Vampire Film that Don’t Suck
by John Bikowski
illustration by Eric Johnson
One of the longest enduring themes in the horror movie genre has been the vampire film. I’m not sure why this is, but there always seems to be a large audience attracted to all things vampirific: i.e. movies, books, comics, jewelry, Japanese animation, lyrics, magazines, and more. There is even a vampire porno mag!? (Probably Blue Blood – ed.) As for films, consider John Carpenter’s Vampires as a recent example. Top-notch effects, James Woods spouting tough-guy dialogue, and superior editing simply cannot obscure the fact that most of it has been done before just as effectively (and less expensively). A similar situation surrounds Blade, which often seems like a pose-off for Wesley Snipes. I give him credit because he’s got more moves than a Jordache Jeans commercial and the action scenes are admittedly exciting. However, these flashy films still leave me with an empty feeling. They may be fun while viewing them, but once the credits roll, they are soon forgotten. The purpose of this particular column is to alert horror and vampire fans to other vampire gems that can be rented and are well worth the effort. The following list is not meant to be an exhaustive one, but it should provide some options.
Black Sabbath (1964) – Italian great Mario Bava directs three tales with the last starring none other than Boris Karloff as a vampire known as the “Wurdalak” who decapitates his victims. Karloff’s performance is great, and he is genuinely creepy as a blood drinker. A cool film.
Blood Spattered Bride (1972) – An artsy film about a lesbian vamp who seduces a young bride away from her new hubby. Overall, the film makes no sense, but there are several beautiful images (and one castration that’s painful to watch). One notable moment has the two naked female lovers lying together in a coffin as blood pours from bulletholes in the sides.
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) – A Hammer vampire film in which a swashbuckler type tries to slay his way through the countryside. Here the vampires drain youth rather than blood from their victims. This film is also noteworthy for Caroline (wicked hot) Munro and nice touches like flowers wilting when the vampire trots by.
Embrace of the Vampire (1995) – Alyssa Milano naked. Do you need to know anything else?
Near Dark (1987) – Starring a couple of guys from Aliens (Bill Paxton and Lance Hendriksen), this is one underrated film. Adrian Pasdar gets seduced and kidnapped by a gang of vampires who roam about the Southwest in stolen cars. Great acting and dialogue and some ass-kickin’ action (like a bar massacre) make this one a winner.
The Night Stalker (1972) – Darren McGavin (with unlimited charm) plays Carl Kolchak, a reporter who seems to attract the supernatural. In this premier episode (now on video), he investigates a series of showgirl killings that lead to a Hungarian vampire. This TV show scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, but you will still enjoy the humor, the pacing, and McGavin.
Rabid (1977) – Former pornstar Marilyn Chambers receives a skin graft that leads to an armpit growth that sucks blood from her victims. She eventually creates an army of rabid attack zombies. Great stuff from the prolific David Cronenberg.
Salem’s Lot (1979) (184 minute version) – Awesome TV movie that also had me quiver in my bedsheets as a kid. How can you go wrong with David Soul from Starsky and Hutch as a novelist who returns to Maine and is forced to battle a horde of vampires? The main monster is a tribute to Nosferatu but looks much freakier, complete with long, razor nails and mongo-sized chompers. The young boy vampire floating in a mist while scratching the window pane did it for me. Yikes!
Vampyres (1974) – This Dutch film surprised me when I first saw it. Put the kids to bed early because this horny tale concerns a pair of murdered lesbians who seduce travelers for sex and blood-draining. One twist is that these vampires don’t have the traditional fangs so they must resort to stabbing their prey with giant knives. This, of course, leads to scenes of beautiful naked women tearing and licking away at bloody wounds. Sure to offend everyone, so check it out.
Martin (1977) – This is one of my all-time favorites. George (Dawn of the Dead) Romero directs this amazing and ironic low-budget film about a teenage boy who may or may not be a vampire. His mentally-disturbed uncle treats the boy, Martin, like the Anti-Christ. Martin lives up to his uncle’s fears by venturing out to drug women, slice them with razor blades, and drink their blood. You will wonder… is he really over a hundred years old, or is he just a sexually confused psychopath? There are some excellent gore scenes from Tom Savini – like a razor opening an artery, and a wooden stake pounded into a bare chest. Listen to the end of the credits for an ambiguous statement that will send a chill up your spine. Give this one a chance!