Monday, October 6, 2014

Movie Monday: the best undead films, Part 1

Part 1: Vampires!

Vampires!  Vampires!  Vampires!  We've all been in a rage over vampires for about the last 30 years, and the craze doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.  So let's take a look at the 20 best vampire films of all time.  (This is subjective of course.  This is just a list of the films that we think are the best, but we do have pretty good taste, if I do say so myself.)  You will notice that Twilight is not on this list.  When The Voodoo Lady and I were brainstorming this, I told her that if she named Twilight as one of her favorite vampire movies, I would book a flight all the way from Perth to Orange County (that's over 9,000 miles) and personally punch her in the face.  Thankfully, she doesn't like Twilight.  And as it doesn't deserve any more words than we've already given it, let's get on with what we came here to do:

#20:  Underworld saga
This is a mega blockbuster series, but it sits at number 20 for us because it's rather cliche.  The only reason it's on this list is because this is one of the sleekest, hippest, sexiest portrayals of vampires out there.  Yes, it's sexier than Twilight.

Really, we just like all the leather...

#19  Once Bitten
This bloodsucking comedy is an adorable watch, and makes it onto this list for three reasons.  Lauren Hutton oozes quirky sensuality, and is thus a perfect vampire.  Cleavton Little is always, always a joy to behold and he died too young so we love everything he was in.  And it's nice to see Jim Carrey in the days before he got obsessed with strange and violent potty humor.  He used to be cute and charming.  What happened?

#18:  Blood and Roses
Blood and Roses is a strange, gently misogynistic, dreamlike, confusing, and insistently charming film that I love though I can't explain why.  It explores the tired idea of an unstable woman becoming or seeming like a vampire due to being jilted or maturing and getting her period.  Really, this is the most insulting, ludicrous, lame interpretation of female sexuality, but somehow this film manages to be beautiful.  Also, the costumes are to die for.  The plot has a few holes, though.  I was confused at the end.

#17  From Dusk to Dawn
It hurts me to put a Robert Rodriguez and/or Quentin Tarantino movie anywhere but in the top 5 of any best films list, but I have to face the fact that, as deliciously campy as this film is and as much as I want to have Tarantino's babies, it is not as captivating nor humorous a depiction of vampirism as some of the other vampy movies out there.  But you can't have a vampire movie list without this film, and it's always nice to see Tarantino in front of the camera.  He is just as strange there as he is behind the camera!

#16  Fright Night (2011)
This is really about as cliche and predictable as vampire movies get, and it is a remake, which means by the usual laws of the universe, the original, and not the remake should be on this list.  However, this movie has David Tennant as an alcoholic, tatted-up, sex-addicted, childhood-trauma-suffering, and utterly adorable vampire killer.  That alone earns it a spot.  Because Tennant is a God.  (And only one of us compiling this list is a Dr. Who fan, so don't accuse us of just being fangirls.)

#15 Black Sunday
It's been about 5 years since I watched this, and I still have nightmares, though I can't by now remember all of the plot.  It has something to do with a convicted undead witch and some lovers and a vampire hunter and some other typical stuff.  And for the 1960s, it is a gruesome, bloody, terrifying adventure.  I cringe when I think about the opening scene...

I'm also given to understand that this is Tim Burton's favorite horror film, so it gets brownie points for that, of course.

#14  Dark Shadows (2012)
Continuing in the Tim Burton vein, we have the lovely Dark Shadows, which critics hated and Burton fans loved.  As a depiction of vampires, it and the TV show it was based on are rather original and thus charming, if not spectacular.  Johnny Depp makes a wonderful vampire: sexy, scary, quirky, impeccably dressed, a little behind the times.  A bit reminiscent of Nosferatu, in fact.  And Burton devotees like myself will appreciate this film for its throwback feel to Burton's early films.

#13 Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
This might seem at first glance like one of those movies that I bashed up there in Blood and Roses.  But somehow it's much more than that, and it's something that you'll only understand if you a) are a woman, and b) watch the movie for yourself.  It's not really a vampire movie either, so it shouldn't really deserve a place on this list, but it does have vampires in it, and it's a great film, so therefore it's here.

#12 Blade
Blade is just fun.  With most of the vampire angst replaced with total badassery, Blade creates a sarcastic and sometimes witty romp through the gory underworld of seedy vampires.  It treads the line between funny and serious well.  And we miss the days when Wesley Snipes wasn't a criminal.  Note: this listing does not include Blade II and III.  They don't make it anywhere close to a top 20 list of vampire films.

#11  Bordello of Blood
Why is this on the list, you ask?!?  Because it is fucking fun!  Yes, I used a swear word and I mean it!  There are two great kinds of vampire movies: the serious ones, and the completely not serious ones, and this takes the cake in the not serious department.  It's digusting, it's hilarious, it's occasionally insightful, it's got more tits than a lesbian porn movie... well of course it is: it's Tales from the Crypt!  It's also got Erika Eleniak.  And the skeevy prince from The Princess Bride (with a cowboy accent?!?).  Nuf Said.

#10  The Hunger
Catherine Deneuve.  David Bowie.  Susan Sarandon.

Steamy sex.

Ok, moving on...

#9  Dracula: Dead and Loving It!
Ok, I know what you're thinking: Mel Brooks is great and occasionally brilliant, but why is this on this list?  Four reasons.  The actors take their cheesiness very seriously, which makes it all the more fun.  The slapstick rivals that of Laurel and Hardy.  Leslie Nielson's Dracula is adorably incompetent and pitiable.  And Peter MacNicol.

Need another reason?  There's more garlic in this movie than in the entire country of Italy.  That deserves an award, right?

#8  Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi is kind-of the go-to name when you talk about iconic Draculas, and this movie certainly is iconic.  As one of the early vampire films, it set the stage for what we were to expect from every vampire in the 80 years since its release.  Lugosi's brooding, overly dramatic, heavily accented, sexually magnetic, snappy dressing Dracula has been copied and spoofed endlessly (just take the film above, for example).  While I think his performance is much too melodramatic, it's undeniable that this film is a gem in the crown of vampire cinema.

#7  Vampire's Kiss
I was leery to put this one this high on the list, but I really couldn't think of anywhere else to put it.  It doesn't belong in the top five, but it's also actually painfully brilliant.  It's funny and relatable and just... weird.  And we have a passionate nostalgia for Nicholas Cage before he went completely insane, making this film even more bittersweet.  (We actually have this theory that Nick is dead and has been replaced with a malfunctioning robot that no one is willing to turn off because he makes Hollywood so much money...)  So while we do come out of this film possibly having contracted a personality disorder, it is worth it every time.

#6  Dracula 1979
Where Bela Lugosi originated the sultry, dangerous Dracula, Frank Langella perfected it.  This movie, in terms of story or direction or costuming isn't all that special.  It's great, but not awesome.  However, Langella's Dracula is about the sexiest thing ever to wet women's panties, and for that alone, this film is here.  Even writing about it just --

Excuse me.  I have to go take a cold shower.

#5  Vampyr
The first time you watch this you will probably say, "What the...?"

Don't worry.  That's a perfectly normal reaction.  Take our advice and watch it again.  This film is slow and odd.  It teeters somewhere between excellence and this-is-so-strange-we-have-to-call-it-good.  That's why it's in the top five.  It's like a vampire.  It's inexplicable.  It's enigmatic.  It's otherworldly.

#4  Cronos

Cronos has been unjustly labeled as a cult film, and thus there are those who would say it doesn't deserve to be anywhere near the top five.  (Maybe that's because it's got young Ron Pearlman in it.  And I'm a cult film groupie, so it's here.)  But it's so much more than a cult film is expected to be.  Like Vampyr, it's weird and enigmatic.  It's not even strictly vampiric.  It's just blood-curdlingly odd.

#3   Vamps
Sometimes you just need a girly, frivolous, mindless romp with plenty of fashion don'ts and rat blood.  At those times you watch "Vamps."  It's like "Clueless" for twenty-something women with a need for 90s teen nostalgia and Alicia Silverstone's patented quirky adorable-ness.

Don't judge us.  You know she's the sweetest vampire ever.

Also, Sigourney Weaver massacring an entire Chinese restaurant and then making uppity and mildly racist slurs... needs to be seen to be believed.

#2 Vampire Academy
I'll be honest with you: this one's only this high because of the man candy and girl power.  And the angsty anti-romantic ending.  We haven't read the books, and have no intention of doing so, but a kick-ass girl power movie with a dark-ish mystery and a love charm that nearly results in an underage sex scene is the perfect movie night.  It's just a bonus that there are vampires in this.  Plus those awkward homo-erotic moments that probably made every lesbian on the planet cringe...  We enjoyed those.

(We have a weak spot for men with ponytails.  Sorry not sorry.)

#1 Byzantium
I have a hard time justifying putting this at the top of a list of vampire movies, but this one just haunted me.  It was dirty yet dreamlike, and disturbingly detached from its subject matter and from reality.  It was also a new and unexpected interpretation of the vampire origin story, and was choc full of frustrating sexism.  I keep re-watching it, trying to pinpoint why it stuck with me and trying to force it to have a more satisfying, easily wrapped-up-with-a-bow happy ending.  I'm left unsatisfied every time.  That's the mark of a good vampire movie.  It leaves you hungry for more.

Check back next week for our favorite zombie movies!

The Lonely Alchemist

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