With Daybreakers (review) and The Wolfman (review) chewing up the big screen, here’s my pick of five vampire and five werewolf movies that are ahead of their respective packs. Feel free to chip in:
5 must-see vampire movies
1. Near Dark (1987): Director Kathryn Bigelow takes a vampire gang on the road – the v-word is never mentioned – and mayhem ensues, with help from a superb cast. Tangerine Dream provide the soundtrack.
2. Dracula (1931): Bela Lugosi helps imprint Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the archetype for decades to come, with gorgeous atmospheric cinematography.
cf Dracula (aka The Horror of, 1958) in which Christopher Lee adds his indelible stamp on the character in the first of Hammer’s long series of Dracula flicks.
3. Nosferatu (1922): A German silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, not suffering at all from copyright conflict with Stoker’s widow.
cf Nosferatu The Vampyre (a 1979 riff by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski in the title role: glorious!) and Shadow of the Vampire (2000) in which John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe have far too much fun bringing a behind-the-scenes tale of the making of Nosferatu to amazing life.
4. The Hunger (1983): Whitley Strieber’s novel is made all the more classy with Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie caught in a sunlit net of love, blood and death, beautifully directed by Tony Scott.
5. Vampire Lovers (1970): Ingrid Pitt is sensational as Camilla in this Hammer take of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic lesbian love story.
cf other Hammer standouts Vampire Circus (1972, in which a travelling circus comes to town) and Twins of Evils (1971, a sexy tale of a vampire seeking to tempt — you guessed it, twins in diaphanous gowns — to his way of life. er, death).
* You’ll notice my cop-out with the ‘see alsos’: just couldn’t decide on five from such a vast field that includes worthies such as Interview with the Vampire and Lost Boys. Maybe I should’ve gone for a top 10.
5 must-see werewolf movies
1. The Wolfman (1941): Lon Chaney Jr does for the werewolf what Bela did for the vampire.
cf The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), another ‘traditional’ man-becomes-monster scenario given gravitas by Oliver Reed (who quite possibly was a werewolf; he was certainly a wild man!).
2. The Howling (1981): Psychiatry meets the beast within. No guesses as to who wins in this stylish attempt to move the werewolf into modern society.
cf Wolf (1994) with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer for a similar attempt with a great latrine moment.
3. Ginger Snaps (2000): Puberty is truly blue for two sisters caught up in the change. Two sequels are also notable for actually taking the story somewhere new.
4. The Company of Wolves (1984): Neil Jordan directs Angela Lansbury in a fairy tale about men who are hairy on the inside. You’ve been warned, Red!
5. An American Werewolf in London (1981): great soundtrack, cool corpses and Jenny Agutter. What’s not to like in this fine balance of pathos and humour?
* While we’re in shapeshifter mode, feline-lovers should head over to Cat People, both the 1942 original and the 1982 remake for some quality time.
Trivia bonus: David Bowie was a vampire in The Hunger and contributed this lovely song to the 1982 Cat People soundtrack.