In March, the Offscreen Film Festival brings a retrospective of the most unusual vampire movies ever made.
No supernatural creature has been portrayed as frequently in cinema history as the vampire. Bram Stoker's Dracula, everyone's favorite bloodsucker, has alone racked up nearly 200 different movie appearances. Even today, the vampire continues to fascinate, guaranteeing the box office success of franchises such as Twilight and Underworld. The flipside of this popularity is that the monster has become too hokey and familiar. Indeed, to quote the title of one Twilight spoof, "Vampires Suck." But they are also supremely versatile, as Offscreen shows with a selection of 21 unusual vampire movies which turn the genre conventions upside down, breaking with the clichés of Gothic castles, garlic, and crucifixes to depict the creatures as hyper-realistic, modern, exotic, hybrid, or simply deranged. These films provide unique spins on vampire mythology and inject the genre with compelling stories about the human condition, sexuality, addiction, disease, and mortality.
Let the Right One In
A lonely, 12-year-old boy, bullied by classmates, yearns to make friends with the girl who just moved in next door. But it seems she might be connected to a series of local murders. What does she want from him, and will their friendship survive? An award-winning, exquisitely intimate vampire drama.
The doyenne of female action directors (Point Break, The Hurt Locker) made her solo debut with this story of a modern "family" of vampires who roam the American Southwest. The result is a stunningly directed horror western and cult classic pur sang, with a superb soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.
An experimental medical treatment infects a Catholic missionary with vampirism. The genius director of the Vengeance Trilogy - Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy, and Lady Vengeance - outdoes himself with a modern vampire film which is violent and poignant in equal measure.
Ganja and Hess
A ceremonial dagger grants anthropologist Dr. Hess immortality at the cost of a craving for blood. This highly-stylized curio about sex, religion and Afro-American identity flirts brilliantly with Blaxploitation and horror conventions. Finally shown in its original, restored version.
The director of Night of the Living Dead has another, lesser-known classic to his name in this exceptional film about a troubled 17-year-old who believes he's a vampire. Romero considered this bold, downbeat deconstruction of the vampire myth to be one of his best films.
Daughters of Darkness
Belgian director Harry Kümel focuses on the sexual nature of vampirism and the sadomasochistic relationship between victim and aggressor in this elegant, dreamlike film, partly shot inside the Astoria Hotel in Brussels. Delphine Seyrig is divine as ultra-chic Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
This postmodern reworking of the 1930s Universal classic Dracula's Daughter was filmed in New York and features music by Portishead and The Verve. It's an enchanting, dreamlike showcase for the melancholy majesty of Elina Löwensohn, with support from Peter Fonda, Martin Donovan, and David Lynch.
Did you know that, in the Far East, vampires hop? And that the Chinese protect themselves from these creatures by holding their breath, or pelting them with sticky rice? These and other curious facts are some of the things you will learn in the ultimate Hong Kong martial arts horror-comedy!
After a motorcycle accident, Rose (porn star Marilyn Chambers in a "straight" role) undergoes experimental surgery which leaves her with a blood-sucking orifice in her armpit. Her victims turn into zombies, triggering a city-wide epidemic. Bleak, innovative and full of Cronenberg's recurring themes.
Tokyo Vampire Hotel
The theatrical cut of Sion Sono's nine-part mini-series for Amazon Prime Japan oozes with color, delirious spectacle, and tons of blood and gore. A clan of vampires lures humans into a hotel where they plan to set up a blood farm. Sardonic entertainment from the maker of Suicide Club and Tokyo Tribe.
A mysterious device giving eternal life to its owner resurfaces after 400 years. But immortality has its price. This original, compelling revision of vampirism is the debut feature of the Mexican filmmaker who would go on to win international acclaim with Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water.
The New York director of Ms. 45 and Bad Lieutenant links vampirism to drug addiction and AIDS in a bizarre urban horror film infused with theological concepts of sin and redemption. With Lili Taylor as a bloodthirsty philosophy student and Christopher Walken as a Nietzschean elder vampire.
Sam has just broken up with his girlfriend. A rebound with the sensual Anna promises to be the perfect distraction, but she lures him into a web of addiction and bloodlust. NY indie producer Larry Fessenden (Wendigo) tackles both the directing and the leading role in this compelling psychological horror.
The Shiver of the Vampires
A fang-tastic example of French filmmaker Jean Rollin's personal and unorthodox vampire movies of the 1970s. An orgy of colorful, stylized violence and pubic hair eroticism that blooms into a nightmarish atmosphere where wet dreams and bloody reality overlap.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Two criminals and their hostages seek refuge in a seedy truckers' bar which turns out to be the front for a horde of vampires. Rodriguez and Tarantino pull out all the stops in this heist movie which morphs into pure horror. With George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Salma Hayek.
Wesley Snipes plays the half-vampire half-mortal superhero, based on the Marvel Comics character, who slays fanged monsters to protect the human race. A visually innovative film thanks to acrobatic camera angles, bizarre costumes, and continuous cutting between close-ups and long shots.
Peter thinks he's a vampire. Or is he insane? Nicolas Cage's outrageous overacting and the useless discussions with his “psychotherapist” evoke the brilliantly inept scenes from The Room and will have you roaring with laughter. Cage also eats a real live cockroach. A quirky gem of 1980s horror-comedy.
A teenager learns his new neighbor is a vampire, but his friends don't believe him, so he seeks help from a TV horror show host. Director Tom Holland (Child's Play) successfully mixes suspense with humor in this fun genre-update with wacky practical special effects and a great 1980s soundtrack.
La comtesse aux seins nus
Jess Franco cast 19-year-old Lina Romay, his muse, in her first leading role as a vampire feeding on both the sexual fluids and blood of her victims. Soaked in hypnagogic atmosphere, this Belgian co-production is one of the director's most transgressive films. Screened in the uncut erotic French-language version!
A beautiful vampire (Catherine Deneuve) promises her lovers eternal life but neglects to tell them eternal youth isn't part of the deal. When her latest mate (David Bowie) starts aging, she looks around for someone to replace him. A strange, dreamy film from the director of Top Gun and True Romance.
The Lost Boys
Two brothers move to a Californian town which is teeming with teenage vampires. Fun-filled horror comedy from the director of St. Elmo's Fire and Batman Forever, featuring a cast of such up-and-coming young 1980s talent as Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, and Corey Feldman.
In March, you can discover all of these unusual vampire movies on the big screen at the Offscreen Film Festival. For dates and venues, check out their website.