I’m not saying that most vampire movies suck. There’s plenty that have taken delightfully clever interpretations of the centuries-old bloodsucking demon, and there’s plenty that haven’t.
This is a list of five vampire films that did right by the lore. It’s sponsored by an unpleasant throat sickness I’m currently battling. Mask up, vampires. It’s definitely transmissible via neck biting.
1. Stake Land (2010)
From director Jim Mickle, Stake Land follows teenage Martin (Gossip Girl‘s Connor Paolo) and his curmudgeon counterpart Mister (Nick Damici, who cowrote) as they travel cross-country in a post-apocalyptic version of America that’s been plagued by vampires. What set this one apart for me is its graphic opening scene that breaks most rules found in your average horror film. “They won’t actually—” Ope. Trigger warnings abound. It’s gutty in more ways than one.
2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut project. Between its dreamlike b&w cinematography, killer soundtrack, feminist themes, and intriguing cast of characters living life on the fringe, this is a western-horror masterpiece that will give you all kinds of indie cred for discussion. Arash (Arash Marandi) is just a guy trying to do right by everyone but Bad City is a pretty hopeless place to find redemption. This film subverts the idea of who should be nervous after dark and best of all—the cat, a major character, lives. Fans should also watch Amirpour’s second film, The Bad Batch.
3. Let the Right One In (2008)
Not to be confused with the American remake Let Me In starring Chloë Grace Moretz. The Swedish original (directed by Tomas Alfredson) is much more effective in a much quieter way, down to the title. “Let me in!!!” gives Eric Andre Show vibes, while a subtler “Let the right one in” plucks at nerves. There is a wrong one out there and it is waiting. But is it who you think? Little Oskar’s days of being bullied may come to an end when he meets the mysterious Eli. Besides a vampire movie, this is arguably a coming-of-age film about the connection between two ostracized children, handling darkness in all its forms, both human and—not.
Found footage horror is underrated. I think too many titles in the Paranormal Activity franchise sure did some damage. Two young men embark on a best-buds backpacking tour across Europe, despite one of them recently discovering an inoperable abnormality in his brain that makes travel risky. The friends document every second of the excursion, uploading clips live to their blog for friends and family back home to follow. It’s done less obnoxiously than how you see most Instagram influencers portrayed in film since it’s just two dudes sight-seeing, but the content takes a sudden dark turn. Directors Clif Prowse and Derek Lee cowrote, codirected, and even costarred as the leads with a lot of chemistry.
5. Blood Red Sky
Blood Red Sky will sneak up and bite you on the heart. That sounds like a lot of punch for a movie that could also be described as Snakes on a Plane meets I Am Legend, right? But somehow, in director Peter Thorwarth’s Netflix film, it all works. A German mother (Peri Baumeister) brings her son on a flight in search of specialized medical treatments in America, only to find the two of them in a situation that combines two things you really don’t want on your plane—terrorists and . . . teeth. The really pointy kind.
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