Vampires have long been a staple of film and television, with the earliest dating back to 1922, when Nosferatu, an unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, was released from director F.W. Marnau, widely regarded as the most influential filmmaker of the silent movie era.
This August will see the release of another Dracula-inspired film, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, from Norwegian genre genius André Øvredal (Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, Trollhunter), which promises to win over vampire fans given the strength of the filmmaker’s previous work.
Directed by Øvredal, from a script by Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room), Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) and Zak Olkewicz (Bullet Train), and based on the chapter “The Captain’s Log” of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the terrifying story of the merchant ship Demeter, which was chartered to carry private cargo—fifty unmarked wooden crates—from Carpathia to London.
Strange events befall the doomed crew as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage, stalked each night by a merciless presence onboard the ship. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.
In celebration of The Last Voyage of the Demeter reaching cinemas this August 11, we thought it was a perfect occasion to celebrate 5 truly unique vampire movies that you may not have stumbled across until now…
THE TRANSFIGURATION (2016)
Boasting a killer ensemble cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Larry Fessenden and Lloyd Kaufman, to name just a few, O’Shea’s poignant and chilling tale follows teenager Milo, who lives alone with his older brother. Bullied at school, he finds solace in his somewhat unorthodox hobby: vampirism, which he has developed a taste for through his vast collection of vampire films.
Ruffin and Levine’s chemistry is simply perfect, and with such a tightly structured script, this is a must-see for anyone who prefers vampire tales firmly grounded in reality.
This intoxicating, mesmerising and unforgettable slice of psychedelic cinema from Joe Begos centres on Dezzy (Dora Madison), a down-and-out artist who turns to a highly addictive, hallucinatory drug called Bliss (a potent blend of cocaine and DMT) to help stimulate her creative juices. What follows is a mind-altering and visceral experience; one where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are as fuzzy as Dezzy’s memories of the night before.
In our review out of 2019’s Frightfest, Jessy Williams said, “Bliss is what you’d get if Gaspar Noe and Abel Ferrara co-directed a drug-fuelled vampire movie with Kathryn Bigelow over-seeing the whole shoot. It’s what The Addiction would have been if Lili Taylor‘s character had taken a shit-ton of hallucinogens before biting into her victims or if the drugs in Climax turned everyone into blood-thirsty creatures of the night.” If that description doesn’t have you wanting to watch it right now, we don’t know what would.
This ingenious debut feature from Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee who wrote, directed and starred in the film was a huge hit on the international festival circuit. When Derek finds out that he is suffering from an arteriovenous malformation of the brain, he decides to make the best of what time he has left to travel the world with his friend Cliff, taking a camera with him to post videos of his experiences on his blog.
But once in Europe and following a strange romantic adventure, Derek’s metabolism suddenly starts to change, rejecting all food but developing superhuman strength. Afflicted is by far one of the most inventive Found Footage films in recent years, delivering a story that more than justifies the first-person perspective and the realistic portrayal of the two protagonists makes it impossible not to empathise with them; something that the filmmakers exploit to the fullest to terrify their audiences as effectively as possible.
BLOOD RELATIVES (2022)
Written and Directed by Noah Segan (actor you’re sure to have seen in films such as Knives Out, Looper), who also co-stars in the film alongside Victoria Moroles (Down a Dark Hall, “Teen Wolf”), Blood Relatives is a quirky yet heartfelt vampire tale which shadows Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire, who still doesn’t look a day over 35. He’s been cruising the back roads of America for decades in his beat-up muscle car, keeping to himself and relishing in his solitude. But then one day, a teenage girl called Jane shows up claiming to be his daughter, and she’s got the fangs to prove it. And so they take to the road together, deciding whether to sink their teeth into family life.
There certainly have been plenty of comedic takes on vampire tropes, especially of late with the likes of “What We Do In The Shadows” and Renfield, but Segan’s themes and tone of comedy is unlike any vampire comedy you’ve seen before.
Shunji Iwai’s much more grounded take on vampire lore makes this unlike anything else on this list, and the most enjoyable, in this writer’s humble opinion.
The film stars Kevin Zegers as Simon, a seemingly ordinary biology teacher that spends much of his spare time caring for his Alzheimers-ridden mother Helga. But there is far more than meets the eyes to Simon as he believes himself to be a vampire and spends much of his time looking at online sites for suicidal women who would make for easy prey to satisfy his taste for blood. What makes this film all the more fascinating, and shocking, is the fact that rather than Simon’s thirst for blood prompting him to take violent actions, his acts are quite peaceful and always consented. Ultimately, when Simon meets a girl named Laura, things begin to unravel, as she grows obsessed with him to the point where she breaks into his home, putting his secret life in danger of being exposed. And to make matters worse, Renfield (Trevor Morgan), a man who also believes himself to be a vampire, emerges onto the scene who is far more violent than Simon ever dared to be.
In short, Vampire is a bold exploration that twists vampire tropes into terrifying new territory; an exploration that deserves both admiration and undivided attention. We cannot recommend this film enough.