Screen incarnations of the endlessly popular vampire have evolved from cruel to cool and from vein to vain.
Vampires – an evolutionary top ten
Nosferatu 1922 Dir: F W Murnau. Max Schreck is still the creepiest vampire ever put on film, a long-fingered, narrow-shouldered ghoul with hideous buck teeth. The film is an expressionist masterpiece by one of the greatest directors of the silent era. Still powerful, still shocking.
Dracula 1931 Dir: Tod Browning/Karl Freund. Bela Lugosi’s first appearance as Dracula, heavily indebted to the successful London and Broadway shows of 1927, but also hugely influential on later portrayals of the count. The close-ups of Lugosi’s eyes scared the pants off Depression-era audiences.
Dracula aka Horror of Dracula 1958 Dir: Terence Fisher. Christopher Lee’s first appearance as Dracula in the first of many Hammer vampire films. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing. Only available in a cut version until recently. The ground-breaking skin-decaying effects were originally too much for the British censors.
Cronos 1993 Dir: Guillermo del Toro. del Toro’s wonderful debut feature follows a long tradition of Mexican vampire movies. Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman star in a bizarre plot about a clockwork mechanism that gives eternal life, of a sort.
Interview with the Vampire 1994 Dir: Neil Jordan. ‘God kills indiscriminately and so shall we,’ says Tom Cruise as Lestat, creator of a not-so-happy vampire ‘family’, with Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst. Cerebral and disturbing.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992 Dir: Francis Coppola. Beautiful, mystical, metaphorical version, with Coppola exploring the possibilities of visual effects through a metaphor of love in the time of AIDS. Gary Oldman’s Count is unforgettable.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1992 Dir: Fran Rubel Kuzui. Joss Wheedon dislikes it, but the movie that came before the TV show is huge fun. Kristy Swanson kicks butt against Paul Reubens and Rutger Hauer.
John Carpenter’s Vampires 1998 Dir: John Carpenter. James Woods and Daniel Baldwin are like western gunfighters in this seriously entertaining New Mexico goon-hunt. They use a Jeep and pulley to rope and drag the bad guys into the light.
Let the Right One In 2008 Dir: Tomas Alfredson. The freshest vampire movie since Cronos. A Swedish film about the friendship between a lonely teenage boy and an unusual girl next door. Alfredson did the new Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
We Are The Night 2010 Dir: Dennis Gansel. A thoughtful and clever modern reinterpretation with Nina Hoss as mistress of a small coven in Berlin. Only women become vampires in this world, and they avenge themselves on bad men. Fast cars, doof music and bright red lippie.