Thursday, November 1, 2007

Vampire Week: Closing Thoughts

Well, vampire week has finally drawn to a close. I am now rather sick of watching vampire movies, like a bloated vampire who gorges himself on a nunnery. Actually, I’m a little tired of making vampire metaphors, too, so I’ll just cut that out. I’d like to finish with some closing thoughts, including a list of the vampire films that didn’t make it to the top 35 (in the form of short shameless rants) and a list of vampire films I didn’t get around to watching.

I was surprised that putting a seven-hour silent film with no vampires as #13 and a movie that could reasonably described as lesbian vampire porn as #17 elicited silence, but “Versus” and “Underworld” managed to draw decent controversy. I really was expecting more outcry at my preponderance for ponderous vampire “art films” than at my concessions to mainstream action fare. However, I’m glad for the discussion and alternative opinions and I’d like to send a special thanks out to all the usual suspects: Kathryn, Mad Dog, Exactly Why and Magus.

I probably wrote and stressed too much on this whole project, but moderation and perspective are not really my strong suits. An extra special thanks to my girlfriend for putting up with some late nights, clacking keyboards and a couple really awful rentals. When all is said and done, I certainly had a lot of fun, too, and I hope my readers enjoyed the results. There really are some great films in the list (though few would agree on every choice) and I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of interesting (and not so much) vampire pics in the future.

Movies that should have made the list:

There was one movie that I didn’t watch in time to make it on the list, but which would have gotten in (at #18). The film is Michael Almereyda’s “Nadja” (1994) starring Elina Lowensohn, Galaxy Craze (!), Peter Fonda and Martin Donovan and with David Lynch in a cameo role. It’s a dry, deadpan comedy in which detached NYC denizens deal with relationships and vampires (often both at once). It’s very stylized, self-conscious and understated and plays more like a Hal Hartley film than many Hartley films. The soundtrack has a nice disenchanted enchantment quality, featuring My Blood Valentine, Portishead, Spacehog and The Verve. About 70% of the B/W cinematography is excellent, while the remaining 30% is marred by a needless pixilation filter whose motivation I could never quite figure out. If you enjoy Jarmusch or, of course, Hartley, you’ll like this one as well.

And now for the list beyond 35, and the neglected movies that didn’t even get watched. This should help alienate the few people who enjoyed the list so far, but the advantage of writing in the darker corners of the internet is that there are less people tracing my IP address and beating me up for lunch money (which is what I still imagine internet predators do).

The rest of the vampire list (in roughly descending order):
Note: I left out most sequels to movies in the top 35, because I despise the sequel concept so greatly.

Interview with a Vampire – I hated this movie when I first saw it, but it’s really not that bad (mostly just overrated). Kind of makes you feel bad for Anne Rice that nobody can make a decent film from her work. I could describe the plot, but every person on the face of the world has already set through it and besides, it more interesting for its themes than its content or execution.

Immortality – Jude Law plays a vampire who feeds off love (which sounds like an autobiography)… and also blood. Considering all the hype around his brief nudity even I was hoping to see more skin than this delivered.

Lifeforce – Now here’s a movie that delivers on its promises. It’s about space vampires, with copious amounts of special effects and breasts. If you haven’t decided to see this movie yet, because you are waiting for me to describe the cinematography, script and acting… then this movie is not for you.

From Dusk Till Dawn – This director/writer collaboration between Tarantino and Rodriguez, respectively, has an interesting premise: the first half is a post-heist road trip following criminals (George Clooney and Tarantino) fleeing towards the Mexican border while the second half is a standoff against a vampire army in a strip club. This movie wastes an ungodly number of good ideas and at least one Harvey Keitel. The last shot, though, is pretty good.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Francis Ford Coppola cast everyone famous in Hollywood to be in his highly accurate adaptation and it still turned out boring and riddled with blank performances. Rated on Coppola’s career scale (with “Jack” equal to 0 and “The Godfather” equal to 10) this would be roughly a “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

Salem’s Lot (1979 version) – You’d think that thrice bitten, I’d be quadruply shy, but I still watched a TV miniseries Steven King adaptation against all instincts. It’s not really that bad, but who has the time or patience for a lackluster three-hour rehash of “that house is evil” and “my neighbor is evil” stories (apparently the guy who spent seven hours with “Les Vampyres.”)

Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter – How can a film about Jesus Christ, Mary “Magnum” and Mexican pro wrestler El Santos saving Canadian lesbians from vampires go wrong? Well for starters it can be filmed without a budget and burdened by an anemic script and a sense of humor that fizzles out after ten minutes. The theme song is pretty memorable and the tagline, “Let the power of Christ impale you,” still gets a smile.

Plan 9 From Outer Space – Ed Wood’s sci-fi/horror “masterpiece” is still widely cited as the worst movie of all time despite the fact that it’s silly, bankrupt badness is hilariously enjoyable to cine-trash lovers (which can’t be said for some other bad films). Bela Lugosi’s name appears in the credits, but don’t be fooled, it’s actually Mrs. Wood’s chiropractor behind the cape.

The Lost Boys – Seeing this film after being told by countless fans about its greatness was pretty disappointing. Everyone in this movie needed to stop trying so hard to be cool. I suspect the director had never heard the sage advice, “spare the backhand and spoil the performance.” I would have also smacked away the entire finale while I was at it.

Innocent Blood – A vampire gangster comedy with some good ideas, yet unable to hold a candle against “Vampires in Havana.” John Landis, who is known primarily for his comedies, displays his incompetence at handling all material that isn’t comedy. Oh, and the comedy parts are worst of all. Meanwhile Anne Parillaud is completely miscast in the lead, looking more like an elf on heroine than a vampire.

Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind – It started the whole Chinese hopping vampire craze, but the kung fu, comedy and horror is all so clowny and caricatured that its kind of embarrassing to watch. It has a few highs, but mostly low-brow lows.

John Carpenter’s Vampires – I saw this on TV way back when and I don’t even think I finished it. I seem to recall that it felt a lot like “Armageddon,” but with vampires rather than a comet. It was asking too much of even James Woods to save this one.

Omega Man – Somebody apparently thought it was a good idea to remake “The Last Man on Earth” with Charleston Heston and more motorcycles (a common folklore medicine for flagging productions). That person was very, very wrong. In fact, the only way you could make that worse is if you’d tried to cast Will Smith instead.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It – For all the vitriol that I want to spew at this film, I actually laughed several times. Leslie Nielson and Mel Brooks are not exactly on my good side, but this is one that I can notice lying in the $2.99 bin without feeling the desire to spit on it.

Daughters of Dracula (Vampyres) (1974) – This is pretty much a straight mixture of vampires and soft-core pornography that was actually pretty successful when it first came out. It’s slow, boring and redundant with a plot that goes nowhere, but I doubt the audiences that flocked to this in theaters really cared. In the interest of equal coverage, there’s also “Gayracula” (1983), (Tagline: He’ll suck you dry) but it was too awkward to acquire this one by any method.

Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula – I’m pretty sure I saw this Vlad the Impaler bio on TV some Halloween night a few years back and it ruined the whole evening. It reinforced my distrust of TV stations other than the History Channel trying to teach me historical fact because I’m pretty sure acting this bad wasn’t invented until “Camp Nowhere.” Peter Weller is in it.

Blacula – This movie is really not that bad, which is exactly what’s wrong with it. I was hoping for something about seventy times as over the top and instead it’s just a numbingly bland modernization of the Dracula legend with a mostly black cast. The villain could just have well been any serial killer or costume monster from a million other B-movies.

Vampyros Lesbos – Of the handful of Jesus Franco’s movies that I’ve seen, this one is probably my favorite. That doesn’t say much. It’s sleazy, but there’s an ambition behind it all that wants to make a arty mood piece as much as an exploitive cash-cow.

Fearless Vampire Killers – Considering that this film has a large cult following, there must be a whole subculture of people who laugh when exposed to the exactly same set of stimuli that makes me shake my head and moan for the sake of humanity.

The Night Stalker – A reporter comes to believe that a recent series of killing is the work of a vampire operating in LA. Every other character remains skeptical even after seeing the vampire, watching bullets bounce off it, seeing it fly and hearing it cry, “Kneel, puny mortals. I, your vampire lord, shall suck your blood!” (or some such nonsense). Statistics tell me that this was once the most successful TV movie of all time, but it sounds to me like audiences could have used some extra skepticism themselves.

Van Helsing – I went to see this at a drive-in double feature with “The Day After Tomorrow.” The two movies had about as much combined continuity as the outtakes from a five-minute Bugs Bunny cartoon. The same goes for realism. However, the cartoon would win hands down for character development and enjoyment.

Ganja and Hess – It has a lot of grainy shapes doing drugs and whining about living forever and vaguely defying their own philosophical concepts or something. This one was a long lost cult film that won some indie acclaim when it was discovered and restored for DVD, but I kind of wish the celluloid termites had found it first.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave – I skipped the first and second sequel to “The Horror of Dracula” (1958) secure in the knowledge that most series really climax on their fourth feature. This stagnant, recycled flop convinced me not to find out what I’d missed or to watch sequels four through eight.

Lips of Blood – Jean Rollins is famous for having made dozens of ethereal French, X-rated lesbian vampire movies and his reputation inspired a fair deal of curiosity in me. I mean… dozens? How much of his life did he commit to making those? Did it always stay fresh and new to him? As for me, I could hardly stay awake.

Fright Night – I put this on my list of vampire-movies-to-see because it won a Saturn award for best horror film. What I forgot was that winning a Saturn award in the 1980’s is about as prestigious as tying for third place in “Shakiest Use of Shaky-Cam” category of the MTV movie awards. Dear lord, I hated this film.

Some films I didn’t get around too:

The Bat (with Vincent Price) – I didn’t watch this, but Katie saw the second half and the first. Don’t ask.

Dracula 2000 – Considering that everybody skipped this back in 2000, I didn’t feel any obligation to watch it either.

Embrace of the Vampires – Knowing that this was purely as a vanity project for Alyssa Milano to do sex scenes still wasn’t enough to get this on my priority list. I think that bodes well for there being shreds of dignity somewhere inside me. Then again, there’s always next year.

I Am Legend – It’s not out yet, so you really can’t blame me.

London After Midnight – I don’t think I can be blamed for not seeing this one either. The last copy was destroyed before I was born. Still, the title lives on.

Queen of the Damned – Rice’s sequel to “Interview with a Vampire” has Aaliyah (in her final performance) as a vampire who becomes a rock star and plans a massive live (evil) concert. If I were going to see another vampire film any time soon, it would be this one for sheer gutsy premise alone.

Ultraviolet – Rarely has a preview ever backfired so badly. Had I never seen the trailer, I might have accidentally watched this movie. I gave Milla Jovovich a chance with “Resident Evil,” but this just goes too far. Why not try a Joan of Arc sequel?


FilmWalrus said...

If there are some vampire films that anyone would recommend and you didn't see them anywhere on vampire week or the closing thoughts, let me know. I have no intention of watching them for about 11.9 months, but I'm still curious.

Mad Dog said...


Patti said...

Your commentary here breaches into even further depths of obscure nerdhood... awesome.

FilmWalrus said...

Joan of Arc: Martyrs Gone Wild?

Mad Dog said...

If I were you, I wouldn't be surprised at which movies got the most comments. What was I going to do, say, "That wouldn't even make my top ten list of seven-hour vampire movies"?

Anonymous said...

Ultraviolet and Van Helsing are among the worst crimes wrought upon humanity.

Ugh, screw humanity. Wrought upon ME.



FilmWalrus said...

Mad Dog,

You make an excellent point. However, I usually expect people to complain and argue against movies even without seeing them.


I was thinking of suing the studios to cover my PTSD treatment bills. I still wake up in a cold sweat screaming "Turn off the projector! My god, who did that unbearable CG!?" My girlfriend has to talk me down.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Magus, if you thought THOSE were bad...

FRIGHT NIGHT. omfg, if there ever was a movie to grump about, that's it.

Or Fearless Vampire Killers.

Or...all of the ones on the didn't-make-it list.