Monsters are hard to pin down. Partly due to their very name sake, and partly due to the meaning we as viewers choose to see in them. From grotesque to the subdued, they mirror our own humanity to its deepest depths.
Few monsters have gone through as many phases as vampires, cycling out as often as the moon herself. One of those phases shows Vampirisim as the most likely of culprits- an illness. Pulsing through the body as quickly or as slowly as any plague, the virus of Vampirisim is a whole other beast. Below are our 10 Picks that showcase the devastation and despair in their most gruesome glory.
10. The Addiction (1995)
The Addiction is more than straightforward when it comes to its message, essentially announcing it as the title. The flick features Lili Taylor (The Haunting) as Kathleen Conklin, a philosophy student in New York City. Conklin is attacked by a woman named Casanova who demands Conklin to tell her to leave. Conklin finds herself unable to and is subjected to Casanova’s blood-thirst. Over the course of the movie we watch as Conklin essentially falls apart, subject to traditional vampire symptoms such as suffering under daylight. Dialogue is ripe with philosophical quotes and analogies, hinting at Vampiric immortality at the price of drinking blood. The whole film begins to be seen as something else. Not so much vampires, but more rooted in reality. The blood addiction begins to look more and more like drug addiction with each passing moment and even features moments of relapse.
9. Stake Land (2010)
Stake Land is the most apocalyptic on the list, featuring a ruined society and bands of humans doing whatever it is to survive. More Mad Max than it is Dracula, Stake Land is refreshing within its carnage but still holding on to certain Vampiric traditions. Vampirism is a pandemic; infecting society and forcing it to its knees. Humanity now resides in small groups that cling to humanity and await the terrors that nightfall brings. This movie has it all – vampire gangs, religious fanaticism, and apocalyptic militias. Almost makes you wonder if a new plague could cause this sort of damage nowadays.
8. Rabid (1977)
Rabid is one of those films that you’re not quite sure where it belongs. Sure it’s Vampiric in nature, but it’s also by David Cronenberg (Videodrome) so you know it’s packed with body horror. Possibly the farthest interpretation of a typical vampire, Rabid follows the story of Rose, played by Marilyn Chambers, who survives a motorcycle accident. After undergoing surgery, Rose develops a sort of orifice in her underarm that reveals a stinger she uses to feed on people. Soon after, the people who Rose feeds on become infected, declared something similar to rabies. Each infected becomes zombie-like, attacking anyone closest to it. The film shows the chaos ensuing in Canada, starting in Quebec stretching to Montreal. It plays like a classic zombie movie, with those around unaware Rose is the carrier for the virus, and possibly the antidote.
7. Thirty Days of Night (2007)
I first saw 30 Days of Night on a blustery December night in the middle of nowhere. Which meant it was incredibly dark, incredibly cold, and felt incredibly alone. Mix that with the blood-spattered snowscapes of the movie meant I was sure to double-check my locked doors that night. Not that I’m one to complain, but vampires seem to be cast in more of a romantic light than other monsters. But here, the illness that inflicts a band of vampires in the Alaskan wilderness doesn’t turn them into rogue anti heroes but instead terrifying monsters. They feature rows of deadly teeth and an affinity for the suffering of others. It’s been a long time coming, but 30 Days of Night makes a grand effort into making a certain monster monstrous again.
6. Afflicted (2013)
The first time I ever saw Afflicted, I initially thought it was a zombie flick – and for good reason. The premise isn’t an unfamiliar one. Derek and Clif decide to film all over the world for their web series, “Ends of the World.” Derek has a rare but fatal illness that he discloses with a woman they meet in Barcelona named Audrey. After a seemingly uneventful night, Clif discovers Derek, alone and wounded, assuming Audrey had planned on robbing him. Instead, she infects him with her own illness that manifests in hauntingly familiar ways. He cannot ingest food without vomiting, regardless of how hungry he is. He is forced to flee from sunlight. They soon discover that only one thing helps him, human blood. The film is fascinating in how it treats the illness because it’s truly a sickness. There’s no glamour to Derek’s condition; it’s not sexy, and he doesn’t brood deep in the night over Victorian literature. Instead, he wastes away until his next meal.
5. Blade II (2002)
For this one I’m not going to focus on the first Blade but rather Blade II (hello, it has Ron Perlman). My favorite of the franchise, and for good reasons other than very specific actors. Vampirism in the Blade universe already exists and runs wild – but now something more dangerous comes forth. Wesley Snipes (Gallowwalkers) reprises his role as Blade, who sets off to find his mentor Abraham Whistler, thought dead after the events in the first film. Soon they discover a new virus called “Reaper Virus.” The virus tears through the vampire community turning them into “Reapers,” a different strain of vampires immune to typical weakness, except to ultraviolet light. They destroy humans and vampires alike, turning the latter into more Reapers. The blood-borne virus takes its job seriously, afflicting the Reapers to a gruesome death if they remain unfed.
4. The Hunger (1983)
As sensual and beautiful as The Hunger is, it raises a good question. What if Vampirism promised eternal life but not eternal youth? David Bowie’s (Labyrinth) Tom finds this out the hard way as rapidly ages, regardless of his blood thirst. His partner who turned him, Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve, Les Liaisons dangereuses) knows this all too well; just ask the coffins of her past lovers. The disease doesn’t allow for eternal youth and instead damns the afflicted to wither away until they are merely a mummy. He seeks out help in the form of Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror Picture Show) playing Dr. Sarah Roberts. Roberts specializes in the effects of rapid aging. After initially dismissing Tom’s aging predicament, she soon finds the truth within it, tinted in blood and heartbreak.
3. Thirst (2009)
No vampire list is ever complete without talking about the 2009 Korean masterpiece Thirst. This one manages to mix two things that to me seem to make more sense than anything together, Catholicism and Vampirism. The whole “body and blood” really takes on a new meaning when Sang-Hyun (Song Kang-ho, The Host), a Catholic priest/hospital volunteer participates in a vaccine experiment to help find a vaccine for the fatal Emmanuel Virus. The experiment fails and Sang-Hyun is infected, only he makes a miraculous recovery after a blood transfusion. News of his recovery spreads through the church and he comes to be seen as a miraculous healer. But his personal life seems to fall apart as he relapses into illness, falling victim to sunlight and hunger. He finds reprieve with drinking blood, but the effects of Emmanuel Virus hold strong. The virus only seems to relax when he’s fed. We watch as faith dissolves and is fashioned into something new, something that holds true to the notions of blood and body in more physical ways.
2. Daybreakers (2009)
I’m allowing this to be my official statement of the year: Daybreakers was actually a great movie. It’s because of this movie (featuring many other apocalyptic flicks) that have me excited for 2019 in the weirdest of ways. The movie takes place in 2019, and showcases a different present than one we currently have; Vampirism is a plague and turned most of humanity into vampires. A quick glance shows that not much has changed, people still work nine to five jobs (or would it be five to nine?), they take public transportation and drink fine, aged blood. The human population is severely dwindled, making food for the general population harder and harder to come by. The vampire-plague manifests itself in its most horrific form when a starved vampire seems to devolve into a beastly state; more akin to bat-like monsters than people.
1. Cronos (1993)
Cronos is one of my favorite films of all time. I could gush for years about Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece (and Ron Perlman looking his tastiest) but alas, I’ll cut it short. Cronos features something not often seen within vampire flicks done well, and that’s truly someone to sympathize with. As per the norm with anything del Toro touches, the film uses its horror in the most sensitive ways. The film focuses on Jesús Gris, an aging religious antique dealer who discovers a mechanical object hidden within the base of an archangel statue, The device unfurls itself like a mechanical spider and injects something into Jesus’ hand. Naturally, he finds his youth returning to him, with a bonus side effect of thirsting for blood. The film follows Jesus navigate his illness as his body either crumbles from lack of blood or revive itself with new-found vigor. It’s a disease within him, and only Angel played by Ron Perlman (Blade II) and his wealthy uncle know the solution. The Vampiric disease shows itself with peeling skin revealing new marble-esque flesh. It’s the least gruesome of the lot, but showcases humanity that lingers behind every sickness.