Evening all. Making lists on the internet is akin to swallowing a cart load of McNuggets; sure it's fun now but it will come back to haunt you over and over again. Though largely opinion pieces, invariably making a list of best this or greatest that will lead to a cavalcade of backlash from cyberspace. Recently I rewatched Fright Night, a film I hadn't seen since I was a kid, and it got me thinking about all the amazing vampire films of the 1980's. There is an undeniable quantity of cheese associated with most of them, I did say 80's, but there is cheesy vampire fiction and then there is...well you know. So here's my pick of the litter and I will be more than happy to suffer a stake or two through the heart when I inevitably leave off your favorites.
5.) The Hunger
This one was a surprise even to me. Upon my initial viewing of this, roughly a year ago, I honestly didn't think much of The Hunger. It was interesting at specific points but overall I found it to be dry and dull. But if you want a great example of vampire fiction from the 1980's, this is near paradigm. The film stars Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David "Ziggy Stardust" Bowie (again, quintessential 80's). The Hunger also contains a thinly veiled subtext about the AIDS epidemic that is both fascinating and once again grounds it in the 80's zeitgeist. The female vampire protagonist subsists on the blood of her lovers (both male and female) in an intensely sexual existence. Pair that with the eventual slow, horrifying decay of her victims as a consequence of those lustful pursuits and you can easily identify the metaphor. Putting all intellectual deconstruction aside, if you really need a selling point here about a love scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon? Or how about the fact that this is the feature film debut of a little-known director named Tony Scott? It may not have been my favorite film of all time, but it definitely belongs on this list.
It took very little for a buddy of mine to convince me to watch this film. The only thing I needed to hear was that it was a Tobe Hooper Sci-Fi/Horror effort. Couple that knowledge with the fact that it was based on a novel called The Space Vampires and I am instantly pondering which of the gods I had pleased to be privileged to such fare. Lifeforce is a truly bizarre film that only marches further and further into the universe of the weird as it progresses. Basically a space shuttle researching Halley's comet finds an alien craft hidden within and some rather strange lifeforms aboard. They decide to bring the aliens back, but the astronauts and their shuttle perish on the return voyage. When the alien lifeforms are awakened, they engage in a nasty pastime of sucking the "life force" out of every human with whom they come in contact. I could talk all day about the amazing effects or the over-the-top, absurd entertainment value of the story, and that may entice horror geeks of either sex to give it a viewing. But specifically to the male horrorphiles let me just say this: the gorgeous Mathilda May spends more of the movie naked than most characters spend on screen at all. She is a knockout of astronomical proportions and finding a photo from this film that did not feature her bare breasts was a challenge. Don't get me wrong this is a great 80's vampire film with a nice Sci-Fi twist, but great merciful Thor does she look great nude.
3.) Fright Night
Do you love Hammer films? If you are anything like our lovely Alison Nastasi than you have seen your fair share of films from the studio with the pro-cleavage/anti-vampire agenda. I only call them anti-vampire because they made so many awesome movies involving the gory, but undeniably colorful, slaying of not only Dracula but his various brides and other blood relations as well. I'm becoming a big fan of the studio thanks largely to John Gholson over at Sci-Fi Squad and though I had seen Fright Night as a kid, it was a recent viewing that allowed me to appreciate the connection. Roddy McDowall's character is a perfect send-up of the classic Hammer depiction of Van Helsing, oft portrayed by the incomparable Peter Cushing. The washed up horror star hosting midnight showings of his estranged greatness on local-access television is superb. The film itself is incredibly fun. It has all the trappings of a 1980's rom-com, (the annoying friend, the young geek struggling to get laid, and the horrendous fashion), but also packs quite the horror punch with its dark atmosphere and eye-popping gore effects. Chris Sarandon is brilliant in this and I love the whole Rear Window aspect of no one believing the young protagonist's claims that his neighbor is a vampire. Also, be on the look out for a rather fantastic homage to An American Werewolf in London.
2.) Near Dark
I guess by assigning numbers to these I am, de facto, assigning them rank among my favorites. That being the inescapable truth, choosing between my top two was perplexing. But regardless these next two films are too great to be missed. Near Dark is the story of a hick teenager who gets a little to hot and heavy with the wrong girl and ends up part of a traveling family of vampires. This movie is sixteen breeds of badass. The cast seems to be an Aliens reunion and therefore a geek wet dream. Bill Paxton, Lance Henricksen, and Jenette Goldstein all vamp it up in Near Dark. It is essentially a modern vampire western with a decent love story rolled into the mix. The band of vampires are cut from the same cloth as any outlaw gang of baddies in a western and even bare names like Hooker and Diamondback. If you really need more of a reason to see the film than anything I just mentioned, there is a ruthlessly violent sequence in a honky tonk bar wherein Bill Paxton looses his mind and satiates both his, and the audiences' bloodlust with gleeful abandon.
1.) The Lost Boys
If I had to put my love for The Lost Boys in the ol' fish story arm stretch context, my left arm would be here at my home in beautiful Austin, Texas and my right arm would be somewhere in the orbit of what used to be our ninth planet Pluto. I am head-over-heels in love with this film. It is the ultimate in 1980's vampire films and for good reason. We get a baby-faced, mullet-sporting Keifer Sutherland as the head of a group of vampire beach rats and not one, but two Coreys in one film. The creepy, practically squalid boardwalks dotted with burning oil barrels and crawling with leather-clad dudes and big-haired vixens is a Gothic flair on the unrelenting cheese of the decade. The music is captivating, but still cheesy, and the film is surprisingly violent given the amount of estrogen-enticing Lotharios and the sappy love story angle. The story itself is respectably smart and offers a nice spin on the new-kid-in-a-new town 80's archetype. Every moment of this film is entertaining and you'll understand its designation as a cult favorite within moments. The effects are great, the cast is phenomenal, the violence is excellent, and the story is all kinds of 80's fun. What more can you possibly want? Vamp Champ!