Cassondra Feltus is a St. Louis-based freelance writer best known…
These days there’s no shortage of vampire content, but the sub-genre is home to some quality films that definitely aren’t talked about enough. If you can’t wait for Halloween to get your vampire fix, World Dracula Day (May 26) is the perfect time to check out these underrated fang-tastic flicks.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
After the success of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire (based on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles book series) and before AMC’s TV series adaptation of the same name, there was Queen of the Damned. It arrived on the big screen in 2000 and was considered a poorly structured representation of Rice’s work. Stuart Townsend starred as Lestat de Lioncourt, a vampire who creeps out of his coffin at the sound of nu metal and becomes an elusive rock god. However, the film’s real star was Aaliyah’s Queen Akasha, awakened by Lestat and ready to make him her king.
This isn’t a movie to watch for its substance, but the style is undeniably entertaining. Lestat’s brooding is cranked up to 11, occult researcher Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) is reduced to a bland love interest, and the whole thing is riddled with very cringe dialogue. It’s a bad movie but a good time.
For fans of 2000s nu-metal jams and sexy Black vampire queens.
Where to watch: Tubi
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Visionary writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour crafted a stylish black-and-white horror feature with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the first Iranian vampire spaghetti Western. A lonely Girl (Sheila Vand) goes on nightly prowls around the mostly empty streets of Bad City, an ideal place for a hungry creature of the night to find a snack or two. She also likes threatening children and riding skateboards on occasion. When she comes across Arash (Arash Marandi), she resists the urge to bite him, instead bringing him back to her apartment to listen to music.
Amirpour blends classic vampire mythology with Iranian culture, Rockabilly, and German Expressionism to create this otherworldly, graphic novel-like aesthetic. It’s a must-watch for any horror buff.
For fans of David Lynch, brooding vampire vigilantes, and eerie slow-burn art house films.
Where to watch: Prime Video
When punk rock artist Dezzy Donahue (Dora Madison) gets painter’s block, she tries out a new drug called Bliss, essentially a Long Island iced tea of drugs. It gets the creative juices flowing but not until after she parties a little too hard, has a threesome with her flaky best friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and her male companion Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield), and wakes up sans clothes on a bathroom floor. From there, Dezzy and the audience go on a wild, neon-soaked ride of blackouts, addiction, manic artistry, and possible vampirism. It has a grimy hard rock aesthetic and the SnorriCam style shots put us uncomfortably close to this woman as she experiences a seemingly painful, disorienting vampire transformation.
For fans of Climax, Euphoria, loud music, and trippy visuals.
Where to watch: Prime Video
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Just about everyone is familiar with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series by now. But five years before it premiered on the WB, there was the movie starring Kristy Swanson as the popular high school cheerleader who also happens to be the “Chosen One.” After the California teen is approached by Merrick (Donald Sutherland), she reluctantly begins her training (wearing the best slayer training aerobics fashion ever). It turns out she’s already inexplicably skilled with a wooden stake. This movie doesn’t ask much from the viewer. It knows a lot of things don’t make sense.
Including the aforementioned Sutherland, Buffy has a stacked cast. Rutger Hauer and Paul Reubens deliver delightfully campy performances as the main vamp antagonists Lothos and Amilyn. It also features young future stars Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Thomas Jane, and Ben Affleck, with the late Luke Perry as Pike, Buffy’s bad boy love interest.
For fans of self-aware comedies, Valley Girl slang, and ’90s-era music and fashion.
Where to watch: HBOMax
Once Bitten (1985)
If you haven’t seen Jim Carrey in this teen sex horror comedy then you’re missing out. He plays Mark Kendall, a sex-obsessed high schooler who drives an ice cream truck and just wants to get laid. While out on the town, aka Hollywood, with his equally horny friends, he meets the seductive Countess (Lauren Hutton) and follows her home to a fabulous mansion. Mark is just what she needs to maintain her youthful glow — a male virgin to drink from 3 times before Halloween. But instead of just keeping him around, she decides to infiltrate his dreams and chase him around L.A.
Once Bitten is a lot of fun and jam-packed with catchy tunes. There’s even a ridiculous impromptu dance-off between the Countess, Mark, and his girlfriend Robin (Karen Kopins).
For fans of Jim Carrey and ’80s nonsense.
Where to watch: Tubi
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary following the undead lives of three vampire roommates in Wellington, New Zealand. Viago (Waititi), Vladislav (Clement), and Deacon (Jonny Brugh) are from different regions and time periods and have their own styles. But they all enjoy a night out. They have a brief but hilarious run-in with a local werewolf pack led by Anton (Rhys Darby), who scolds his brethren for cursing because they’re werewolves, not swear-wolves.
While the FX series of the same name has gained a fanbase, the original film is often overlooked. I love the series because Waititi and Clement expanded this wacky vampy world and moved the setting to Long Island. The series has a different cast but the OG core trio make a few appearances as members of the Vampiric Council.
For fans of Flight of the Conchords and the mind of Taika Waititi.
Where to watch: I recommend a Shadows marathon beginning with the film on Prime Video and following it up with the series on Hulu.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Shadow of the Vampire is truly a forgotten gem despite earning its lead actor an Academy Award nomination in 2001. The film stars Willem Dafoe as enigmatic actor Max Schreck best known for his eerie portrayal of the titular vampire in 1922’s Nosferatu — a role he played so well that rumors spread he was an actual vampire. Joining him on screen is the legendary John Malkovich as filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, a name any film student will certainly know.
Aside from the over-the-top acting style of the time, Nosferatu is far from a comedy. However, you’ll have plenty of laughs watching Shadow of the Vampire. Murnau’s production of Nosferatu is quite chaotic as Schreck’s presence has the cast and crew weary, which is hardly of any concern to Murnau. Though when his essential crew members start to disappear, his patience runs thin.
For fans of Ed Wood, Nosferatu, and film history.
Where to watch: Tracking this one down will require some work since it’s not currently streaming on any platforms. But it’s worth seeking out a DVD copy online or from a library. In the meantime, check out the trailer on Prime Video and watch/rewatch Nosferatu on Tubi while you’re at it.
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Cassondra Feltus is a St. Louis-based freelance writer best known for film, television, and pop culture analysis which has appeared on Black Girl Nerds, WatchMojo, Mental Floss, and The Take. She loves naps, Paul Rudd, and binge-watching the latest series with her two gorgeous pups – Harry and DeVito.