With the Twilight franchise finally (and thankfully) coming to close this year with Breaking Dawn Part 2, it’s time to take a look back over the last decade and highlight films with proper vampires.
You know the sort I speak of – cruel, bloodthirsty, full of lust and deadly. The polar opposite to the limp, sparkly and downright impotent abominations created by Stephenie Meyer.
Thankfully, those of us who like our vampires to be dangerous and murderous have managed to avoid that dross and satisfied our urge for something with a little more meat and horror.
Here I take a look at five of the best since the turn of the 21st century.
5. Daybreakers (Dir. the Spierig Bros, 2009)
The tale of a future world where vampires have taken over, using humans as their own form of cattle to provide a regular source of blood, the Spierig’s take on the classic monster is entertaining fare.
With blood supply dwindling, the vampires find themselves evolving into mutated creatures that will attack anything if it ensures survival. While this is taking place, a vampire scientist – played by Ethan Hawke – is working at trying to find a synthetic version of blood that can help temper the shortage.
It’s rare in an adult vampire film to have one of the monsters feeling sympathy for humans, but this is the case in Daybreak. An added twist sees a solution which could see vampires reverted back to their human form – but will they want to?
Stylish in its aesthetic and arresting with its take on the creatures, Hawke impresses while Willem Dafoe is as reliable as we’ve come to expect as part of the human resistance.
4. Stake Land (Dir. Jim Mickle, 2010)
A strange hybrid of a vampire film coupled with The Road, this post-apocalyptic feature from Mickle has lots to say about religion, social problems and the search for new beginnings.
Teen Martin (Connor Paolo) sees his life turned upside down during an unnamed political and economic disaster that brings the US to its knees.
When a vampire epidemic renders much of the country dead, Martin is swept into a fight for survival involving the mysterious Mister (Nick Damici). This rogue vampire hunter is intent on reaching New Eden where humans are starting a new life, but his task is hampered by all manner of hurdles including religious zealots who want to force their beliefs on the world.
It’s fair to say Stake Land divided audiences – it being a gritty, slow burn definitely put some people off, whereas I found it to be both entertaining and compelling. Plus Danielle Harris is in it, which is always a good thing.
3. 30 Days of Night (Dir. David Slade, 2007)
Based on a graphic novel, the premise for Slade’s adaptation centres on an Alaskan town that falls victim to a band of brutal vampires when a month of darkness arrives.
As ever with films about our fanged friends, they’re never threatening in daylight hours due to that pesky orange orb in the sky. Unfortunately for the locals of this particular town, the lack of daylight for a month just ensures incessant terror.
Thankfully, the vampires here are remorseless and go about their business of wiping out the human populace with military, blood-stained precision.
Main star Josh Hartnett takes on the hero role with aplomb but it’s the ‘stranger’, played brilliantly by an effectively creepy Ben Foster, and lead vamp Marlow (Danny Huston) who bring real foreboding to the show.
Visually arresting – especially the aerial shot of the mayhem enveloping the town – 30 Days of Night still stands up as one of the best recent vampire films.
2. Let the Right One In (Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Coming out of left-field some four years ago, Alfredson’s version of John Ajvide Lindqvist is one the best vampire film of the last decade.
Beautifully crafted, wonderfully acted and as brutal as it is delicate, LTROI ticks all the boxes when it comes to what I want from a film about the toothy terrors.
Set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982, Oskar, a 12-year-old schoolkid is targeted by the local bullies. However, his life changes when Eli moves in next door.
Noticing that she’s never out during the day and can only enter a room when invited, Oskar finds this new arrival beguiling. However, the biggest effect Eli has on Oskar is instilling in him the strength and confidence to fight back.
What the lovelorn young boy doesn’t realise, though, is that his new friend is a vampire.
It’s worth pointing out that the two young stars are both astonishing. You believe Oskar is lovestruck by the newcomer. And you can’t help but sympathise with him when he realises what she really is. Can his love for her overcome the terrible things she’s done in the name of survival?
Conversely, we feel the same way about Eli. She didn’t want to become this creature and she’s only living on pure instinct. The fact she can contain her bloodlust when around Oskar displays a love that transcends their situation.
Let the Right One In is a fantastic version of the age-old myth, mixed with a coming of age tale, that finishes with a quite brilliant flourish that will leave everyone feeling satisfied.
1. Thirst (Dir. Park Chan-wook, 2009)
What’s not to love about Park and his films? This odd take on the mythology behind vampires is darkly comic and incredibly thought-provoking.
Sang-hyun (Song Kang-Ho) is a priest who volunteers for a medical experiment involving a vaccine for a disease that’s claiming the lives of many people. However, the experiment fails and Sang-hyun dies – but not for long. The (vampiric) blood used to try to revive him eventually brings him back to life and the priest is hailed as some kind of miracle healer.
When he becomes close to the family of an old friend – including the friend’s downtrodden wife Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), his beliefs and morals are sorely tested as his thirst for blood begins to take over.
As is now expected of Park’s features, he manages to display a level of humanity towards people who commit inhumane acts – in this instance, we have Sang-hyun drinking blood via tubes from the bodies of comatose hospital patients. He attempts to justify his actions by saying he isn’t killing them but refuses to acknowledge the fact he’s still doing it without permission.
Tae-ju, on the other hand, seems to think she can act without impunity, having seen herself as the victim of domestic (and mental) abuse at the hands of her husband and mother.
In the end, Thirst asks questions about whether we’re capable of retaining our beliefs and morals if we find ourselves in a position of power. With Sang-hyun, he’s quick to shed the title of priest as his baser instincts take over.
Almost operatic in tone, Thirst is beautifully shot (thanks to Chung-hoon Chung) and the acting is note perfect – epitomised by the final sequence where we can be repelled by their actions but, at the same time, understand that it’s easy to follow them down that path given the chance.
Thirst is simply stunning.