A Little Thursday Night Bloodletting

As I have mentioned at various points during the Countdown of My Favorite Vampire Movies, I am a genre purist and I don’t care for breaking the “rules” as it were. I do, however, enjoy vampire stories that play around in the margins and try to add something to the mythos that seems to be a natural extension. A couple of films in tonight’s installment do just that.

6. 30 Days of Night – 2007

Josh Hartnett’s very short appearance in Sin City intrigued me. There was an oddly alluring darkness to his portrayal of “The Man.” Two years later he became an action hero in 30 Days of Night. 28 Days Later introduced us to “rage” zombies, and 30 Days of Night brought us “rage” vampires.

Based on Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic, David Slade directed this tale of a band of vampires who figure out how to beat the sun by descending on the town of Barrow, Alaska, where, you guessed it, the sun doesn’t rise for a month. Their arrival is heralded by “The Stranger” played by Ben Foster (X-Men: The Last Stand) who steals and torches cell phones, murders sled dogs, and does whatever else he can to prevent the local townsfolk from leaving or communicating with the outside world. The gang of feral vampires does the rest.

Hartnett’s Sheriff Eben Olsen, his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George), brother Jake, and a ragtag band of locals team up to not only fight to survive against Marlow (Danny Huston) and his pack of bloodsuckers but also to make sure Barrow’s story gets told.

This has become one of my favorites because of how vicious and violent the vampires are. The concept of preying on people where the sun is taken out of the equation as a weapon against the vampires is an interesting idea, except when you wonder why they haven’t thought of it before now. There are some great individual performances as well.

5. Nosferatu – 1922

Every schoolchild in America lit up when the teacher wheeled in the16mm film projector. I don’t remember how old I was or what grade I was in, but I had a teacher who screened F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu over the course of two or three days. I couldn’t tell you much of that first viewing other than Max Schreck’s performance as Count Orlock was mortifying.

We almost didn’t have this one, much like the lost London After Midnight. F.W. Murnau did not have the Stoker estate’s permission to use Bram Stoker’s Dracula for this movie, so Murnau changed the characters’ names and some plot details and scenes. Nosferatu is still basically Dracula. A judge sided with Stoker’s widow and ordered all copies destroyed. Fortunately, at least one survived. This film is atmospheric and suspenseful. The influence of German expressionism is evident throughout and Murnau’s cinematography is almost a character unto itself. What’s interesting is the opening credits of the restored English language version shows the character names as they would have been if Murnau didn’t have to change them.

Klaus Kinski takes on the role of Count Orlock, actually Dracula, in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of Murnau’s masterpiece. Kinski’s performance is nuanced and layered. Herzog was able to use the names of the characters from Bram Stoker’s novel since rights issues have been long resolved. So, Orlock is now Dracula. Bruno Ganz plays Jonathan Harker and Isabelle Adjani plays Lucy Harker.

4. Let the Right One In/Let Me In – 2008/2010

A young bullied boy befriends the supposed female vampire who moves in next door. The original Swedish version is phenomenal and the American remake is excellent. Kåre Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) star in the Swedish version, while Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz star in the American version. Cara Buono (Stranger Things) plays Owen’s mom, while Elias Koteas (the original Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) plays a local detective who starts to figure things out.

The relationship between the bullied Oskar and Eli/Owen and Abby (U.S. version) begins as friendship and slowly becomes co-dependence and maybe even love as the two learn to protect each other, and even desire to do so. Although a bit slow-paced, these films are unusual and different and very well acted. It doesn’t take the viewer long to understand that Eli/Abby has a caretaker or guardian (Per Ragnar as Håkan/Richard Jenkins as The Father), and why they don’t tend to stay in one location for very long. A vampire passing as a 12-year-old girl feeding on housing project residents tends to draw attention, especially when the guardian fails in his cover-up duties. Oskar/Owen eventually realizes that he is destined to become that guardian and that he won’t be the last.

Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it’s a new-age tale of Gothic horror for the vampire and a coming of age story for the bullied boy, these movies are well-written and gritty. The original is pitch-perfect and well done, and the American version is pretty damn good too.

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
14. Lifeforce
13. Thirst
12. What We Do in the Shadows

11. Hammer Studios’ Dracula franchise
10. Fright Night
9. Underworld
8. From Dusk Till Dawn
7. Blade

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