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10 Unique Vampire/Werewolf Horror Movies: Children of the Night

Ten horror movies about werewolves and vampires that play with these genre favorites in unique ways.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a vampire. That, or a werewolf. Or, if feasible, both at the same time. Weirdly, when I started getting into horror literature and film, I quickly tired of these OG monsters, finding new and more terrifying creatures on whom to focus. I could certainly live the rest of my life as a horror fan quite happily without seeing another adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Pick other classic horror stories to adapt, people!

Over the years, though, I’ve been lucky enough to see some great movies that do unique things with the tropes. Sometimes this involves transforming the metaphysics of the creatures themselves, but just as often I’ve been impressed by stories that put these monsters in different circumstances or explore in depth some facet of their supernatural fates. There are reasons they stick around, our blood-suckers and lycanthropes. They both seem to be being swallowed by the romantic genre at the time I’m writing this, more likely to show up as heroic or at least anti-heroic protagonists than creeps lurking in the shadows. But there’s still a disturbing resonance to both myths, one wrapped up in everything from our fear of death to the transformations of sexuality to class-concerns.

These are some of the explorations of vampirism and werewolves that have stuck with me the most, reminding me that even the most overused of tropes can be brought back to life with the right sort of angle.

Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Harry K├╝mel

In this lush, erotic Belgian film, two newlyweds are touring Europe when they stop for a stay at an old-fashioned grand hotel. The two have a strained relationship, one shadowed by sexual peculiarities and abusive tendencies the movie only slowly unfolds. Staying with them in this massive ornate hotel is a strange yet seductive Hungarian countess who goes by the name of Elizabeth Bathory. She claims to be a direct descendent of that famed serial killing aristocrat, but we may begin to wonder when the hotel’s concierge claims she hasn’t aged a day in the thirty something years since he saw her last.

Meanwhile, young women are being killed in the city surrounding the hotel, and the couple are drawn into both the investigation and the hypnotic charms of the countess. The sexual politics of this film would give some viewers a conniption fit, but I think it is a complex, classy, and intelligent exploration of the vampire myth and its allure.

Martin (1976)

George Romero

In this George Romero movie, Martin Mathias appears to be a young man somewhere in his late teens or early twenties, one recently orphaned and left to the graces of distant family members. Martin may seem harmless enough, but he has a dark secret: Martin is an almost century-old vampire. Or so his black-and-white daydreams would have us believe. He certainly is a creeper, not only stalking women but also injecting them with sedatives in order to draw their blood. When he moves in with an elderly cousin, though, he finally meets someone just as convinced of his secret nature as he is. Can he rein in his bloodlust, or is he truly a creature of the night?

Unlike many vampire movies, which apparently exist in worlds where no one has even heard of the monsters, Martin explores a character who is obsessed with them. Martin is, in a sense, a sort of proto-Goth, albeit one who takes his interests far more seriously than most members of that community do. I love the ambiguity of this film, the way it tracks Martin’s development, and the sly humor Romero inserts in it.

The Company of Wolves: Neil Jordan. In this horror film, werewolves and fairy tales collide.

The Company of Wolves (1984)

Neil Jordan

Angela Carter, the British Queen of dark erotic fairy-tales co-wrote this movie based on her story of the same name. The narrative structure of The Company of Wolves is complex, with stories nestled inside of stories inside of stories, a feature that aligns it with early Gothic fiction. A young girl, Rosaleen, dreams she lives in a medieval forest with her rustic family. After her sister is killed by wolves, Rosalee is sent to live with her grandmother (played by Angela Lansbury), a knitter and inveterate storyteller.

Grandmother’s stories revolve around wolves and magical transformations, and it should come as no surprise when werewolves enter into the story. Rosalee, however, is neither our typical Red Riding Hood, nor is she set on being a victim. Instead, Carter brings together werewolves and passionate sexuality in sometimes gory, sometimes titillating, and always entertaining trip into the fairy-tale world of your darkest dreams and nightmares.

Near Dark: Kathryn Bigelow. A horror film about vampires living down and dirty on the fringes of society.

Near Dark (1987)

Kathryn Bigelow

Long before vampires got all sparkly, Near Dark proved the creatures aren’t always found in Old World castles and draped in velvet suits. What young cowboy Caleb Colton finds after a run-in with an attractive drifter is that the modern breed is more likely to drive trailers and sport leather than try to mimic Dracula. When that drifter, Mae, bites him, Caleb begins the painful transformation into a vampire. She convinces her ragtag family to accept him as one of their own, and then his education begins in earnest.

While the goodies in this movie are played well by their respective actors, it’s the baddies that make the movie. Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein, all three of whom were on Aliens, play the central characters of this vagabond group. Paxton in particular is a blast, both manic and vicious. This is a small vampire story told in a punkish, action-packed manner. If you are jonesing for really mean vampires who’d sooner tear your throat out than wax poetic on eternal life, this is your movie. It’s finger-lickin’ good!

Ravenous (1999)

Antonia Bird

An unjustly neglected historical-comedic-horror movie, Ravenous should be seen by more fans of the genre. And also listened to: the soundtrack is a real treat. This movie mixes the story of the Donner Party with elements of the supernatural, then serves it up with a healthy dose of dark comedy. John Boyd is a soldier who manages to simultaneously disgrace himself and be declared a hero after a battle in the Mexican-American War. He’s assigned to a remote outpost high in snowy mountains, there to suffer alongside a crew of addicts, weirdos, and nincompoops.

Then a stranger arrives at the fort with a harrowing story to tell. He and his wagon train were led astray by an apparently incompetent Colonel, and after getting trapped by the snow and running out of supplies, the survivors were forced to eat their companions. An expedition to the site of this horror-show confirms some of his claims, but also reveals there is a far more dangerous power at work here than starvation-induced cannibalism. Ravenous was beset by all sorts of production issues, but I think the end-result is a far more entertaining take on some of the tropes covered on this list than plenty of blockbusters. Particularly good for fans of historical horror tales.

Shadow of the Vampire: E. Elias Merhige. The director of Nosferatu hires a real monster in this vampire movie.

Shadow of the Vampire (2001)

E. Elias Merhige

I considered putting Shadow of the Vampire on my list of metafictional horror movies because it is most certainly that. But it’s really Willem Dafoe’s almost unrecognizable and intense performance as Schreck that nails this movie in my memory. This film by the director of Begotten follows another director, Friedrich Murnau, as he tries completing his pioneering vampire flick (and unauthorized adaptation of Dracula) Nosferatu. When he introduces the actor playing his vampire to his crew, they are unsettled to find an almost feral creep who insists on “staying in character” throughout the shoot.

His acting seems almost too good to be true, a point driven home when accidents begin to befall other members of the crew. This movie is a love-letter to old filmmaking and the experimental attitude of those early pioneers of film. And Dafoe’s performance justly earned him an Oscar nomination, always a rare phenomenon when it comes to horror movies.

Trouble Every Day: Claire Denis. In this profoundly upsetting, gory, and slow-paced arthouse horror film, an American struggles with a disturbing addiction in France.

Trouble Every Day (2001)

Claire Denis

With the rest of the movies on this list, I haven’t felt the need to provide content warnings. Vampires often feed discretely, politely even, and werewolves are usually quick with their prey, however violently they destroy them. Trouble Every Day, though, warrants a heads-up for sensitive viewers, as its violence, although rare, is gory, protracted, and often interlaced with sexual situations. The weird thing is the brutality of this film is accompanied by a slow, artsy style.

If I tell you this movie is considered part of that wave of Gallic horror movies known as the “New French Extremity,” that seemingly contradictory mix may make more sense. The story of Trouble Every Day is fairly simple: an American couple are honeymooning in France, where the groom, Shane, once lived. A doctor he used to know is hiding a dark secret in his barred home, a secret that Shane knows something about. Carnage ensues, melancholy and erotic carnage. Claire Denis’s film at times feels like it lacks dialogue altogether, and if you aren’t paying attention, you may miss some of the connective story-tissue holding the piece together.

All of this may sound daunting, and this is definitely not a film for everyone (or even most people), but I find it a haunting, poetic, sad, and sometimes hideously gruesome take on some of the themes this list covers. A film for more adventurous fans of these monsters.

Let the Right One In (2008)

Tomas Alfredson

Anybody who grew up lonely and outcast hopefully remembers making that one friend who really understood them, the one who allowed them to be who they could be with no judgment and no shame. Let the Right One In explores this dynamic from two sides, creating a story simultaneously heartwarming and deeply troubling. In this Swedish film, Oskar is a nerdy 12 year-old, one regularly bullied at school and struggling with the urge to get revenge. When he meets Eli, a girl his age that moves in next door, Oskar’s life begins turning around. A real friend! One who encourages him to stand up for himself!

What he doesn’t know is that Eli’s guardian, an odd older man, is ready to kill for his “daughter” and ready to die as well. This movie is like one of those coming-of-age movies like My Girl gone really dark. Every time I watch it, it leaves me with mixed feelings about the ideal relationship at its core, an element I always appreciate in art. How many of us would’ve loved having a friend like Eli when we were kids! And how many of us might have regretted the connection as well… An American remake named Let Me In followed this one a few years later, and I think it’s a damn fine take on the same material.

Thirst: Park Chan-wook. A priest becomes a vampire in this horror film.

Thirst (2009)

Park Chan-wook

I put off watching this South Korean film for years, daunted by the idea of yet another story tackling the vampire theme. It proved, however, to be an incredible experience, something I should’ve expected from Park Chan-wook, the director of the unforgettable Oldboy. Much like the latter, Thirst has strong noir feel to it, involving adultery, murder, and betrayal. Here, though, those often hackneyed elements are rejuvenated by an injection of science-fictional vampirism, and the mix is potent.

When Catholic priest Sang-hyun volunteers to be a test subject for an intended cure for a new and terrible virus, he almost dies before receiving a blood transfusion. His parishioners see it as a miracle and soon Sang-hyun, despite his own flagging faith, finds himself the center of something like a religious revival. His ministry brings him into contact with an old friend, sparking an inadvisable connection. This all at the same time that he’s found that deadly virus will begin eating away at him unless he takes in regular blood infusions, however he might get them. Thirst, as with so many other takes on these subgenres, is queasily erotic, and this one adds an extra level of moral confusion in that our newly-fledged vampire is a priest, one still trying to save whatever’s left of his soul.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Ana Lily Amirpour

Aside from being a fun, often funny, visually pleasing, and weirdly sweet take on the vampire story, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night also has an interesting pedigree. Filmed mostly in Persian by an Iranian director, this movie was shot in California, Iran not exactly being open to feminist examinations of women’s places in society. It has a sort of punk sensibility to it, a feeling similar to that created by Jim Jarmusch in his early movies, but here transformed by Ana Lily Amirpour’s unique vision.

The film centers on Arash, a young man trying his best to keep a roof over his and his heroin-addicted dad’s heads. A debt he’s incurred to a vicious drug-dealer eventually brings him into contact with the girl of the title, an impish young woman in a chador whom we quickly realize is a vampire. Arash, though, doesn’t know this, and we watch as the two grow closer, wondering where this could end up. This is another one I avoided for a few years because I was tired of the vampire, but it is further proof that deep imagination, sympathetic characters, and skilled cinematic techniques can still wring life out of this old horror trope.

By Matthew Pridham

I write horror stories as well as film and book reviews. I've been published in Weird Tales Magazine, Tor.com, weirdfictionreview.com, and thethoughterotic.com. My primary interests are modernist fiction, world domination, the horror genre (classic, avant-garde, modern), polyamory, and philosophy of every stripe. Favorite authors include (but are far from limited) to Marcel Proust, Ramsey Campbell, Martin Amis, Thomas Ligotti, Ruth Rendell, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Clive Barker. I grew up in Bergen, Norway as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I've attended the University of New Mexico and CU Boulder.

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