Creatures of the night, the undead, the cold ones–vampires have always been one of the classiest monsters out there. This month, Loot Crate’s theme is MONSTER PARTY, celebrating the Hollywood horror classics like Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. And of course, it’s not a party without Dracula and his gang.
While there’s hundreds of vampire movies out there, here are a few that we hold near and dear to our cold, undead hearts.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like the classics. This past Valentine’s Day, Dracula celebrated its 90th anniversary. The Bram Stoker novel had been published over thirty years prior, but Hollywood’s 1931 film remains one of the the most well known film adaptations. Bela Lugosi is so good at playing the etherial count, it’s easy to believe he’s not human. His commanding air is essential to Dracula’s character, because if it weren’t for his vampiric powers of persuasion, no one in their right mind would go near him.
One thing that’s usually a concern with older films is how the standards and styles of acting have changed over time. However, beyond the camerawork and a few pacing issues, Dracula still holds up to a modern lens. I was pleasantly surprised by how genuine the characters felt. Mina is lively and extremely likable, and Renfield–a character I normally don’t have much interest in–is fantastically unhinged. Dwight Frye’s performance is fabulous and believable as the mad assistant.
Another thing I love about this film is the dynamic between Count Dracula and Professor Van Helsing. The two aren’t just enemies–vampire against vampire hunter. There’s an innate respect between the two of them that’s missing in so many more modern adaptations. When Dracula concedes, “For someone who has lived less than one lifetime, you are very wise, Van Helsing,” he means. Neither of them underestimate the other, and each has a level of fascination in the other. It makes the story so much more nuanced and compelling, rather than cut and dry good and evil.
Fright Night (2011)
Okay, I know it might be considered sacrilegious to put a remake on this list instead of the original 1985, but I’ve thought long and hard about this, so stay with me.
Fright Night is almost like An American Werewolf in London (1981) in that it’s a monster movie that takes place in a world with monster movies. There’s always something special about a self-reflexive horror movie where you can see characters wrestle with the stereotypes that you yourself know. Everyone knows that vampires hate crosses and garlic; it’s just a matter of finding out how much of the fiction is true.
The problem for Charley Brewster is that his neighbor Jerry is a vampire. Even Charley doesn’t believe it at first, but once his old friend Ed disappears, he’s forced to look for help. He and his girlfriend get in touch with a Vegas showman named Peter Vincent who is supposedly a vampire hunter, and between the three of them, they need to stop Jerry from coming after them.
One of the reasons I prefer the remake is the subtle thinning down of the plot. The 1985 film has a few subplots that are extraneous and pull away from the story, where the remake trims it down in a way that allows us to spend more time on the details of the main story. Personally, I also think the modern versions of the characters are a little funnier and more compelling, while their performances are just as good as the original film.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
This one might be considered a must-watch based on the casting alone. Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, and Tom Cruise in perhaps one of my favorite of his roles. And despite how long this movie has been out, despite how often I’ve heard mention of it, despite its reputation, I still knew absolutely nothing about the plot. Every beat of this film came to a surprise to me, and I’m really glad none of it got spoiled along the way.
This movie is definitely a little bit on the artsy, depressive side. It has deep characters with interesting motivations, and the classic “vampire with a conscience” character that has become so popular in modern versions of vampire stories. The difference, I suppose, is the movie’s overall take on morality. Most feel-good vampire stories take the view that it’s our choices that make us good or evil, not who we are or what has happened to us. Interview with the Vampire comes off a little more existential in the way that it displays the persistence of both good and evil despite any one person’s choices. It’s that which makes this movie stand out amongst its genre. If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s definitely a ride.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
This movie…is truly like no other. I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is another one of my staple Halloween movies, and one that everyone in my family asks to watch with me.
What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about the undead community of New Zealand, from the phenomenal mind of Taika Watiti. It follows a handful of vampire roommates as they prepare for their annual social event, The Unholy Masquerade. The movie does have some real plot points, with character deaths and surprise twists, but most of the humor comes from the roommate shenanigans of three flatmates that happen to be vampires.
The movie is insanely quotable, and features a cast of incredibly popular actors. It’s offbeat, quirky, and awkward in the best way possible. It’s a beloved favorite among its fans and spawned a spinoff series on FX. If you’re interested in dry humor, puns, and a bunch of vampires becoming fiercely protective of their one human friend who is a systems analyst, then this is the movie for you.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
The same, but make it different! Leslie Nielsen is an icon of classic comedy, and this might be one of the first films I ever saw him in. (Don’t ask.) It is an incredible parody that pays attention to the smallest details. The sets of this film are almost identical to those of the Bela Lugosi film, and it even has some of the same dialogue–of course, turned on its head to poke fun at the characters. The whole thing is a slapstick laugh from start to finish, as any Mel Brooks film would be. It’s tonally similar to Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and clearly banked off the previous film’s success.
Because there are 62 years of vampire lore between this film and the original, Dracula: Dead and Loving It makes some changes that might be more familiar to modern fans. Instead of being warded off by wolfsbane, Dracula is held at bay by massive amounts of garlic. This film also features a larger part for Lucy, showing her on screen as a vampiric woman in white, instead of merely discussing her as the first film did. And of course, in this movie, Dracula is exposed as a vampire due to a mirror…but instead of a handheld mirror, it’s a large mirror in a dance hall during a fabulously choreographed ballroom sequence.
I rewatched this movie before writing this blog and was surprised just how much I remembered. To me, this will always be the quintessential Dracula movie, which hits on loads of mythology, while still being enjoyable every step of the way.
Quick Honorable Mention: It’s not a movie, but we also highly recommend Midnight Mass on Netflix. That’s all we’ll say about it for now. You can probably expect a blog on that coming soon.