Everyone knows that I am partial to classic horror films and that will become more evident as we get to Halloween. Everything in the horror genre is cyclical – vampires, werewolves, zombies, and even mummies keep coming back around. You can’t keep a good monster down as they say. Tonight’s three-pack features three “newer” films. Whether or not they are destined to become classics remains to be seen.
9. Underworld – 2003
The film that launched Kate Beckinsale’s career and a movie franchise. Beckinsale stars as Selene, a vampire “death dealer,” a soldier in a trumped-up war against werewolves (lycans). Bill Nighy, Scott Speedman, and Michael Sheen star. This atmospheric film has its issues. You have no idea exactly where the movie is set, somewhere in the Czech Republic if I had to hazard a guess. The genre rules get bent a bit, but director Len Wiseman makes it all work somehow as he creates a mythos that really doesn’t go sideways until later films.
I don’t know if I would so much call this a horror film as some kind of supernatural thriller or action/adventure. There are vampires (which puts it on this list) and werewolves, so I suppose it qualifies. There is plenty of murder and mayhem and betrayal and blood.
The sequels are hit or miss. They aim to tell a complete story arc of the origin of the two species and the war between them and carry that into the future. You would be fine if you quit after Rise of the Lycans. Shane Brolly’s horrible overacting as Kraven damn near derails this movie. But it has plenty of redeeming qualities.
8. From Dusk Till Dawn – 1996
I consider this to be George Clooney’s best movie. It really is two movies in one – taut hostage drama/batshit crazy vampire film. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play the Gecko brothers, a pair of violent fugitives on the run from the law. They kidnap Harvey Keitel and his family – played by Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu – and hatch a plan to cross the border into Mexico, where they are to meet up with Cheech Marin (who plays three characters in the movie) who is to take them to the sanctuary city of El Rey (all part of Robert Rodriguez’s interconnected movie mythos).
Everything goes smoothly until they head to the rendezvous, a bar called the Titty Twister. The band of border crossers meets up with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Frost) and Tom Savini (Sex Machine) at the bar, which happens to be run by vampires – Cheech, Danny Trejo (Machete), all the dancers, the waitstaff, the band, and the leader – Santanico Pandemonium (played by a vamped up Salma Hayek).
The vampires show their true colors, and all hell breaks loose. This is a fun, ridiculous movie. Michael Parks plays recurring Tarantino/Rodriguez character Texas Ranger Earl McGraw.
7. Blade – 1998
When Wesley Snipes wasn’t running from the IRS, he was hunting vampires as the vampire/human hybrid Blade in the first Marvel superhero film. Kris Kristofferson plays Blade’s trusty sidekick, Stephen Dorff stars as rogue vampire Deacon Frost and Donal Logue, and Arly Jover co-star as Frost’s right and left hands as it were. Former adult film star Traci Lords gets her name in the opening credits and lasts about 10 minutes. Stephen Norrington directed Stephen S. Goyer’s screenplay.
As the story goes, Blade was born a vampire/human hybrid when his mother (Sanaa Lathan) is bitten while she is pregnant with him. He meets up with Abraham Whistler (Kristofferson) as an adolescent and grows up to be a vampire hunter. Meanwhile, Frost discovers an ancient vampire prophecy with promises of the coming of the Blood God. He defies the vampire council, headed by Dragonetti (Udo Kier). Blade rescues a hematologist named Karen (N’Bushe Wright), who gets tangled up in the mess and even tries to cure Blade. Frost channels the Blood God and squares up with Blade, who has been trying to hang onto his humanity for decades, in an epic showdown with plenty of Samurai swordplay.
There are some excellent, if not campy, individual performances in this movie, including Eric Edwards as Pearl the recordkeeper and Logue as Quinn.
This has become one of my favorite movies in any genre despite the underdeveloped vampire subculture, mythology, and history. Blade II tries to explore the vampire underworld but doesn’t do a very good job, and Blade Trinity, well …
31a./31b. Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream
30. The Lair of the White Worm
29. Son of Dracula
28. Vampire Circus
27. Innocent Blood
26. The Hunger
25. Countess Dracula
24. Dracula (1979)
23. Count Dracula (1977)
22. The Vampire Lovers
21. Dracula’s Daughter
20. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
19. Salem’s Lot
18. Shadow of the Vampire
17. Interview with the Vampire
16. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter
15. Twins of Evil
12. What We Do in the Shadows
11. Hammer Studios’ Dracula franchise
10. Fright Night