. It’s basically just the classic tale we all know, only sexier and with more blood. And fangs. Lee’s Dracula has fangs.
3) Shadow of the Vampire
This is the movie that made me decide Willem DaFoe was great. His performance as Max Schreck is mesmerizing. And the idea for the movie is just brilliant. If you don’t know, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is a silent film from 1922. It was the first time Bram Stoker’s Dracula had been adapted to film, though the names and settings were changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel, which had not yet fallen to public domain. Shadow of the Vampire suggests that the star of the film – Max Schreck – was actually a vampire. John Malkovich, Udo Kier, and Eddie Izzard also put on great performances. This one's not exactly chock full of action, but it's a tremendous film.

2) From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
I can’t explain why, but I didn’t like this movie the first time I saw it. I think part of it was that it felt like it took a long time for the vampires to show up. I don’t know. But I was very stupid. This movie is fucking amazing and its gonzo, over-the-top treatment of vampires is fantastic. I love everything about this movie, from Tarantino’s creepiness to Clooney’s cool to Tom Savini’s Sex Machine. There isn’t a vampire movie out there that’s more fun than this one, and it would probably be my top pick if I didn’t have such a soft spot for the next movie…
  1. 1) Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter
I’ve written about this one plenty of times. I love it. Every single actor in the movie is fantastic and every single character feels like something straight out of a comic book. I love the idea of different species of vampires. And Horst Janson as Kronos is just amazing. He handles his character in a way that is so believable and yet almost superhuman. There is never one second where you doubt he can handle what’s coming. I really wish somebody would follow through with the original intention of this movie and make it a television series. Even though they’re never going to find a lady as hot as Caroline Munro to play Carla.
That’s my Top thirteen, which is kind of a running number for me, but I want to give an honorable mention to a movie we checked out last year called Stake Land. It’s a post-apocalyptic vampire movie and it’s really, really good except for a slow part towards the end. I highly recommend you check this one out. Because of the slow part I can’t really call it a favorite, but it is a fantastic study of characters and the atmosphere and tone are just amazing. Great FX, great performances, and Danielle Harris, who is super-hot.

There are some omissions here that I feel like people might question.
Salem’s Lot – A great vampire story, but also a television miniseries.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I never liked the movie. Still don’t. Paul Reubens is great, though.
The Lost Boys – This movie never sat right with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but I think maybe it’s because it’s the genesis of the sparkly, sensitive vampire. Plus the protagonist just looks like such a pussy.
John Carpenter’s Vampires – John Carpenter + vampires = success, right? I actively disliked this movie the first time I saw it. Actually, I think I might have even walked out. Every time I see it referenced or anything I think, “Huh, I must have been wrong about that one,” and every time I watch it again I still don’t like it.
Nosferatu – I’m referring to both the silent one and the 70’s remake here. They are both classics and should both be seen, but once is all you really need. Neither one is the most exciting movie ever and they certainly aren’t ones I need to watch more than once every five years or so. But I would highly recommend you watch a double feature of Murnau’s Nosferatu and Shadow of the Vampire.
Side Note: In the purest of coincidences, SyFy is showing a shit-ton of vampire movies this weekend, including the aforementioned Stake Land. I would love to claim that I had planned this out, but it just happened this way. Awesome, huh?

Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween

If you’re new here or haven’t been keeping up, this is where I give my thoughts on SyFy’s “31 days of Halloween” programming. Obviously I haven’t seen everything I’ll be talking about, but that’s kind of what the internet is all about – talking out of your ass.

Each day I will cover the schedule from the time my post goes live (usually 11 AM) through the following 24 hours. On Fridays I will cover the whole weekend, which is a huge pain in the ass but also kind of fun.

Enjoy!

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM – One Missed Call – This is just getting irritating. It’s bad enough I have to write about things that outright suck or that I’ve never even heard of. But this nonsense of playing the same movie twice (or more) in a couple of days is a bunch of horsepucky.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM – Thir13en Ghosts – I don’t know what I like more about Shannon Elizabeth. The fact that she was in Jack Frost? Her abominable accent in the American Pie movies? Her radiant smile? This?:

I think she’s due for a comeback.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 4

4:00 PM – 6:00 PM – From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money – I think I remember disliking this one pretty severely, despite going in with an open mind and remembering how wrong I was about the original. I should give it another chance.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter – This one might have been good. I don’t recall it being disappointing, anyway. And I think it has a neat shot at the end that ties everything together. This, too, deserves another watch.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM – WWE SmackDown – Unless something amazing happens, this will mark the fourth straight week I have just skipped watching SmackDown. This is how bad it is: the next pay-per-view is in Atlanta and I didn’t even consider going. And CM Punk – one of my favorite wrestlers of all time is one of the main champs and I just can’t bring myself to care.
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2

10:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Haven – Being that I am a huge Stephen King nerd you’d think I would have watched this show. I haven’t even given it a chance. I guess I should, but I really can’t stand Xander’s best friend.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3 (It’s probably an okay show)

11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Alphas – This again?
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2

SATURDAY

12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Haven – A repeat of the 10 PM episode.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money – I think I remember disliking this one pretty severely, despite going in with an open mind and remembering how wrong I was about the original. I should give it another chance.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter – This one might have been good. I don’t recall it being disappointing, anyway. And I think it has a neat shot at the end that ties everything together. This, too, deserves another watch.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Scare Tactics – Tracy, you so kuh-razay.



Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – I want to record an infomercial about nothing. It would be the Seinfeld of infomercials. I’d have guests, demonstrations on how to do nothing. It would be great.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula – Before you go laughing out loud (like I did) at the idea of SyFy telling the True Story of anything, know that this was originally done by the USA Network. It might actually be kind of good. I mean, who could possibly doubt the quality of something starring Roger Daltry as Vlad Tepes?
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Prowl – This is an After Dark production, which could be good or bad. The premise is that a bunch of kids get picked up by a truck driver named Bernard, who delivers them without incident to their intended destination.
Ha! Of course that’s not what happens!
Bernard actually takes them to an abandoned warehouse where something awful is going on. This sounds kind of good. We’re going to be at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade trying to avoid urban outdoorsmen swearing openly in public, so I’m going to try to remember to set the DVR.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant – I totally dug this movie. John C. Reilly was a much more effective vampire than I thought he would be and the kid was pretty good. I definitely wish it had done well enough to spawn sequels.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM – 30 Days of Night: Dark Days – I didn’t care much for something about the first 30 Days of Night movie. I can’t remember what. But something irritated me about it. Since I bought it sight unseen, you would think I’d go back and watch it again to find out what it was or see if I was wrong. I haven’t bothered with the sequel, but I did like the web series they showed on Fear.net.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM – Stake Land – This really is an excellent movie. Set your DVR or put it in your Netflix queue or whatever, but check it out.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Daybreakers – This movie looks awesome and stars Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of it. Sometimes these things happen, but I don’t know how. I hope it doesn’t suck.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – The first two Underworld movies were pretty awesome. As a matter of fact, I’d say they were equally good. This one was not. I can’t even force myself to watch the whole thing. It just gets on my nerves for some reason. There’s something about it that’s just… crappy. I don’t know how to explain it.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Stake Land – A replay. I can’t very well back out of giving SyFy shit about doing replays just because it’s a movie I like. Oh, wait – yes I can. Look! It’s another opportunity to watch a great flick!
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

SUNDAY

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Wolvesbayne – This absolutely has to be an attempt to cash in on the name recognition of Blodrayne. And thanks to Uwe Boll for fucking that up, by the way.
Jeremy London (who it’s worth noting is not a sexy redhead female) is a werewolf working with vampire hunters. This had better be a comedy.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – SkinwalkersThis is a good werewolf flick featuring the Native American take on lycanthropy. Elias Koteas is in it, too.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Scare Tactics – (Astronaut Jones quote)
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2
6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – If it weren’t for Paid Programming, SyFy would probably be showing a replay of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. So let’s be thankful they’re raising a little cash instead.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM – Scare Tactics 



Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Red: Werewolf Hunter – I like Felicia Day. I like looking at Felicia Day. I like werewolves. I like alternate takes on fairy tales and stuff. But I couldn’t get past the first twenty minutes of this movie. I need to give it another chance, but I don’t know if that will happen this year.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

12:30 PM – 2:30 PM – An American Werewolf In London – Even after doing twenty days worth of these I’m still surprised when SyFy chooses to air what I would consider a “legit” movie. I watched this again recently after a hiatus of a few years. It was one of those deals where I had watched it so many times it got a little stale. Thankfully, I was ready to see it again. An American Werewolf In London is still an amazing horror flick. The werewolf transformations are just as remarkable as you’ve heard.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

2:30 PM – 4:30 PM – Daybreakers – C’mon. We were on a roll. Well, a two movie roll. But I guess they had to throw a replay in here, and at least this is only the second time they’ve shown this one.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

4:30 PM – 7:00 PM – Blade II – This is my least favorite of the Blade franchise, but it is still an awesome movie. Saying Blade II is my least favorite of the three is like saying Alexandra Breckenridge isn’t as hot as Jessica Biel or Milla Jovovich.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 3

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – You know what would have made this movie better? No, seriously. If you do, put something in the comments. I’m curious.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Queen of the Damned – I actually tried to watch this the other day because I had a brief period of time with nothing going on. It was stupid. Like, really stupid.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Stigmata – I don’t quite understand how we got from vampire and werewolf movies to this, a religious apocalypse movie. SyFy is worse at segues than Brian Posehn.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

MONDAY

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – The Midnight Meat Train – This is an adaptation of a short story from Clive Barker’s first Books of Blood collection. It’s a great movie. Bradley Cooper stars as a dude who finds himself in the middle of some very weird shit. Vinnie Jones stars as the perpetrator of said weird shit. I need to buy this one. It’s that good.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Darklight – A movie about Lilith – the first woman – and a secret society devoted to stop her from killing… well… everybody.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

5:00 AM – 5:30 AM – Scare Tactics – Tracy Morgan's Threepio impersonation is awesome.


Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

5:30 AM – 6:00 AM – Twilight Zone – "Nothing in the Dark". This one’s gonna make you cry a little bit. Seriously.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 5

6:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming – Only two hours today. I will be asleep.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Scare Tactics– "Chill Out".


Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

8:30 AM – 11:30 AM – Alphas – Blech.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

Come on back Monday for what will probably be another spooky toy review.

-Phantom





4 comments:

  1. From Dusk Til Dawn would be my #1 vampire flick. This is also, in my opinion, George Clooney's greatest movie. Great list Phantom!

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    1. Thanks! The documentary about the filming of From Dusk 'Til Dawn is also fantastic if you haven't seen it. It's called Full Tilt Boogie and was included with the Special Edition DVD. Don't know how available it currently is.

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  2. Very cool list, although I've only seen 5 of the movies.
    I completely agree with you that 'Blade' is actually what kickstarted the modern comic book movie boom. New Line took a bit of a risk and purchased what was probably the reasonably priced license from Marvel, because only comic book people even knew who Blade was at the time.
    When it became a success I believe that's when movie studios decided to take a look at the more popular Marvel properties, and X-men was born.

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    Replies
    1. It really was a heck of a risk. Thank goodness they went for it.

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