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Vampire Movies for the Twilight-Averse

Three of the characters in What We Do in the Shadows, a mockumentary-style comedy about vampires. Illustration by Pearl McNames.

If you’re seeking out some undead bloodsuckers but Twilight doesn’t strike your fancy, you’re in the right place. Many people enjoy Twilight, and that’s fine, but I wanted to dive deeper into the vampire subgenre. I watched vampire movies that were recommended to me or seemed to be among the most beloved. Some lived up to their reputation, some did not, and some were just plain strange. While almost all of these films are categorized as horror, none of them are particularly frightening. This makes them perfect for those looking for a seasonally appropriate movie that isn’t especially scary. 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

“They only learn when it’s too late.”

Genre: Romance/Horror

My rating: 4.5/5 tiny goblets of blood

A delightfully artistic movie that features Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as Adam and Eve, a pair of vampires in a long-distance marriage. The setting alternates between Detroit and Morocco and comments on the modern world through the eyes of immortals. I found this movie to be a little slow paced, but it makes up for it with a mix of comedy and romance, hypnotising music, and dialogue that stays with you. If you enjoy movies like Before Sunrise, give this one a try.

Dracula (1931)

“The strength of the vampire is that people will not believe in him.”

Genre: Horror

My rating: 3/5 bat puppets

If you’re looking for the quintessential vampire movie, here it is. Bela Lugosi stars as Dracula in his most recognizable form. There are several striking shots of him staring intensely into the camera, with his eyes gleaming. Since it was made in the 30s, a puppet is used to create the bat, which is delightful to watch. There is no music in the background, which helps to create a tense atmosphere. This adaptation contained less exploration of the characters and relationships, and more about the phenomenon of vampires. Surprisingly, there is also no blood shown, which was rather refreshing after my vampire movie binge. 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

“I am the monster that breathing men would kill. I am Dracula.”

Genre: Horror/Romance

My rating: 2/5 crucifixes

Let’s start with the positive: the costumes were beautiful and there were some very creative transitions. Compared to the 1931 version, there was a lot more emotion and depth to the story. Otherwise, I did not find it enjoyable. I wanted to like this movie because it has Winona Ryder in it, but it was just too bizarre. Dracula, rather than having his classic slicked back hair and black cape, wears a distractingly awful wig. There were several scenes that were disturbing to watch and they went on for much longer than felt necessary. These were so excessive that it distracted from all other aspects of the movie, so I would not recommend it.  

The Lost Boys (1987)

“Kill your brother. You’ll feel better.”

Genre: Horror/Comedy

My rating: 4/5 vampires with mullets

An exceptional eighties horror movie that I would recommend to fans of Stranger Things. Two brothers travel to a beach town and find themselves involved with a vampire biker gang. There’s also kind of an interesting theme of social pressure. It’s lots of fun to watch, not too scary, and has a great soundtrack. 

Interview With the Vampire (1994)

“The world changes… we do not. Therein lies the irony that finally kills us.”

Genre: Drama/Horror

My rating: 2.5/5 corpses covered in dolls

This seems to be one of the most well-known vampire films outside of the Twilight franchise. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are two long-haired, flowy shirt-donning vampires with an eternally young vampire daughter. It explores two different perspectives on the morality of consuming human blood to live. It also shows the unique difficulties that come with immortality in a way that the others did not. However, the plot was a little confusing and I didn’t find myself rooting for any of the characters. There was a very questionable scene in the first half that kind of ruined the rest for me. If you need to see Brad Pitt with long hair, go for it. Otherwise you can skip this one.

Dark Shadows (2012)

“A woman doctor… what an age this is!”

Genre: Horror/Comedy

My rating: 1/5 coffins

Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of those movies that attempts to use its star-studded cast to deflect the practically unbearable writing. Once again, I got my hopes up because of Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton, only to be disappointed. There are funny lines here and there, but they weren’t enough to make up for the rest of the movie. One of the many subplots follows a strangely similar storyline as Dracula. Also similar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it had excessively long uncomfortable scenes. Alice Cooper makes an unexpected cameo at the end that feels weirdly out of place. This was originally a soap opera, so maybe the original series was better, but this adaptation was rough.

What We Do in The Shadows (2014)

“You will not eat Stu and you will not eat the camera guy… Maybe one camera guy.”

Genre: Horror/Comedy

My rating: 5/5 skeletons on the floor

Directed by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, this mockumentary follows the antics of four vampire flatmates. It’s a comical take on the typical brooding, jaded vampire that will have you laughing at every line. This is especially impressive given the fact that it was almost entirely improvised and had a very low budget. Scenes are supplemented by medieval style illustrations and a unique score. More recently, a tv show was made expanding on the world created in the film. I highly recommend both versions.

Vampires are sometimes viewed as a cliché, but they provide an opportunity to examine some interesting topics. Not all of these movies are of the highest quality, but some manage to take the established mythology and make something entirely original. 

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Vampire Movies for the Twilight-Averse