So many refer to vampire flicks in terms of Twilight or some such, or the most recent avatar of Dracula, maybe t.v. shows such as True Blood or The Vampire Diaries. Yet there’s far to the genre than one might think, looking at most articles or reviews. Consider these seven, several excellent and others at least interesting, and rarely mentioned. But at least some of them probably should be. How many have you seen? Or even heard of?
Isle of the Dead – In 1945, Boris Karloff appeared in one of twovampire films he ever made. This black and white classic, based onGreek folklore and growing fear in the face of death, is many ways more about fear of the undead than the vampires themselves. During one of the many horrible yet relatively small Balkans of the early XXth century, a Greek general and a collection of others find themselves trapped on an island due to plague. In an almost Agatha Christie-like setup, superstitions bubble to the surface and gothic tropes we all recognize become reality, at least in some people’s minds.
Strigoi – Somewhat curiously (or not) we rarely see vampire movies from Romania, the land where the real Vlad the Impaler lived. Here is an exception, a clever dark comedy based not upon the image from Hollywood but actual folklore–where a vampire is a peasant, with neither priest nor scholar about the undead are anywhere to be seen, where the reaction to an actual strigoi is openly mediocre, even stupid.;
Lets Scare Jessica to Death – Again, a film that tosses away what we expect we know about vampires, and in fact gives us a tiny existential crisis to boot! Jessica, an artist moving to a farm in rural America to get away from the hustle of the city, has had a nervous breakdown. She’s been delusional, but does that mean the stranger she and her husband meet is not an undead girl haunting the lake where she drowned? We may never know. But we feel exactly what Jessica endures, putting us through an emotional wringer.
Suck – This Canadian comedy about a fourth-rate band achieving stardom once a member is bitten and transformed into a walking, talking, singing and bass-playing incarnation of dark glamor never got much distribution. But the performances are spot-on, and the humor sickly fun if not broad a la the Scary Movies franchise or anything at all with Adam Sandler.
Vampyr – Many consider Nosferatu the first great vampire movie. Less known alas is the flick widely regarded as the second, at least among film experts. Carl Dryer’s almost silent masterpiece is a surreal step into a world where shadows really do go commit mischief on their own, where dreams bleed into reality, and where the corrupt influence of a vampire lingers on the edge of conscious awareness–and even noticing the creature is perilous.
Bled – So many vampire films aim for being “high concept” (Dracula’s untold origin! An apocalyptic war between living and undead), here’s a flick deserving credit for focusing on an individual tale of temptation. Shot on a tiny budget with no stars, it succeeds in creating a very disturbing story about genuine horror, even to the point where sexual desire becomes grotesque and deadly ( a trope most vampire filmmakers dabble with at most, rather than dive into).
Lust for Dracula – The title, the stars, even the production company (Seduction Studios) leads one to expect nothing more than lesbian softcore with a vampire twist. Nor would anyone end up mistaken on that front. But the sheer surreal nature of the film shows the writer/director was aiming for something much more than titillation. He wants to disturb as much as excite, to amuse as well as horrify. Truth to tell, in many ways he succeeds!
What are your candidates for little known vampire films more folks should see?