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Creature Features: 8 Vampire Movies to Watch This Halloween
All sorts of things go bump in the night. Ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, witches — creatures that haunt our nightmares and ignite our imaginations. Then, there are vampires. These denizens of the dark hold a special place in human history; our ancestors were genuinely afraid to travel when the sun was down, lest vampires bleed them dry. Entire communities feared bats and wolves, believing them to be bloodsuckers in disguise. Vampire hunting became a legitimate profession in 18th century Europe. We really can’t overstate how much these monsters have messed with our minds over the years.
Maybe that’s why vampires have experienced so much success on the big screen. Vampires have frightened and excited audiences for decades — changing with the times and reflecting some of our darkest desires. As much as we dread these creatures of the night, there’s a small part of us that’s utterly fascinated with them.
Spooky season is in full swing this year, and many of us will participate in the festivities at home. Looking for a way to liven up the night? Here are eight iconic vampire movies to watch this Halloween.
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (or Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens in German) is a staple of the horror genre. This German Expressionist masterpiece was helmed by director F. W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as the infamous Count Orlok.
Special effects and robust film sets weren’t exactly a thing in the early 20th century. Murnau instead relied on mind-bending camera angles, striking shadows and innovative set design to scare audiences. This film’s impact on the history of cinema can’t be exaggerated — many horror film franchises likely wouldn’t exist if Nosferatu hadn’t crept onto the scene and paved the way.
Nosferatu’s popularity spread across Europe like wildfire. It didn’t take long for American filmmakers to catch wind of F.W. Murnau’s success either. But here’s the thing: Nosferatu was essentially an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — one that Murnau filmed without permission. Stoker’s wife successfully sued Murnau and Nosferatu was pulled from theaters. Enter Universal Pictures, which paid approximately $40,000 for the rights to adapt Dracula . Garrett Fort penned the script while Tod Browning took the director’s chair. Bela Lugosi was cast as the titular prince of darkness, and the rest is cinematic history.
Dracula is a genuinely terrifying landmark film. When many people think of Count Dracula, they think about Lugosi’s chilling performance. Universal’s adaptation takes plenty of inspiration from Nosferatu . However, Dracula is not a silent film; characters deliver their lines either with palpable dread or devilish delight. “Talkies” had only recently hit theaters in the early 1900s. Dracula helped legitimize sound films and reshape the movie industry.
Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Similar to sound films, Technicolor movies were also relative rarities in the early 20th century. Films were primarily shot on black and white stock, and filmgoers were accustomed to greyscale pictures. The opposite was true by the 1950s, which is when The Horror of Dracula hit the scene. Hammer Films spared no expense when it adapted Bram Stoker’s timeless tale; special effects and ornate gothic sets were specifically created for this film. The Horror of Dracula is also a much more visceral visual experience due to being shot in color.
We’d be remiss not to praise Christopher Lee’s performance as Count Dracula; he aimed to play the character as a “heroic, erotic and romantic” figure — one that was just as mystifying as he was terrifying. Lee’s good friend Peter Cushing starred as Doctor Van Helsing, further elevating the film. And The Horror of Dracula revealed something truly harrowing about vampires: they were dark reflections of human nature.
The United States’ counterculture movement gathered momentum in the 1960s and persisted well into the 1970s. People vocalized dissatisfaction with the government, civil rights initiatives swept the nation and artists used their platforms to critique the powers that be. The Blaxploitation films of the 1970s echoed these sentiments, challenging decades-old stereotypes that were (and still are) imposed on the Black community. Blacula is precisely what its name implies; an adaptation of Stoker’s tale made primarily for Black people by Black people.
The late William Marshall portrays Prince Mamuwalde, a Nigerian man who asked the original Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to intervene during the transatlantic slave trade. For his trouble, Prince Mamuwalde was transformed into Blacula, sealed in a coffin and transported to America. Indeed, Count Blacula is a tragic anti-villain; he was stripped of his identity, taken from his homeland and left to fend for himself in a hostile environment. Allegorical, innovative and genuinely frightening, Blacula is worth a watch — and post-screening analysis.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Drugs, sex, rock n’ roll and excess are hallmarks of the 1980s — hallmarks that naturally found their way into ’80s cinema. The Lost Boys epitomizes this trend; “It’s fun to be a vampire” is the film’s tagline, and that sentiment is more than reinforced throughout its runtime. Vampires are ageless, powerful, beautiful beings who live by their own rules and party like rockstars in The Lost Boys. That’s the scariest part about this film — how enticing vampirism can seem on the surface.
The Lost Boys can also be viewed as a metacommentary of the 1980s. Vampirism is an analogy for the excess and hedonism of the decade. Just like it seemed “fun to be a vampire,” it also seemed fun to be a hard-partying rockstar. Spellbinding performances by a committed cast, strong directing by Joel Schumacher and a compelling script helped The Lost Boys break new ground. Vampires weren’t just creepy anymore. They were also undeniably cool.
You can’t talk about cool vampire movies without giving Blade its due. The 1990s were an incredibly experimental time for the film industry; spec scripts were being produced by the dozens and comic book adaptations were becoming much more prevalent. Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan created Blade in 1973 for Marvel Comics. At last, in 1998, Wesley Snipes would bring the Daywalker to life on the big screen. Directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer, Blade redefined what superhero movies and vampire films could be. Action, horror, pathos and even a bit of comedy are seamlessly woven into this film.
Though Blade was initially overlooked when it premiered, the film has since been recognized for setting several precedents. It’s one of the first Black superhero movies to achieve widespread critical and commercial success, grossing $131.2 million off of a $45 million budget. Blade also paved the way for many of the superhero films that have become commonplace today; it’s not a stretch to suggest that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, the Underworld franchise and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t exist if Blade hadn’t resonated with audiences. Lastly, this film proved that vampires could transcend genres; Blade is more of an action film than a horror flick, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hate it or love it, Twilight’s impact on cinema is undeniable. This adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s 2005 novel was an international phenomenon in its heyday. It focused solely on the romantic aspects of vampirism — living forever, being young forever and loving forever. If reading that sentence was painful for you, imagine how excruciating it was to write.
Personal feelings aside, Twilight is an iconic film in its own right. It spawned four sequels, launched numerous careers and kept vampires at the forefront of our collective imagination from 2008 to 2012. Even Burger King got in on the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debacle. Twilight ultimately proved that there was still a thriving, thirsting market for vampire films in the 21st century.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
We end with Blood Red Sky, a British-German Netflix film that’s equal parts graphic, terrifying and heart-wrenching. The film follows Nadja and her son Elias as they try to survive aboard a hijacked airplane. Discussing this film in detail without spoiling it is virtually impossible, but we can say this: Blood Red Sky focuses on the toll that vampirism would exact on a person’s family, community and mental state. Scenes unfold at an intentionally deliberate pace. Minor characters and extras are treated with a degree of respect that we don’t often see.
In many ways, Blood Red Sky is the culmination of the vampire films that precede it; there are genuine scares here, alongside meta-commentary, dazzling action scenes and genuine pathos. Blood Red Sky proves that vampire films can make viewers cry — not out of fear, but out of true remorse.
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A teenager is stuck in a time loop that is not quite the same each time. She must uncover the truth but her actions have consequences for herself and others. A teenager is stuck in a time loop that is not quite the same each time. She must uncover the truth but her actions have consequences for herself and others. A teenager is stuck in a time loop that is not quite the same each time. She must uncover the truth but her actions have consequences for herself and others.
- Vincenzo Natali
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- Olivia's Father
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- Trivia Production for the film took place over 25 days.
- Goofs In the scrapbook called "Photographs" that Lisa discovers hidden under the floor in her bedroom, the third column about Frances Nichols in the first article repeats the same content as that in the first column. In the subsequent article about the second missing girl there are numerous repetitions in its content throughout. Later, the same story of Frances Nichols is shown typed in the article adjacent to the picture of a different missing girl.
Carol : Lisa, you haven't even touched your meatloaf.
Lisa : Meat is murder.
- Connections Features Pac-Man (1980)
- Soundtracks Peter and the Wolf Op. 67 Written by Sergei Prokofiev (SACEM) Published by G. Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP)
User reviews 99
- Nov 24, 2013
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- October 15, 2023 (Canada)
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Copperheart Entertainment
- Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit (OFTTC)
- See more company credits at IMDbPro
- Runtime 1 hour 37 minutes
- Dolby Digital
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2013, Horror/Mystery & thriller, 1h 37m
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Haunter 's premise is intriguing enough, though the film's too low budget to truly pull it off. Read critic reviews
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The ghost of a teenager (Abigail Breslin) tries to protect a young girl (Eleanor Zichy) and her family from a dead serial killer (Stephen McHattie) who can possess the living.
Genre: Horror, Mystery & thriller
Original Language: English
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Producer: Steven Hoban
Writer: Brian King
Release Date (Streaming): Jul 1, 2016
Runtime: 1h 37m
Production Co: Copper Heart Entertainment
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A Day in the Life of a Ghost
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By Nicolas Rapold
- Oct. 17, 2013
Call it one kind of hell on earth: In “Haunter,” 15-year-old Lisa is the only member of her Reagan-era suburban family who realizes that they are reliving the same day, over and over. Yet, unlike Bill Murray’s weatherman in “Groundhog Day,” they are absolutely, positively dead. And the lingering menace in this serviceable ghost story from the director Vincenzo Natali and the screenwriter Brian King is that things could actually get worse.
Lisa (Abigail Breslin) exists in a picture-perfect house with routines that are like a mild adolescent parody of family banality: Mom assigns chores and summons her for sit-down meals; Dad is square and nice; her little brother wakes her up every morning with a walkie-talkie squawk. When Lisa (wholesome, not bratty, in Ms. Breslin’s hands) questions the supernatural order of things, the film’s boogeyman emerges, along with the macabre underpinnings of the past.
The implication of life after death as a risky search for meaning subtly refreshes the notion of eternal suffering, even if the movie is itself haunted by influences from “Poltergeist” to “Insidious.” Another undertow is generated by the specter of fatherly rage.
Mr. Natali muscles his frights, along with flashes of light and close-ups, freely shuffling between ghostly dimensions. But this director of “Cube” and the bigger, bonkers “Splice” scales the ambitions of his new movie appropriately, even cautiously. And lifted by the sepulchral Stephen McHattie as Lisa’s nemesis, the film’s frazzled thought experiment becomes an adequate yarn.
Opens on Friday in Manhattan. Directed by Vincenzo Natali 1 hour 37 minutes; not rated
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Canadian horror filmmaker Vincenzo Natali ("Cube," " Splice ") is at his best when he's turning his stories into mazes. He is, in that sense, a descendant of another Canuck scare-meister: David Cronenberg . Like Cronenberg, Natali treats his characters like test subjects with unique maladies/characteristics. In fact, Natali likes the symptomatic circumstances that define his characters so much that they're often under-developed—defined by whatever "Twilight Zone"-esque dilemma they're facing.
This is true of "Haunter," a haunted house movie adapted by Matthew Brian King from his novel. In "Haunter," Lisa (" Little Miss Sunshine " star Abigail Breslin ), an angsty teen, relives the same day over and over again. "Haunter" is like " Groundhog Day " meets "The Lovely Bones:" while Bill Murray's Phil Connors repeated a single day so he could better appreciate his life, Lisa does the same thing because she's a ghost. "Haunter" has a solid setup, but the further Natali and King coax you into their labyrinth, the harder it becomes to appreciate what initially made their film so promising.
Because it is a movie-shaped maze—King acknowledges this in a leaden line of dialogue that compares Lisa's house to Pac-Man's maze—the best part of "Haunter" is the beginning. Eight minutes into the film, Lisa tells her parents what she thinks is happening to her: she's reliving the day before her 16th birthday on a loop. Lisa's parents understandably think she's joking, and ignore her. But soon, little details of Lisa's day start to change, like when her father Bruce ( Peter Outerbridge ) suddenly takes up smoking after dinner. So Lisa tries to break her routine up in order to understand what's happening to her. But she soon learns that she's reliving the day before she was murdered, and her killer ("Pontypool"'s Stephen McHattie ) is about to strike again.
Before King explains why what's happening is happening, "Haunter" is exceptionally atmospheric. Its scenario plays to Natali's strengths in that its first two-thirds keep you guessing what will happen next. You want to know what's behind that little door, what's under the floorboards, and where those missing clothes got to. Both "Cube" and "Elevated," the latter of which is a short film set almost entirely in an elevator, proved that Natali knew how to make tense B-movies. "Haunter" mostly follows in that tradition. And for a while, Natali and King do a good job of distributing breadcrumbs to viewers whenever they need to. It's a sign of how good "Haunter" initially is that you always want to skip ahead, and know more than they're telling you.
But once "Haunter"'s story snaps into focus, and its creators pull you towards its inevitable conclusion, the film's flaws become that much more apparent. For example, "Haunter" is eventually about Lisa's struggle to understand and get free of her past. But since so much of the film's plot is about Lisa's varied attempts at breaking her routine, neither she nor her family members are developed beyond a point. Natali and King don't take enough time to show us who Lisa is. All we know is she wants to find out what's going on as much as we do.
The problem with that is "Haunter," like many horror films, is essentially a moral tale. Lisa learns more about her predicament by paying more attention to her family, and their respective routines. But beyond some clipped discussions with her kid brother Robbie ( Peter DaCunha ), and her mom Carol ( Michelle Nolden ), there's not much meat on "Haunter"'s bones.
It's accordingly kind of sad to see a young performer as talented as Breslin wandering around without much to do. Breslin is probably not strong enough to carry an entire film, but the material she's given to work with just doesn't hold together in the end. Lisa eventually has to stop being a cypher, and unfortunately, she never does.
Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker and freelance film critic whose work has been featured in The New York Times , Vanity Fair , The Village Voice, and elsewhere.
And the King Said, What a Fantastic Machine
Brian tallerico, film credits.
Abigail Breslin as Lisa
Stephen McHattie as The Pale Man
David Hewlett as Olivia's Father
David Knoller as Edgar
Peter Outerbridge as Bruce
Michelle Nolden as Carol
- Vincenzo Natali
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Film / Haunter
Haunter is a 2013 Canadian horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Abigail Breslin and Stephen McHattie .
In the 1980s, Lisa is a teenage girl who appears to be stuck repeating the same day with her family in their isolated home. As she hears voices in the house calling out for her, prompting the visit of a sinister Pale Man who otherwise never appears, she realizes that she and her family died at the hands of the evil spirit long ago and were since unable to find peace. She must find a way to contact the current residents of the house to prevent history from repeating itself.
Not to be confused with a Pok�mon .
This film provides examples of:
- The '80s : The story is set in 1985 amidst David Bowie and The Cure posters, Walkmans, Pac-Man and similar mainstays of the decade.
- Arc Symbol : The movie has a recurring skull motif going on, but eyes are even more prominently featured.
- Battle in the Rain : Well, "battle" might be too strong a word, but the final confrontation with the Pale Man takes place in heavy rain.
- While investigating the house's secret cellar, Lisa has a vision of one of the Pale Man's victims trapped and being burned alive in a furnace . It lasts for barely a second, but it's enough already.
- At a later point into her investigation, Lisa is forced to watch her family's dead bodies wither away in time lapse until they're reduced to skeletons, which in turn shatter and crumble into dust . She suffers a severe breakdown afterwards.
- The Chooser of the One : Olivia is the one who discovered what happened in the house, realized that it was going to happen to her family, and managed to wake Lisa up, allowing her to resist the Pale Man from the dead side.
- Creepy Child : Robbie's Imaginary Friend Edgar. Gets ten times worse when he starts speaking with the Pale Man's raspy adult voice .
- Creepy Souvenir : When Lisa discovers the Pale Man's killing room underneath the house, she finds his collection of artifacts he kept of his victims. She later uses them to awaken the ghosts of everyone he ever killed to get them all some sorely deserved revenge.
- Dead to Begin With : Lisa and her family are spirits who are stuck in some Purgatory-like state because the evil spirit who killed them won't let them leave the house.
- Demonic Possession : Ghosts are able to take control of people living in the location they are bound to. After the Pale Man died, he possesses people who move into his old house to continue his killing spree. Lisa is able to contact the current girl living in the house this way in a benevolent version.
- Determinator : Lisa is obviously scared shitless for most of the movie, but no matter what horrors she's forced to endure, she does not stop in her quest until the Big Bad is defeated and all of his victims can rest in peace.
- Eldritch Location : Lisa's home checks all the boxes of a creepy haunted house, and then some.
- Eye Awaken : Too many not-dead examples to list. Most stem from Lisa being trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that always begins with her waking up in her bed. She also gets knocked out a few times, only for her to awaken with the camera focused on one of her eyes.
- Fate Worse than Death : The Pale Man's victims not only died way before their time; their souls were then bound to his house where he continues to torment them as an evil spirit long after he had died himself.
- Fish out of Temporal Water : Minor example. When Lisa (who's sixteen, appears to be born in 1969 and is still stuck in 1985) repeats her possession of Olivia's body in 2013, she's briefly baffled by the vid message the latter left her on a prominently placed tablet PC. The touchscreen in particular obviously confuses her. It's the movie's one and only funny moment.
- Generation Xerox : A non-familial example. All the families that lived or live in the Pale Man's house have an astounding number of similarities with each other, down to the instrument the daughter plays and the placement of almost every piece of furniture. To top it off, the Pale Man actually drops the same Mark Twain quote that opens the trope page.
- Going in Circles : When Lisa can't take it anymore, she tries to leave the house on her bike, only to end up back at the house each time.
- Goth / Emo / Punk : Lisa's fashion style lies somewhere in between these three subcultures.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop : The movie begins with Lisa repeating the same day in her house. It's soon revealed to be because Lisa is stuck in the afterlife by the evil ghost who killed her and her family.
- Imaginary Friend : Lisa's little brother Robbie is often playing with his imaginary friend Edgar, who eventually appears before Lisa. It's later revealed to be the killer himself appearing as he did when he was a child, as he originally grew up in the house.
- Jump Scare : The movie makes copious use of this and Nothing Is Scarier to create a dense, atmospheric horror experience without a single drop of blood.
- Karmic Death : At the end of the film, Edgar is surrounded by all of his former victims and mobbed, as they work together to send him to hell by burning his soul in the very same furnace he used to dispose of their dead bodies. His first victims, his parents, cover his face with the ether-soaked cloth he always used.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia : The souls of the Pale Man's victims are trapped in a perpetual dream-like state where they only perceive and remember what he wants them to. Snapping her family out of it so they can leave their "Groundhog Day" Loop is one of Lisa's primary motivations for her investigation.
- Mama Bear : Lisa's mother tried to get her children out, but the Pale Man possessed her husband and murdered them all the night before she intended to run for it.
- Miles to Go Before I Sleep : Lisa and her family eventually manage to escape the Pale Man's grasp, but whereas her parents' and her brother's souls finally find peace, Lisa herself decides to stay and fight the Pale Man. Only when he's defeated and all the other trapped souls are free as well does she move on to join her family in the afterlife .
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self : When Lisa possesses Olivia's body in the world of the living, the mirror shows her actual face, but only to herself and the audience.
- My God, What Have I Done? : How Lisa's dad reacts when he finds out that he killed his family. Lisa reminds him that he was possessed at the time, but that doesn't really help .
- Note to Self : Played with. Lisa (ghost) tries to warn Olivia (living) about the evil spirit in the house by writing on Olivia's arm while controlling her body, but this is quickly halted when the evil spirit catches her.
- Ominous Fog : The house is surrounded by one. Fleeing into it just leads back to the house.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business : After having been stuck in her "Groundhog Day" Loop for an eternity, the fact that Lisa's family suddenly starts breaking out of their routine is the first sign that the status quo in the house has changed, and not for the better.
- Ouija Board : Lisa uses one in one of her first attempts at finding out what the hell is going on around her. The results are... disturbing, to say the least.
- Pac-Man Fever : Almost averted. Robbie is playing the actual Atari Pacman game with a correct controller, but with the arcade sound effects, and in 2013, Olivia's sister is playing on the Kinect with an appropriately generic game.
- Papa Wolf : Lisa's father didn't really understand what was going on when the Pale Man was slowly possessing him, but he understood something was wrong and tried to stop himself. He was able to successfully hide the spark plugs to the family car from himself, though the Pale Man found them in the end. Olivia's father seems to try something similar.
- Pater Familicide : This was and is the Pale Man's favourite way of killing families as a ghost, by possessing the father to kill his wife and children, then himself.
- Please Wake Up : Name-dropped by Lisa when the Pale Man kills her family in front of her to teach her a lesson. They're back up again (and can't remember a thing) seconds later, but she's still deeply shaken by the experience.
- Psychotic Smirk : Once the Pale Man begins to make regular appearances, he's almost always sporting a great one thanks to Stephen McHattie, well, being Stephen McHattie.
- Sanity Slippage : What apparently happens to every family's father once the Pale Man starts taking control of them.
- Serial Killer : The villain of the movie is a serial killer who continued to kill people beyond his death and used his powers as a ghost to keep the spirits of his earlier victims trapped in the house.
- Self-Made Orphan : A flashback shows how the murderous evil ghost poisoned and suffocated both his parents in the 1930s. They're among the group of spirits who appear to send him to Hell at the end.
- Sinister Shades : The Pale Man rocks a pair during his Establishing Character Moment .
- Suddenly Shouting : Lisa's father becomes prone to doing this as his Sanity Slippage grows worse.
- Time Travel : Played with. Lisa jumps into various years both before and after her own timeline to find out what's really going on around her. Once she knows it, she continues to do so in her effort to prevent the events that led to her death from claiming even more victims.
- Together in Death : After Lisa saves the latest family from becoming Edgar's new victims, she is reunited with her family in Heaven on her birthday.
- Tomato in the Mirror : Lisa is initially shocked to discover that she and her family are actually ghosts, but she adjusts fairly quickly.
- Undeathly Pallor : The murderous ghost is distinctly pale, hence his alias as the "Pale Man" before his identity as Edgar is revealed.
- What Beautiful Eyes! : Abigail Breslin has quite lovely eyes by default, and the heavy eye shadow that Lisa wears only serves to emphasize them even more. The camera also likes to focus on Lisa's face in scary moments, so there's plenty of close-up shots of her eyes to be enjoyed.
- Would Hurt a Child : Over the course of several decades, the Pale Man has killed dozens of underage women plus their respective families including any and all children.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness : The Pale Man attempts to pull this on Lisa and her family once his possession of Olivia's dad is complete. He outright tells Lisa to her face that he has no need of them anymore now that he has a new family for his "collection", and although it remains unclear what exactly he does to people who're already dead, the implications are anything but pleasant .
- You Monster! : When Lisa talks to the ghost of Frances, the Pale Man's first victim, she says that he was simply a monster.
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