1. THE LOST BOYS (1987).
A mother and her two teenage boys move to a small town in northern California. The younger (Corey Haim) of the brothers befriends two local geeks working in the comic-book store, while the older brother (Jason Patric), angst-ridden and wanting to fit in, soon finds himself mixed up with a gang of motorbike-wielding vampires, having fallen for the leader’s girlfriend. There are seemingly two Joel Schumachers in the cinematic universe: (1) the formidable force in Hollywood who brought us such classics as A Time To Kill, Falling Down, and Flatliners, and (2) the guy who brought us The Number 23 and Batman Forever, which aren’t worth discussing. Fortunately, with The Lost Boys, we have the former. Comprising the quintessential 80s cast and a soundtrack which packs a punch throughout, this is vampirism done properly.
2. NEAR DARK (1987).
The son of a small-town farmer joins a group of vampiric vagabonds after being bitten by one of their beautiful, seductive members. Being part of the 1980s vampire revival, which included such cult classics as Fright Night and The Lost Boys, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark is unique in the sense that it combines elements of both Western and horror genres and doesn’t hold back for a moment. Released only a year after James Cameron’s Aliens — Bigelow would later marry Cameron — she contributes to the genre with a smorgasbord of mutilations and bloodlust, Tangerine Dream’s eerie synthesiser-laden accompaniment, and an ensemble cast including Aliens‘ Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Jenette Goldstein.
3. THIRST (2009).
Having volunteered for a medical experiment which ultimately failed, a well-respected priest becomes infected and dies; however, a blood transfusion of unknown origin brings him back from the dead, a transfusion which renders him a vampire torn between faith and a thirst for blood. Directed by the masterful Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Stoker), Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize-winning Thirst is a South Korean horror which is as much about style as it is about substance, a film which tackles the psychological repercussions of all those involved in an entanglement of love and bloodlust.
4. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008).
Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire. And who said the Swedish film industry can’t rub shoulders with the rest of the world? I haven’t had much experience with Swedish films, let alone Swedish horror films. Nonetheless, this suspenseful take on a vampire film has everything: gore, lust, a creepy, desolate terrain, and a childhood romance like no other. It is not surprising that Tomas Alfredson’s much-loved horror has led to the opening of doors outside of Sweden, not least 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
5. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996).
Two bank robbers (Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney) flee to Mexico to evade the authorities. Having taken hostage a pastor (Harvey Keitel) and his two children in order to cross the US–Mexico border, the two fugitives must lay low in a trucker bar while waiting for a rendezvous at dawn. Soon enough, all hell breaks loose and the group must fend off a cavalcade of bloodthirsty vampires until daylight arrives. From Dusk Till Dawn, directed by Desperado‘s Robert Rodriguez and penned by Pulp Fiction‘s Quentin Tarantino, is half-gangster, half-horror, and is effortless in its pursuit of a hybrid, John Carpenter-esque genre which incorporates sharp, witty dialogue and scantily clad, albeit nightmarish, strippers.