October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best vampire movies that don’t feature Dracula is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
If you love vampire movies, you love Dracula. It just comes with the territory. And while we here in the Boo Crew have nothing but reverence for Bram Stoker’s seminal gothic novel and its various adaptations, there’s more to bloodsuckers than just the original Count. In scouring the horror genre for the best vampire movies that don’t include Dracula, we found films that overlap with Westerns, romances, comedies, and coming-of-age tales. These films are inventive, clever, and brilliant riffs on the lore that we know and love.
From Kiefer Sutherland as a hot blond vamp to Tom Cruise as a hot blond vamp, these are the most fang-tastic flicks and the best vampire movies that don’t feature Dracula, as chosen by Brad Gullickson, Chris Coffel, Jacob Trussell, Rob Hunter, Mary Beth McAndrews, Meg Shields, and myself.
10. The Lost Boys (1987)
I know what you’re thinking and, no, dear reader, we did not accidentally list these films in reverse order. Turns out there are so many good vampire movies (and democracy is such a flawed system) that this perfect film comes in at number 10. Still, it’s always a good time to celebrate Joel Schumacher’s horror-comedy about a gang of the undead terrorizing the boardwalk of Santa Carla, California and the preteens intent on stopping them. Extra credit for including a fun twist on vampire lore and some of the best bloodsuckers ever committed to celluloid — special shout-out here goes to Kiefer Sutherland’s bleach blonde, fanged psychopath David. All around, The Lost Boys is a complete blast from start to finish. Just be careful trying to eat Chinese food while watching. (Anna Swanson)
9. Let The Right One In (2008)
Launching the vampire mythos straight into the international arthouse snowbank, Let The Right One In is the horror film you show to your snobby friends who “don’t do” horror films. Directed by Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (adapting his own novel), Let The Right One In gracefully displaces ancient vampiric folklore into a frigid Scandinavian suburb in the early 1980s. A twelve-year-old loner named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) has idle fantasies of exacting revenge against the bullies who torment him at school. When he befriends his new, nocturnal next-door neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson), his violent fantasies subside into more tender aspirations. A horror film steeped in the guise of an existential coming of age drama, Let The Right One In teases warmth and “human” connection out of the icy grip of loneliness. (Meg Shields)
8. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Ana Lily Amirpour created the badass vampire of our collective dreams in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Played by Sheila Vand, this version of a bloodsucker skateboards through the quiet streets of the fictional Iranian ghost-town Bad City, looking to deliver vengeance on those who wrong others. As she travels about town, her chador flows behind her like a cape, creating a nod to that classic Dracula silhouette. At home, she blasts punk music and dances by herself as she puts on thick black eyeliner and plots her nightly activities. When she meets Arash (Arash Marandi), she finally finds companionship, a break in the solitude of her existence. It is no longer just about justice, but about finding connection with a human being. Sure, she drinks blood, but only from those that abuse others. This woman is an outlaw and Amirpour’s version of the handsome vigilante seen in American Westerns. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
7. Ganja & Hess (1973)
Before 1973, we hadn’t seen a vampire quite like the ones Bill Gunn manifested in his film Ganja & Hess. And I don’t mean that in the sense that we had rarely seen an actor of color play one of these famously milky-white skinned monsters before – Blacula had just come out the year before. I mean that we had never seen the vampire mythos turned so squarely on its head to not only offer us a revitalized take on an ages-old concept, but to break a mold that maybe we didn’t think could – or should – be broken. The titular Dr. Hess (Duane Jones) isn’t a vampire in the classic sense. He wasn’t bitten on the neck, or has the ability to transform into a bat. No, his curse comes from a far deeper place wedged into the cultural history of his race. Gunn seemed to understand that, like many of his horror contemporaries, the only way he would have the chance to tell a story that wasn’t being told in Hollywood was through the lens of genre cinema. That he was able to make the film as beautiful as it is amidst all the gloopy blood is a testament to his incredible talent. (Jacob Trussell)
6. 30 Days of Night (2007)
While this absolute gem of sharp teeth and bloody gore should have landed higher on this list of the best vampire movies, I’m just happy to see it getting any praise at all. David Slade‘s adaptation of the popular graphic novel — vampires arrive in a northern Alaska town just as it settles into a month of darkness — was a hit in theaters before being followed by a crappy sequel and then fading into the vampire discourse as Twilight premiered the following year. It’s the antithesis of sparkling vampires and romantic bloodsuckers and instead finds actual terror in the prospect of undead pricks biting into your flesh for sustenance and fun.
It’s a very bloody film with some terrific gore beats including an unforgettable decapitation (that also deserved a higher placement over on our list of the gnarliest beheadings), but the carnage is paired with nightmarish beauty. One shot flies us slowly above the town as horror unfolds below — we see people running, vamps attacking, blood trails arcing across the snow — and it’s the kind of artistry these films rarely achieve. The vampire designs are more creepy than stylish, their behaviors are more animalistic than erudite, and we truly come to care about some of the survivors fighting for their lives. Well, about two of them anyway, and that’s because both Melissa George and Josh Hartnett deserve it. (Rob Hunter)