Sunday, May 10, 2009

I've seen those vampire dramas too, they're cruel

So it has been vampire movie season at my house. Among my most recent movies have been three vampire movies (and an awesome low-key French film -- more on that later.) The first one was 30 Days of Night, which is happy to remain true to its comic book origins. It is somewhat Carpenter-esque in having a small group of people dealing with an enveloping tide of evil. In this case it is vampires, and an unpleasant, almost animalistic bunch they are.

If you want your vampire movies steeped in tradition, even if not vampire tradition, then Near Dark is a good choice. The movie was apparently originally written as a Western, but was repurposed as a vampire movie when it seemed no one wanted to go to Westerns anymore. It's set in the southern plains and has the dark, depopulated feel of the early Coen Brothers movies. Like Blood Simple, the characters, including the vampires are a bit "country" (as we say in the South). It puts a nice spin on the Southern gothic tale and a hint at what drives the violence in the backwoods. I also loved the casting of Aliens alums Bill Paxton, Lance Henrikson (imagine his character in Pumpkinhead turning wicked) and Jenette Goldstein as vampires. Their visit on an unfortunate roadhouse is worth the price of admission alone. Unlike the cruel animals of 30 Days, these vampires have distinct and distincly unpleasant personalities.

Most recently I watched Let the Right One In, which seems the most closely tied to the original psychological nature of the vampire story. In this subdued Swedish movie, the two main characters are lonely children. One is the sad child of neglectful divorced parents. The other is a vampire. They find each other at night on a empty playground as the boy, Oscar, fantasizes about hurting the bullies who torment him. Eli, the vampire, is the only one to support him and he slowly turns the tables on the vampires. The ending is quite ambiguous, as it points to the possible creation of a key archetype in the vampire mythos, but also appears to be quite happy about it. This movie takes an ambiguous view of the vampire, sympathy sing with the situation but not ignoring how they feed. There is are so many great details in this movie, including some banal killings, the terrible sounds and shifts in face when Eli attacks, and the sadness of poor Oscar.

So while the first movie is for fans of the genre, and the second is ideal for those who like the only the best of schlock, the last is a great movie on its own.

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