It’s your KF on KND Editor April here, with some vampire movie recommendations that dispense with the glitz, glamour and romance, and give us vampires as they used to be: at turns terrifying, alien, intensely lonely, and ultimately, tragic.
Let Me In (R, 4/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $7.99 to own in SD or HD) is the American remake of the equally excellent Swedish film, Let The Right One In.
In Los Alamos, New Mexico, the twelve year-old Owen is a lonely and outcast boy bullied in school…He befriends his twelve-year-old next door neighbor, Abby, who only appears during the night in the playground of their building. Meanwhile, [the older man who lives with Abby] is a wanted serial killer who drains the blood of his victims to supply Abby, who is actually an ancient vampire. Owen soon discovers that she is a vampire, and he feels both fear and love for the girl. – Written by Claudio Carvalho
What makes this movie so affecting is the way it draws parallels between Owen and Abby. Both are outcasts from society, both are dependent on caregivers who are sometimes unreliable, and both are desperately in need of a friend and human connection. While it’s classified as a horror film, I’d say it’s more of an adolescent love story / drama. When the truth about the relationship between Abby and her “father” is revealed, it’s positively tragic. Abby doesn’t want to hurt Owen, but loving her comes at a devastating price the boy can’t begin to understand. Chloe Grace Moretz brings a surprising level of gravitas to her role as Abby—considering how young the actress was at the time this movie was shot—, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is no less believable or sympathetic as young Owen.
Only Lovers Left Alive (R, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $22.99 to own in SD / $14.99 in HD) is a moody and darkly beautiful Jim Jarmusch film about an ancient vampire couple who’ve evolved past the need to kill for their survival. I can’t describe it any better than Amazon reviewer Neuromancer does, so here’s that review:
“Only Lovers Left Alive” is a film that’s both poetic and ironic – it’s underground, languid and cool. If you’re not on it’s wavelength it may just seem slow, but if you relax and give yourself over to its we’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world pacing, you begin to enter its hypnotic stream, and then what a pleasure it becomes. The film deals with love and mortality – the passage of time, what’s of value and lasts, and what is just of the moment. There also is a generational theme, embodied in the four vampire characters (relative to vampire years): childhood, adolescence, mature adult, and old age.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, as Adam and Eve, make a lovely and deeply romantic vampire couple – one for whom endless time has not been wasted – they’re philosophical, sophisticated and so much in love. Tilda and Tom are perfection in these roles, their chemistry really holds the film together. John Hurt is the elder vampire mentor, Kit Marlowe, who has seen it all and has described it profoundly in the writings attributed to Shakespeare (a humorous dig at the old bard).
About half way in the film, Ava, Eve’s impulsive little vampire-sprite of a sister, enters the scene like a whirlwind out of L.A. (“Zombie Central”) and proceeds to upend Adam and Eve’s gentle world…Where Adam and Eve contemplate eternity, art and science, and a loving connection, Ava demands to be fed and wants to party. Finally, Ava’s dangerous urges create a crisis that forces the vampire couple to set another whole course. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is sensual and delicate with beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully evocative soundtrack.
My Take: As I said, I can’t add much to Neuromancer’s review, but one important plot point Neuromancer doesn’t address is Adam’s extreme ennui and disillusionment with the world, and particularly, the people in it. A major throughline of the story is Eve’s attempts to bring Adam back from the brink of suicide. In this film, immortality can be a curse. The performances are excellent across the board.
Angels of Darkness (R, 4/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $4.99 to own in SD / $7.99 in HD) is based on the 1872 Gothic story Carmilla, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. The book is described like this:
Before Dracula, there was Carmilla—the first seductive vampire to haunt readers’ imaginations
This classic of Gothic horror follows Laura, a woman haunted by a girlhood dream of a beautiful visitor to her bedroom. Now, a decade later, Laura finds Carmilla, who appears to be her own age, on the side of the road after a carriage accident. The two recognize each other from the same childhood dream and become fast friends. Soon after, Laura begins to experience mysterious feelings and is once again haunted by nightmares. She finds Carmilla strangely irresistible and longs to be with her.
But as the two friends grow closer, Laura’s health begins to fail. It becomes apparent that her enchanting companion is harboring a sinister secret. To free herself from Carmilla’s grasp, Laura and her family must fight for their lives.
My Take: The movie follows the book’s plot for the most part, but adds some contemporary details to make the story fit in the current era. If anything, that only makes the character of Carmilla seem even more alien and terrifying, as it begins to dawn that what Laura and her father (played by the wonderful Stephen Rea) are up against is an ancient and eldritch evil. Yet ironically, this is, in a way, a feminist vampire story too. It’s not just that the two main characters (Laura and Carmilla) are female, but in this story and film Carmilla is a dark, liberating goddess of sorts, freeing chosen girls of her homeland from the shackles of their human, patriarchal society, in which they have no power to speak of and are frequently abused.
Any or all of of these movies are well worth your time, even if you’re not a particular fan of the vampire genre.