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SYFY WIRE Vampires

11 vampire movies to watch after you see 'Morbius'

There are a lot of good vampire movies out there.

By James Grebey
Dracula Bramstokers1

Everybody’s talking about the new blockbuster movie about a vampire who originated in the pages of Marvel Comics in theaters today — what? No, not Blade. It’s Morbius! You know! Morbius, the Living Vampire? From the Spider-Man comics? Jared Leto? It — it’s Morbius?

Anyway, reviews for Morbius have largely been negative but if you’re in the mood for some blood-sucking action, here are 11 great vampire movies. Some are horror classics, some are new masterpieces, and others are silly fun. And, yes, one of them is Blade

1. Van Helsing (2004)

The 2004 Hugh Jackman movie Van Helsing is not what scientists would call “a good movie,” but it is exactly the sort of dumb fun that Morbius attempts to deliver but can’t quite sink its teeth into. Jackman plays the legendary monster-hunter as he fights Dracula, Dracula’s brides, Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein’s Monster, the limitations of early ‘00s CGI, and more in this pulpy romp. Basically, it takes the vibes of the classic Universal Monsters and turns them into wonderful action schlock.

2. Dracula (1931)

Speaking of Universal’s Classic Monsters, the 1931 Dracula is a seminal film for a reason. Although its pacing is quite slow by modern standards, Dracula comes alive (as it were) anytime Bela Legosi’s count is on the screen. More than 90 years later, it’s still astounding how intimidating, eerie — and yet somehow seductive —  Dracula looks due to just some lighting and Legosi’s incredible stare. 

3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

The title of this 1948 horror-comedy only tells half the story. In this crossover, the classic comedy duo also meet the Wolf Man and Dracula. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (and Co.) manages to be legitimately funny and respectful of the various featured horror monsters and their legacy. Notably, it marks the second (and final) time that Legosi would play Dracula, which is somewhat surprising given that the actor would play Frankenstein’s Monster and other less-famous vampires over the course of his career. 

4. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

Abbott and Costello’s vampiric misadventures are hardly the only time that vampire movies with lower, ah, stakes, have been successful. What We Do in the Shadows, Taika Waititi’s 2014 film — which has been adapted to an ongoing, arguably even better TV series on FX — puts a comedy spin on vampires by making the blood-suckers mundane, lame, and perhaps even a little endearing. (Hey, not every vampire can be ominous and sexy!) And yet, WWDITS still shows a clear affection for its monstrous subjects. 

5. Hotel Transylvania (2012)

It would be easy to write off the Hotel Transylvania franchise as another example of Adam Sandler doing his Adam Sandler thing and getting a lot of work for his friends. And while it is that, sort of, Hotel Transylvania benefits from director Genndy Tartakovsky, one of the few people working in modern animation who really wants to have fun with the medium.

Where many computer-animated movies feature rigid characters and models, Tartakovsky stretches and warps his characters at every turn, giving a zany, fluid, cartoonishness to everything. In other words, this Dracula is always transforming — not just when he’s going Bat Mode. 

6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is like Hotel Transylvania in that it was created by someone with a deep appreciation for the filmmaking medium and the craftsmanship is evident. It is unlike Hotel Transylvania in that Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of the iconic novel is extremely not for kids. This is a sexy Dracula — and, frequently, a gross and disturbing one.

Bram Stoker's Dracula also features some really impressive in-camera effects, meaning everything you see was done with real trickery rather than post-filming tweaks or computer-generated imagery. It gives the whole movie a really interesting, tactile, and otherworldly vibe compared to modern, CGI-filled vampire movies that shall remain nameless. 

7. Blade (1998)

The next movie on this list is Blade, which absolutely rules. The 1998 summer hit was based on Marvel comics' Daywalker, back before superhero movies or Easter eggs or shared universes were dominant at the box office. And, as a result, Blade was free to just do its own thing. Blade’s “thing” involved blood raves, Welsey Snipes looking cooler than anybody ever has, killer action, and motherf***ers trying to ice-skate uphill. Guillermo del Toro’s sequel, Blade II, is arguably even better.

8. Chronos (1993)

A still image from the film Cronos (1993).

It feels fine to leave Blade II off this list because we’re including another del Toro film, his 1993 debut Chronos. The Spanish-language film is both a fascinating look at the start of the career of one of the most distinctive and singular directors still around and an intensive, innovative spin on traditional vampire mythology. The bloodsucking curse in Chronos comes not from a fanged bite but a 450-year-old mechanical device that bestows eternal life — and a thirst for the sanguine — to those who use it. 

9. Let the Right One In (2008)

Up next is another foreign-language vampire film. Stillness is an underrated aspect of what makes Vampires so scary. They tend to sleep, motionless, in coffins. Legosi’s Dracula spoke with such deliberateness that pauses, like the beat between “I do not drink…” and “” felt so eerie. Let the Right One In, a 2008 Swedish romantic horror, is all about stillness and the tension between a little boy and the “little” vampire he befriends. There’s an American remake directed by Matt Reeves that’s not bad, but the original’s better.

10. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

This movie, directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino, follows two dirtbag brothers played by George Clooney and Tarantino who rob banks. However, as might be expected by the fact that it was directed by Robert Rodriguez and only written by Tarantino, and that it is on this list of vampire movies, From Dusk Till Dawn is not your average crime thriller. It’s a wild, grind house sort of movie.

11. Nosferatu (1922)

Let's end this list of vampire movies — one that was prompted by the release of the newest entry to the vampire canon — with perhaps the oldest vampire movie. Nosferatu, which turned 100 years old in March,  is pioneering German film director F. W. Murnau’s telling of the Dracula story, but altered so that it wouldn’t infringe on the copyright of Bram Stoker’s novel.

Turns out it wasn’t changed quite enough because Stoker’s family sued, and for a while, it was believed that all prints of Nosferatu had been destroyed as a result. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and a century later, you can watch a truly great horror movie. As a silent film, the pacing, cinematography, and editing might be a little jarring to modern viewers, but the image of Max Schreck as the horrid, rat-like Count Orlok is indeed haunting after all this time. It’s a masterpiece.