13 21st Century Vampire Movies
Article By: Tony Timpone
One hundred and twenty years after author Bram Stoker immortalized the Undead with Dracula in 1897, there’s still plenty of blood left in the vampire genre. The new millennium has witnessed a blood flood of original and offbeat vampire movies, swooping in from all parts of the globe. Grab your garlic and crucifixes as today The Friday 13 sinks its teeth into our favorite 21st Century Vampire Flicks, with fresh quotes from many of the filmmakers themselves. (Titles arranged according to year of release; also see here for Chiller’s top Dracula movies.)
1. Day Watch (2006)
This Russian horror fantasy epic, based on the novel by Sergey Lukyanenko, continues the epoch-spanning struggle between the Light and the Dark begun in Night Watch. Of course, like any sequel, this time everything’s bigger, though returning director Timur Bekmambetov never lost sight of the mortal side of his supernatural characters.
“I wanted to make the movie feel contemporary, so that human-wise we totally understand vampires,” the action specialist says. “To take a closer look at the father-son relationship between them. That’s traditionally one of the strong aspects of the Russian drama, in the vein of Chekhov, reframed for the genre movie. I was interested in their everyday problems—how they eat, sleep, how they study and how they communicate with neighbors. Basically, vampires have always been something sacred and mystical, and I wanted to reverse that trend. Making them more grounded helped to build a lot of scares around it, since scaring people with ordinary stuff is way more effective than with something weird and supernatural.”
2. The Hamiltons (2006)
A family of vampire siblings tries to make it in the suburbs in this offbeat entry, co-directed by Northern California buddies Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores under the nom de plume The Butcher Brothers. “The initial inspiration for The Hamiltons was to follow one rule, ‘If I stripped out the horror from the script, did I still have a good story?’” says Altieri, whose vampire comedy The Night Watchmen hit the festival circuit this year. “It really is more of a coming of age film in a completely demented household than anything else. But that was the idea behind it. That’s where the horror really comes through without even trying to be scary.”
As far as the mythos behind his characters, Altieri says, “We went back to much of the original Bram Stoker lore and created our own. I wanted to create something different that I hadn’t seen before, so I took away a lot of the rules that were basically created by Hollywood and went back to Stoker’s original laws where vampires could walk in the sun, and it was more of a disease. I took it even further and created, ‘We are born not made,’ where they don’t turn people, but you can pass it on by birth. You also get to see how they raise their young, which also is more apparent in the sequel The Thompsons.”
3. Perfect Creature (2006)
In this stylish New Zealand production set in the 1960s, vampires and humans get along just fine (and even partner in law enforcement!) until a renegade vamp starts making trouble. “In the 17th-18th centuries, religion and science were still joined through alchemy, not separated as they are today,” says writer/director Glenn Standring of his movie’s origins. “So the thought was, if vampire ‘babies’ were born then, they might well be seen not as evil, but as an expression of God’s will. Hence the world in the film, where the vampire Brotherhood were the protectors of humankind, and who were given blood by humans as an act of grace.”
4. Suck (2009)
Canadian director Rob Stefaniuk incorporated his own music background when penning this hilarious horror comedy about a vampire rock group. “I actually set out to make a film about a band, a sort of musical nod to my old friends,” he says. “When you look at a touring band staying up all night, pale, immoral and looking like death, the vampire bit just seemed like the perfect metaphor.”
The helmer hired famous musicians Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Moby and Alice Cooper to Suck it up. “All of the rock stars were totally pro, cool, down-to-earth people, and a real pleasure to work with,” says Stefaniuk, currently finishing a new terror yarn called The England Trip. “But Alice is the only one who brought his own wardrobe and vampire teeth. I mean, he just has that stuff lying around!”
5. Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)
In this naughty British horror spoof, two sex-obsessed guys right out of American Pie wind up in Hammer horror territory. The movie toplined The Late Late Show’s James Corden prior to crossing the Atlantic. “It took five years to get from script to screen,” recalls director Phil Claydon. “James Corden became attached two years before we went into production. Before he won BAFTAs and became a big deal, he came in to read for the part [of Fletch]. When financing fell through, he stuck with me and the movie. I had loved James in The History Boys, his natural comedic ability and likability was a perfect fit. He delivered the comedy on screen and continued his cheeky antics off screen as well.”
Such as… “One day we were filming a scene that involved James carrying some condoms,” Claydon continues. “I left my coat on the back of my chair. I very rarely sat down, so when we wrapped, I picked up my coat, started walking home and found James had expertly rammed every pocket full of condoms; it was like the freakin’ family planning aisle of CVS in my coat! To this day, I don’t know if he was looking out for my sexual health or just needed to offload some of his own stash. Talking of caution being the best precaution, it ties nicely into my next project, Lust, a teen sci-fi comedy about an STD with benefits!”
6. Thirst (2009)
From visionary director Chan-wook Park (The Host, Snowpiercer) comes this Korean oddity about a priest (Song Kang-ho) accidentally transformed into an amorous vampire after a medical experiment. The filmmaker bristled at The Hollywood Reporter when asked to label his movie.
“As soon as one starts to classify a film by genre, whatever it may be, people start to have unnecessary preconceptions,” Chan-wook said. “Furthermore, that kind of definition cannot embrace the whole film. For instance, if I said Thirst is a ‘vampire romance,’ most people will think of Interview With the Vampire or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, even though the romanticism found in those films has nothing at all to do with Thirst. Also, no one will be able to conceive of the religious issues that are embedded in Thirst. But if I really had to come up with an answer, I cannot think of any other than ‘vampire romance.’”
7. We Are the Night (2010)
In this ultraslick action scare yarn from Germany, wastrel pickpocket Lena (Karoline Herfurth) falls in with a group of sexy all-female vampires, including leader Louise (blonde bombshell Nina Hoss), who puts the bite on her in the bathroom of a noisy disco. Lena begins to embrace her new lifestyle with the playgirl vamps, who speed around in fancy cars, shop after hours at the chicest stores and hang out at the trendiest clubs and restaurants. Co-writer/director Dennis Gansel keeps We Are the Night moving at a furious pace, and he also infuses the movie with a welcome feminist streak and lesbian subtext (note how he explains the absence of male vampires).
8. Stake Land (2010)
This gritty indie imagines a stark postapocalyptic world swarming with blood drinkers. “Originally we planned to do it as a web series,” reveals director Jim Mickle, who sequelized the movie with The Stakelander in 2016. “Five-to-seven minute episodes about a vampire hunter and the orphan kid he takes in. Something we could shoot on weekends. [Producer] Larry Fessenden read them and suggested tying it all together into one film. So [star/screenwriter] Nick Damici very quickly threw all the episodes out and reimagined one story. At that point, there were a lot of slick, over-polished vampires, and we wanted to reclaim a brutal, animalistic take on the genre. Make vampires scary again.”
9. Byzantium (2012)
As a director, Irishman Neil Jordan tries not to repeat himself, which you will notice by his diverse filmography (The Crying Game, Michael Collins, The Borgias). But when offered Byzantium, about mother and daughter vampires holed up in a remote coastal town, Jordan relished the opportunity to return to his Interview With the Vampire territory.
“It was one of the reasons why I wanted to make the film really,” Jordan told Esquire. “If there were a female companion piece to Interview With the Vampire, it would be this. But I was more conscious of everything else the film was about. The fact that it was about the present and the past. The fact that a young girl attempted to tell her story and the story was seen through different people. The fact that it was two rather wonderful contrasting women, who were like sisters. I had my first daughter when I was about 24. And when you’re that young, the mother and daughter—they become almost like sisters. It’s definitely a strange thing.”
10. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
In this romantic genre piece starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, New York-based indie maverick Jim Jarmusch (Mystery Train, Down By Law, Dead Man) introduced a centuries-old vampire couple with elitist tendencies. “But who wouldn’t be considered a snob if you’d been alive for a thousand years and had all of this knowledge and accumulated experience?” Jarmusch told Indiewire. “That’s 10, 20 times as much as any normal person. The idea of seeing history in a timeline by having lived through it, but from the margins, from the shadows…observing it half in secret, is very interesting to me. I’ve always been drawn to outsider types of characters, so what more perfect shadowy inhabitants of the margins are there, than vampires? Who are not undead monsters, by the way, they’re humans that have been transformed and now have the possibility of immortality, but are reliant, like junkies, on blood.”
11. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
An eccentric group of vampires living in New Zealand get the Real World treatment in Taika (Thor Ragnarok) Waititi and Jermaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement’s side-splitting mockumentary. According to actor Ben Fransham, who played the ancient Petyr, the movie was just as much fun to make as it is to watch. “One of the best working experiences in my life,” says Fransham, soon to be seen in the new season of The Shannara Chronicles. “A constant pleasure to work with top-notch creative people who love what they do, and bring fun with them while they create something that can be shared. The exponential happiness that is spread by any artwork, in any medium, is impossible to quantify. But if the audience reactions are anything to go by for What We Do in the Shadows, the film will hopefully continue to make people laugh for a long time to come. It will also show that the Twilight films were a bit rubbish.”
12. Therapy for a Vampire (2014)
In 1930s Vienna, an infamous vampire count (Tobias Moretti) turns to none other than noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud to help him deal with various romantic entanglements, including a spoiled wife. Directed and written by David Rühm, this delightful and sumptuously produced horror comedy from Austria evokes the Hammer Gothics of yore and Roman Polanski’s classic The Fearless Vampire Killers. A must for old-school fangbangers!
13. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
In Ana Lily Amirpour’s self-described “Iranian vampire Western,” Sheila Vand plays a lonely, chador-wearing, skateboard-riding bloodsucker drifting through a dusty Middle Eastern town in search of prey. Amirpour credits much of the film’s entrancing, black-and-white beauty to her lead actress.
“She was always such a creature,” Amirpour told Electric Sheep. “I’m very close with her. She’s hypnotic, I can just stare at her face, stare at her eyes, infinitely. And there’s a sadness and a lonely, aching dissatisfaction to her that I find extremely charming and beautiful and self-destructive. The biggest thing was that, it’s supernatural, it’s not human, and she is a human, so my only concern was, ‘You’re a creature, no matter what, at all times, in all scenes.’ So we were watching cobra videos on YouTube, and they follow your hand and imitate the movement, and looking at the tension of it too because they can strike fast.”
Tony Timpone hosts and programs free horror movie screenings for Dread Central in New York and LA. Send an email to email@example.com if you want to be added to the list.