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7 Most Overrated Vampire Films

Lots of “Ten Best” lists for vampire films wait for the would-be reviewer or simple researcher on the web. Almost as common are “Ten Worst” lists. Plenty of debate then follows, about which title deserves its placing and so on. But this list goes after something different. Not best or worst anything. Rather, which vampire films tend to be overrated–that is, praised far more than they deserve?

Almost every one save the most rabid twihard would agree “Twilight” belongs on such a list. Not because the flick is particularly bad (in fact, for its genre–a type of romance–the film rates well above average) but because its fans are sometimes…well…ridiculous. Some of them, anyway. Remember the infamous comment that made its way through the web from a twihard who felt insulted that “The Wolf Man” was such an obvious rip-off of her favorite story? Or more recently, a post by some other fan who thought Harry Potter a weak attempt to cash in on “Twilight”? This reaches levels of embarassing. One wonders precisely how some of these folks will react to seeing Romeo and Juliet? Or Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (the plot of “New Moon” echoes it in some ways)? Of course, most of those who so enjoy Stephanie Meyers’ books are no sillier than your average follower of a given professional sports team.

Seems fair to point out “Underworld” can be just about as silly. While performed by a truly stellar cast and shot with an interesting, even beautiful aesthetic, the three (soon to be four) films are seriously flawed. For one, the films are sexist. So far only the first film has even had more than one named, speaking female character, and those two when interacting speak of nothing but men. For another, the plots are nearly as obvious as those of “Twilight,” even to the point of naming one of the villains Kraven (he’s basically a bully and a coward–get it?). Michael, the male lead, has good looks and eventually awesome power. What he lacks is a personality. Yet the excitement generated by fans of these films permeates all kinds of other fandoms! It is now taken as de regeur that vampires and werewolves despise one another (in folklore they were usually synonymous). Slicked back hair has become a cliche, along with long dark coats and a vaguely Matrix-esque image for the undead. Meanwhile, Victor remains a short-sighted idiot, Selene a cypher, Michael a nonentity, Kraven a villain worthy of a video game, and in an entire trilogy about vampires we have yet to see a single vampire bite even one human being!

Next is “Lost Boys,” which continues to have its avid advocates. But think about it–our hero (again named Michael) once more has zero personality. His dramatic crisis is relentlessly upstaged by the silly antics of Grandpa and the Frog brothers. While visually stunning beyond doubt, the flick’s story is pretty much by-the-numbers and at the end doesn’t feel as if it does end so much as stop. Insights into being a vampire? None. A compelling love story? Nope. Comments on humanity? Not that I could spot. Frankly, any music video by P!nk manages to be a better film that this movie.

The 1931 version of “Dracula” likewise gets far more praise than it deserves. Bela Lugosi himself gives a fine performances, as do Dwight Frye and (barely) Edward Sloane. But the rest of the cast comes across as mediocre. The film barely has a single camera move in it. Cuts to the flow of scenes are often bewildering (like, what happened to Mina? What was Renfield about to do to that nurse?) while the attempts at comedy summon not grins but cringing. All one has to do is watch the Spanish-language version made at the same time to see what this film could have been, with effective direction and a better cast in the supporting roles. Plus–what was with the armadillos? Honestly!

Van Helsing” seems a special case in some ways. The movie did not do that well at the box office, but nevertheless earned a hard-core fanbase who continue to write fanfiction, create music videos and the like. Often, crossovers take place. When someone wants to make (for example) Hermione Granger entranced by a vampire, a lot of the time they proceed to use Dracula in this flick. In message boards and on Facebook mention of Richard Roxburgh’s Dracula comes up often. Others actually go around thinking Van Helsing in the novel is this dashing action hero (a good friend of mine seemed shocked at film versions that show Van Helsing as an old man). Yet the movie is a mess from start to finish, played with near-slapstick humor and a bewildering plot and a backstory that crossed my eyes trying to figure out (okay, so this Vladislas guy–he created a castle out of thin air? Or did someone actually build a castle somewhere inaccessible–so how did the workers get there to build it?). Plus a so-called expert on occult weapons going off to fight vampires who cannot suss what use a grenade that creates sunlight might be????????

The silent classic “Nosferatu” on the other hand, is one of two films on this list that is actually very good indeed. The problem is, that only applies to the scenes involving the vampire. Every other scene in the flick is deadly dull, poorly acted, and completely eclipsed by the scenes made (rightfully) famous. Max Shrek was a fine actor. Most of the rest of the cast were nowhere near his standards (especially the so-called leading man–notice a pattern here?).

Likewise the Swedish film “Let The Right One In” is a genuinely brilliant motion picture, an adaptation of what many rightfully feel one of the finest vampire novels ever written. Its story–about the relationship that develops between two sad children, one of them a vampire–almost instantly became a new classic in the genre and won wide praises from critics and viewers world-wide. I am one of them. It easily belongs on virtually any “top ten” list of vampire films. And yet–some of its fans behave almost like Twihards do! Most often this takes the form of despising the American adaptation, “Let Me In” to the point of casting aspersions against the cast. I’ve read posts by fans of LTROI greeting the news that Matt Reeves (writer/director of LMI) with hopes the man becomes homeless! A small cadre of fanatics actually scour every moment of the special features in the DVD, looking for any statements that might conceivably indicate getting the slightest nuance of a fact wrong, then go around announcing to the world as proof of the producers’ dishonesty. Of all the overreactions on this list, surely these folks deserve some kind of award. It takes an unusual effort to view one of (if not THE) finest vampire films ever made and then OVERRATE it. A bizarre kind of congratulations seem appropriate.

draculaLet The Right One InLost boysnosferatuThe Wolf Mantwilightunderworldvampire filmvampire movievampire moviesVan Helsing

david • August 8, 2011


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Comments

  1. annimi August 8, 2011 - 5:54 am Reply

    Pht. The Lost Boys was awesome. The fact that it didn’t get all melodramatic about its vampires was one of its key selling points. Fuck the philosophical shit; let’s leave it to Anne Rice and the other deep thinkers with too much time on their hands to romanticize and wax poetic about the human/vampire plight. There’s a time and a place for that kind of thing, and ideally, it’s far, far from anything with Kiefer Sutherland in. The fact that too many people got too poetic about vampires is why we’re in this figurative shit storm of horrible vampire romance films in the first place. Too many queer baits and fat, dateless women sat around wishing Dracula hadn’t died in Winona’s arms, and here we are, a decade later, gagging on Pattinson’s glitter flakes.

    • Greg August 8, 2011 - 8:01 am Reply

      not for nothing but i think you just made Davids point with that coment

  2. Kalki August 8, 2011 - 10:36 am Reply

    Putting films like Lost Boys and Let the Right One In on such a list is an abomination. Are people fanatical about them? Absolutely. It’s because they’re genuinely good and don’t we want more of that?

    It’s a lot better than to continue to participate in the diminishing of a franchise (Blade, Underworld) or put up with barely tolerable scrapple (Priest, Daybreakers).

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  5. Moonlight August 8, 2011 - 11:50 am Reply

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people getting excited about a movie they love and I don’t think people should only love certain types of movies. Some movies aren’t meant to move you or inspire you, they’re simply there to entertain and that’s fine. Many of the movies above aren’t brilliant masterpieces, but they are highly entertaining, and really, that’s what you want in a movie.

  6. Halek August 8, 2011 - 12:25 pm Reply

    A lot to both agree with and disagree with here. Overall a thought-provoking article, so kudos!

    I am admittedly a rabid Twi-hard. The funny thing is that I walked into a theater showing Twilight in November ’08 as a skeptic – I had recently complained to friends about the recent crop of pretty & heroic vampires – and came out a believer. Here’s how I might put it: Twilight is simultaneously overrated by Twi-hards (from an ‘objective’ outsider perspective) and underrated by Twi-haters. (Love the photo of Chloe biting Edward!)

    I actually found the non-Shrek parts of Nosferatu fascinating, including Hutter’s wife playing with her cat and the professor discussing the ubiquity of vampirism in nature.

    The fanaticism of some Let The Right One In fans is even worse than that of Twi-hards and Twi-haters. Witness the comments threads on various blogs that were hijacked by anti-Let Me In zealots last year. I suppose it’s another demonstration of how love can foster hate.

    I like the armadillos in Browning’s Dracula (Drac can defy laws of biogeography?) but while the first half is one of the best vampire movies ever made, the second half is among the most boring.

    Whatever one thinks of Lost Boys (and to me it’s no Hunger or Near Dark), it’s an important film for several reasons, including: genesis of the Buffy ‘vamp face’, melding of action/horror/comedy/romance, Cry Little Sister – since covered by several goth bands. The 80s redefined vampires as the most ‘cutting edge’ (forgive the pun) representatives of youth subcultures, and Lost Boys is exhibit A.

  7. D.MacDowell Blue August 8, 2011 - 12:51 pm Reply

    Keep in mind I’m not claiming these films are without merit. My point is that they’ve been seriously and loudly overrated, usually by a group of hardcore fans.

    • Kalki August 9, 2011 - 3:00 pm Reply

      The problem is the article mostly comes across as a shock-piece intended to garner only hits and comments. And to that, it’s been successful. But generally speaking, there is very little actual content. It’s more of a hit list rather than discussing the merits or lack there of.

      • annimi August 10, 2011 - 1:58 am Reply

        Yes, god forbid our writers should write anything that gets attention, readers or comments, –that would be SILLY and juvenile. Good thing you spotted this! Hopefully, D. stops writing these crazy “shock-pieces” that get so many comments. If the site actually becomes successful, we’ll have to shut it down.

        • Kalki August 10, 2011 - 2:29 pm Reply

          So basically you’re saying that you want readers to come here, be fooled by spending time looking at posts that offer no substance and then when they comment get smacked down with sarcasm?

          Dully noted.

          I don’t think that’s a good model for retaining visitors. But hey, that’s just me.

          • Moonlight August 10, 2011 - 4:01 pm

            No, that is not what we want at all. Personally I adore my readers and while I occasionally like to stir up emotions or do silly posts I don’t do it with the intention of pissing off all my readers. I can’t speak for the other writers here, but I doubt they want that as well.

          • Dagmar August 10, 2011 - 5:57 pm

            Moonlight I love you’re articles and I respect you’re opinion and I really don’t believe you would write anything like this! this is just an article that wants to chock and maybe this is a one time thing with david I dont know because funny enough the most articles I read are from Moonlight and this is totally coincidental I read the article’s name and then decide if I’m gonna read it.
            So just a note I love Moonlights articles :D srr if you think this is dull or think off me as a crazy fan (which I’m not) but I just noticed it :D

          • Moonlight August 10, 2011 - 6:33 pm

            Aww thanks Dagmar :) I appreciate the love. And for the record I love David’s posts and his writing, this may not be my favorite of his, but he is an incredibly intelligent and interesting writer. :)

  8. Dagmar August 8, 2011 - 4:08 pm Reply

    I def agree with twilight being overrated but the rest of these movie’s are mostly very good and I haven’t heard of any groupies or crazy wannabe’s of the other movies. Sometimes you hear of a crazy person who wants to drink blood or something stupid like that (never related to a single vampire movie mostly just a crazed fan) but there was never such a hipe as Twilight and maybe Dracula. I saw Underworld because my father was into scifi and fantasy and he once rented it but I don’t know many people who know the movie same with Nosferatu which I saw at school (I studied Film and Television) and I really love these movies.

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  11. M Woo August 8, 2011 - 9:59 pm Reply

    I could never get over the grimy look of the vamps in “Underworld.” It made them look/ feel dirty, not sexy. Though I’m sure sales of hair mousse went through the roof after that one. Also couldn’t stomach the “jazz hands” scene at the baseball game in the first “Twilight.” Kinda threw me out of a story I could just barely stomach in the first place. I hear the series gets better though.

  12. Christine August 9, 2011 - 3:33 pm Reply

    Fat, dateless woman? Eh, I don´t WANT date – I´m asexual, sparky – and especially not from potty-mouthed brat like annimi.
    Overrated:
    From dusk till dawn. Sadism-is-cooler-than-thou trash from sleazy Quentin “Emperor´s new clothes” Tarantino.
    Blade. Cooler-than-thou trash.
    John Carpenter´s vampires. 5,9 from IMDB is too much to this garbage.
    I think Nosferatu is indeed slightly overrated – agreed about terrible leading man – but it is in totally different league that those abominations…

    • Christine August 9, 2011 - 3:41 pm Reply

      Oh and Underworld!

    • annimi August 10, 2011 - 1:55 am Reply

      Good thing, because I don’t pack a box lunch. But if I did, I wouldn’t go for someone with the film taste of the average Borat fan.

      • Christine August 10, 2011 - 5:24 am Reply

        Oh, it´s YOU who have taste of average Borat fan… but that´s typical.

  13. Scott M. Baker August 9, 2011 - 4:29 pm Reply

    While you can easily make the case for some of the movies on that list (such as Twilinght and Van Helsing), I disagree with calling Nosferatu overrated. I found that movie to be the standard by which to judge bad-ass vampire movies that followed. The entire sequence aboard the Exeter, especially when he rises from his coffin while remaining rigid, is the only scene in any vampire movie that still chills me to this day.

  14. Scott M. Baker
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  16. Mari Nolan August 15, 2011 - 10:34 pm Reply

    Okay. i can be called a Twi-hater. frankly, the idea of a vampire watching someone while shes sleeping is really kinda stalker-ish. traditional vampires are meant to be seen as beings who only see humans as sustenance, not objects to be loved. Sure if it starts with getting a fix, i can deal, but if the vampire goes to HIGH SCHOOL and meets a girl and decides overnight that he loves her then that’s ridiculous. Vampires from the ever-popular PC game Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines have it going. They realize that humans are only food. they aren’t made to be one sort of being. They have different personalities, abilities, and appearances, not pale, moody, and sparkly. Yes, vampires in bloodlines are pale, but do you see any sparkles or even moodiness for that matter? Furthermore, vampires weren’t made to love. They can love in the way that a human loves a big mac, but not in the have-a-child-in-a-second-then-get-turned way. In days when development wasn’t what it is today and forests surrounded most European towns, vampires were a superstitious reason as to animal attacks on people. Vampire stories originated in Europe from wolf attacks and the like on towns. Some movies and books have stayed true to this original story where vampires haunted the forests and nearby towns at night, but not many, unfortunately. Sorry for this long and, most likely, boring, analysis, but I needed to get this point through. @Annimi Sod off, you troll

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