Wednesday, October 31

Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 30

Top 10 Vampire Film Countdown - #1

This is it, the top spot in out vampiric countdown. Before I announce the #1 film, let's recap the previous 9 entries:

#10 - Salem's Lot
 #9 - The LostBoys
 #8 - Near Dark
 #7 - Fright Night
 #6 - Let the Right One In
 #5 - Martin
 #4 - Dracula Prince of Darkness
 #3 - Horror of Dracula
 #2 - Dracula (1931)

And now for the #1 spot - a film that is one of the earliest renditions of the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, albeit an unauthorized adaptation - NOSFERATU.


Nosferatu was made in Germany in 1921, ten years before Universal's Dracula. It was directed by F.W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as Count Orlock. It is a silent film, yet is arguably the most terrifying vampire ever put to film. This vampire is evil, pure and simple. Not the sophisticated, suave vampire most people think of when they hear the name Dracula, but instead a true MONSTER. He is a tall, thin, gangly vampire, almost sickly looking. He is a disease carrier, a pestilence - he controls rats and where he goes he brings disease and famine. In fact he is very rat-like himself, with large twin fangs for front teeth and long sharp claw-like nails. He has a bald-head and piercing eyes, like something from a nightmare. This is a vampire to fear. He won't charm the blood from your veins, he'll rip it open and leave your rotting corpse behind.



 This is a German expressionist film, and makes great use of light and shadows. Some of the most effective scenes in the film are those of the shadow of the Count creeping up on his victim, again, like a nightmare slowly approaching.



As this was an unauthorized production of the film Bram Stoker's widow eventually caught wind of it and was none too happy. She brought litigation and the film was pulled from syndication and all prints ordered destroyed. Some survived, thankfully. This most likely explains the change in name from Dracula to Orlock (and from Renfield to Knock). If you've never seen Nosferatu you should definitely do so now. I have embeded theentire film below - enjoy, and Happy Halloween!!


Top 10 Vampire Films Countdown - #2

The #2 film on my Top 10 Vampire Film Countdown is the Universal film classic, Dracula!


Made in 1931 by Universal Studios and directed by Tod Browning, this is the one that people think of when you say the word Dracula. Based on the Bram Stoker novel it stars Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula and Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing. Lugosi's performance is top notch - he IS Count Dracula. His rendition of Dracula is the one all others are measured against. Dwight Frye is also terrific as Renfield, and once again it is his performance that stands the test of time.



Lon Chaney Sr. was originally slated to play the title role, but he was unable to do the part due to illness (cancer). Lugosi was a natural as he had already performed the part successfully on stage. Dracula was a huge success and launched the Universal era of horror films.


Don't believe the hype that the Spanish-language version, shot on the same sets at night, is superior. It has more fluid camera movements and is a little less stiff, but their lead actor is quite dorky looking and lacks the charisma and mesmerizing charm of Lugosi. The American version is a true classic, and Lugosi's Dracula became a movie icon that influenced all Draculas to come, and thus it is #2 on my countdown.


Monday, October 29

Top 10 Vampire Films - #3

#4 on my top ten Vampire films countdown is another entry from Hammer films - their first foray into vampire territory - HORROR OF DRACULA!



Released in 1958 this one stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Michael Gough. It was written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by the great Terrence Fisher. It was originally called simply DRACULA, but renamed Horror of Dracula to avoid confusion. It is based on the Stoker Dracula novel, albeit very loosely.  In THIS version Harker comes to castle Dracula to destroy the count (Lee). He fails, and Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) finds the castle empty and Harker lying in a cyypt, no longer a man but now a vampire. He stakes him through the heart and leaves to inform Harker's fiance, Lucy, of thetragic news. But it turns out Lucy has contracted a strange illness... and even stranger marks on her neck...



This film is a joy to watch. Sumptuous colors and crisp direction with the definitive British horror cast of Cushing and Lee - doesn't get much better than that. The two play off one another perfectly, and Cushing in particular is fantastic as Van Helsing. The music score by James Bernard is terrific as well, with that memorable theme that instantly says Hammer Horror.



This is one I revisit regularly, and in fact am overdue to watch again. Definitely one of the best, check out Horror of Dracula, it's a must see for vampire fans.


Top Ten Vampire Films #4

We're in the home stretch on the top vampire film countdown, and it's Hammer time as we welcome the #4 movie on our countdown, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS!


This is the third film in the Hammer Dracula series, the second which featured Christopher Lee as Count Dracula. It was made in 1966 and was written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Terrence Fisher. It stars Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, and Andrew Kier. This film is unique in that Dracula doesn't speak a word during this film - Despite this he still oozes evil in every scene.



When the film begins Dracula is dead, destroyed at the end of the first Hammer Dracula film Horror of Dracula. He is revived by a devoted minion of the dark prince, a man known simply as Klove. The scene where Dracula is resurrected is one of the best in any Hammer movies. Klove captures and knocks unconscious a man staying as a guest in Dracula's castle. He suspends him upside down over a crypt containing Dracula's ashes, then slits the man's throat, spilling his blood over the ashes and bringing Dracula back to un-life!





 

 

The one thing that would elevate this film higher on my list would be the addition of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. However, Andrew Keir plays Father Sandor, an ass-kicking monk traveling through the area. I really love his character, and he makes a nice stand-in for Van Helsing.



When it comes to vampire films I could honestly have made this list entirely Hammer-centric. The entire Hammer series is excellent, but there are two that I feel stand out above the pack, and DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS is certainly one of those!

Sunday, October 28

Top Ten Vampire Films #5

Coming in at #5 on our pain in the neck countdown, it's the George Romero film, Martin!



Shot in 1976 this film was written and directed by George "King of the Zombies" Romero. It's about a kid named Martin played by John Amplas who believes he's a vampire, and craves blood. He uses a syringe and razor blade and drinks blood from his victims. He has moved in with his uncle, who fully believes his nephew is a nosferatu. Martin is convinced he's 84 years old and needs blood to survive - but is he truly a vampire, or just a deranged kid...?


This movie is one of the most unique vampire films you'll find. It is so quirky and offbeat and the action is do realistic that it is actually a disturbing film. It is one of Romero's lesser known films, and a true classic. Romero has often said it is his personal favorite among his films, and he told me that very thing at Wonderfest several years back.


Check it out if you've not seen it, you won't forget it!


Friday, October 26

TOP TEN VAMPIRE FILMS - #6



Next up in our Vampire film countdown is a modern movie from 2008 based on a best-selling novel, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN


Directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, this Swedish film is one of the most beautiful and original vampire films of all time. Young Oskar is an outcast, a loner who is picked on by the school bullies. A new girl named Eli arrives at his apartment complex, and  the two become friends. There is something different about this girl - she has a dark, dangerous quality which young Oskar identifies with. Around this same time a string on inexplicable murders begins. Oskar slowly begins to realize there is more than meets the eye about this strange, pale girl who only comes out at night…




This film was remade by Hammer Studios in 2010 under the title LET ME IN. Both versions are excellent, with the Swedish one just barely edging out the Hammer version. The two young actors in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN are really terrific, and the story is brutal and believable, punctuated by the stark cold backdrop of a snowy Swedish ghetto. Highly recommended, this is one terrific movie.


Thursday, October 25

Top 10 Vampire Films - #7



Before we get to tonight's entry in the countdown I wanted to tell you guys about my buddy jeano's (Creeping Cruds guitarist) blog, Spooky Franklin. He has his own Top 10 Vampire films countdown going - http://spookyfranklin.blogspot.com/

Now on with the show - Coming in at #7 on the Vampire countdown is another 80’s fanged fright fest – FRIGHT NIGHT.

 Fright Night was made in 1985 and directed by Tom Holland. It stars Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse. This one is a monster-kid’s dream. It is chock so full of references to all the stuff I love that it really struck home with me. It tells the story of Charlie Brewster, an avid horror movie fan who, like all good horror fans, faithfully tunes in to his local TV horror host, Peter Vincent, host of FIGHT NIGHT. Peter Vincent (played by the great Roddy McDowell) channels Peter Cushing with his character, a wooden stake wielding vampire hunter. However it’s all just pretend – vampires don’t really exist, right?


Well Charlie discovers just the contrary when a pair of strange neighbors moves into the house next door. Charlie quickly learns that one of them is a vampire, but who will believe him? Certainly not the police, and not even his girlfriend. He turns to the one man who might not only believe his story but have the experience to help him defeat the denizen of the dark – Peter Vincent.



The 80s were a true renaissance period for vampire films. This makes sense when you consider horror movies often reflect our worst fears, and this was the decade when AIDS first became known to the public - The year Freddy Mercury was diagnosed with Aids both Near Dark and Lost Boys hit theaters. This fear played out on the big screen with a number of vampire movies both good - Lost Boys, Near Dark, The Hunger – and bad – the Vampire’s Kiss, Vamp, Once Bitten. There were many, many more – Lifeforce, My Best Friend is a Vampire, Transylvania Twist, Rockula (90), A Return to Salem’s Lot, etc.


Fright Night ranks a bit higher than the other 80s films on my list for several reasons – the horror host tie in, the fantastic special effects, Roddy McDowell’s performance, and the music. I had a cassette copy of the soundtrack for this movie that I played repeatedly until it was worn out. I need to get a CD copy of it. Fright Night is a fun movie and not to be confused with the 2011 remake. THIS is the version to see!!


Wednesday, October 24

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - starring Michael Renne

Got a special Halloween treat for you ghouls - an unaired episode of Dr. Gangrene Presents -
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, starring Michael Renne.

TOP TEN VAMPIRE FILMS - #8






Continuing the vampiric countdown here as we flap toward Halloween, coming in at number 8 is another movie from 1987 – NEAR DARK.


Near Dark was directed by Katheryn Bigelow and stars Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Adrian Pasdar. It tells the story of a guy name Caleb who meets and instantly falls for a young girl name Mae. Unfortunately for Caleb, she is not your normal girl next door. Mae bites him on the neck, turning him into a vampire. He is forced to take up with Mae’s group of rowdy friends, her surrogate vampire family, to survive.


 This film inevitably draws comparisons with The Lost Boys for a number of reasons. First, they were both released in 1987. Lost Boys came out first and was a huge success – three months later Near Dark was released and did terribly at the box office, losing money. Both are about a young guy who falls for a beautiful girl who is a vampire and becomes part of a “family” of vampires. Both must decide whether to accept their fate as a member of the walking dead or reject it and choose life. 


However, this movie kicks Lost Boys ass. These vampires are not the Gap fashioned, dangling earring wearing, well-coiffed vampires of Lost Boys but rather a rugged, dirty, vicious batch of bloodthirsty (literally) killers on the run. The cast is terrific and Bill Paxton steals the show in an unforgettable scene in a bar.  


 Near Dark has gained a cult following over the years and I was fortunate to catch it at The Belcourt Theater in Nashville last year at a midnight showing. Check out Near Dark if you’ve never seen it – It’s finger lickin good!!

Tuesday, October 23

TOP TEN VAMPIRE FILMS - #9


Continuing our countdown of the top Vampire films of all time, at #9 is a film from 1987 that was a HUGE box office success and one that I remember seeing in the theater - THE LOST BOYS.


This film was made by director Joel Schumacher and stars Keifer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, and Jason Patric. It tells the story two brothers and their mom who move to a new town, Santa Carla, CA. The older brother, Michael, gets involved with a pack of bloodsucking bikers and younger brother Sam falls in with two strange kids known as the Frog Brothers who know the truth of what lurks in Santa Carla.

I almost hesitated to put this movie on the list simply because Schumacher directed it, which I realize is unfair. In retrospect I'm letting the complete shittiness of the Batman movies he directed color my perception of this movie. The Lost Boys is a lot of fun and although it is a campy movie it still has its scary moments. The pack of vampires is an interesting element of the film, especially juxtaposed with Sam and Michael's family. Michael finds himself torn between the two and must make a choice.



The Lost Boys is a true product of the 80s, a snapshot of fashion and attitudes of the time. I love that a comic book shop plays prominently at the beginning of the movie. Once the final showdown occurs this film falls a little too much into the cliche of having the vampires die too easily. This is a problem I have with most vampire movies that features large numbers of vampires - they cease to be frightening monsters and instead become cartoon characters, fodder for one silly death sequence after another (a problem I have with films like BLADE or FROM DUS TILL DAWN). But despite this THE LOST BOYS is entertaining and worth watching, and one I revisit from time to time.


Monday, October 22

TOP TEN VAMPIRE FILM COUNTDOWN

This post began as a conversation over dinner one night with my son, Luke. We were discussing movies and the topic of vampire films came up. We started mentioning our favorites and least favorites, making a list of them. I quickly texted myself with the results, and held onto it. Flash forward several months and I'm thinking about what I want to do for Halloween here on the blog when I suddenly remembered that bloodsucking countdown Luke and I had developed... perfect! Thus this year's Halloween treat, my top 10 Vampire film countdown.


I'm beginning the list with a film that holds the distinction of being one of the few that scared me as a kid. I have distinct, and fond, memories of watching this one alone in my bedroom on a little television, with all the lights off. I would watch it until I got too scared and then would change the channel, flip to something else for a bit, then switch back to this movie and do it all over again, watching until I got too scared to take it any more. I had nightmares about this one. Coming in at #10...





#10 - SALEM'S LOT, 1979, Dir. Tobe Hooper, Starring David Soul and James Mason. It tells the story of an ancient vampire named Barlow who comes to the town of Salem's Lot and begins feeding on the population, turning each of his victims into vampires too. This was a made-for-TV mini-series based on the book Salem's Lot by Stephen King - don't be misled into watching the 2004 adaptation of this book starring Rutger Hauer and Rob Lowe, the 1979 version is much better. It originally aired in 2 parts, on November 17th and 24th, 1979. I was 13 years old at the time...

Barlow is a truly frightening vampire. Based look-wise on the vampire from the classic film Nosferatu, Barlow is not the romantic, suave vampire of Hollywood films but an evil, rat-like creature infesting the town and spreading his disease of vampirism. It features some truly scary moments and is one I revisit from time to time, although now I don't need to change the channel any longer. Usually.




Friday, October 19

Haunt of Fear

Happy Halloween all - hope the season is going spookily well for you all. Thought I'd share a trio of fangtastic covers from EC Comic. EC by far had the finest stable of artists ever assembled under one banner. Ghastly Graham Ingels, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood - the list goes on and on. These covers are from THE HAUNT OF FEAR...




Sunday, October 14

Horror Hootenanny 9 a huge success!

 

We had the largest turnout ever for our Horror Hootenanny show last night, with people traveling in from as far away as New York and Michigan to see FORBIDDEN DIMENSON! The bands were all excellent - Alucard, Forbidden Dimension, The Creeping Cruds, and Hellfire Revival! Amazing costumes abounded and there was a great vibe throughout the building. It was great to be back at THE END again, and a big thanks to all our sponsors - LONEWOLF BODY ART, EVIL PUMPKINS, and UNHOLY APPAREL for the great prizes donated for the costume contest!













 


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