September 28, 2014

Ten Vampire Films to Avoid During Halloween

I want you to know that this list was much harder to come up with than the last one. I mean, what truly constitutes a bad movie? This list could have gone on and on (I had nearly fifty entries at one point), so I had to set some ground rules for what I'm trying to achieve: while the previous list was about sharing the love of great Vampire films overall, this time I'm relegating the list to only those films which have had wide releases in theaters and TV. That's right, you won't find any direct-to-YouTube, homemade crap here. These are the ones that tried to make it and ultimately failed, the ones that were made with good intentions but initially suffered for one reason or another...too many cooks in the kitchen, bad special effects, or tired, clichéd storylines—take your pick. They're all here for you to avoid like the plague. And it should be no surprise that most of the entries on this list were all made within the last 5-10 years, since we've been experience a dry spell for good Vampire flicks, so to speak. So, without further ado, check out my Top Ten List of Vampire Movies to Avoid During Halloween!




Dark Shadows (2012) – Where do I begin? I had such high hopes for this one, though I confess I became worried as soon as I heard Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were involved. I'm a fan of the original series and even more so of the theatrical film, House of Dark Shadows, released in 1970, which is essentially the original storyline intended for Barnabas Collins on the show (this had to be changed due to the popularity of the character). This film, however, spits in the eye of all for which the original stands, trading in the gothic atmosphere for campy humor, blue tones, and Alice Cooper. Such a disaster. The film was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of another offending title on this list. Surprise, surprise!




Fright Night Part II (1988) – While the original Fright Night didn't make it into my previous list, don't think that film isn't close to my heart. It's one of the true, great gems of the 80's with brilliant special effects, memorable performances by Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell, and a slick synth-based soundtrack by Brad Fiedel. The sequel, on the other hand...ugh. This time around, the Vamp-fatale is Jerry Dandridge's sister, Regine, who has a beef with Charlie Brewster after he so unceremoniously destroyed her brother in the previous film. Rather than just off him, though, she spends more time...making out with him? Brian Thompson shows up in a supporting role as a, uh...well, he's not a vampire. In fact, it's never really explained what the hell he is. Also of note: Louie, one of Regine's vampiric horde with a penchant for going into wolf form, 'cause he's just gotta be different, is the same guy who played the human form of the Wolfman in 1987's The Monster Squad.




The Twilight Saga – All of Them (2008-2012) – Yeah, you knew this was coming. A film series so atrocious, I couldn't decide which one was worse, so I decided to lump them all together under one entry. Probably the biggest example of a cash cow on this list, there was really no way to improve these films without major backlash because they're actually pretty faithfully adapted from the books by Stephanie Meyer. I'm not even going to rant about how ridiculous the angst-ridden, sparkly teenage vampires are in these movies, since it's all been said before...I'll just point out a poignant quote by horror author Stephen King on the overall quality of the books (and by proxy, the films): “Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” Now, I've heard several people defending this film simply for the fact that 100 year-old vampire Edward and 17 year-old Bella (let that sink in for a moment...ewww) waited until marriage to get it on. That may be a nice change of pace for some, but what sort of conflicting messages are we sending our young ones when the “heroine” of the story is actually willing to commit suicide just to get her boyfriend's attention? The Twilight series is a mockery and a slap in the face of Young Adult books and films everywhere simply for having such a weak, pathetic female lead. And, yes, sparkly vamps. Can't forget those.




Dracula (2006) – Yet another BBC adaptation of the Stoker novel...and in name only. The storyline of this stinker doesn't even come close to the novel, instead serving as a commentary on whether or not Bram Stoker may have actually had syphilis in his lifetime. Really? What does that have to do with anything? Arthur Holmwood turns out to be the one who brought Dracula to London from Transylvania, because he's contracted syphilis from his many indiscretions against his wife, Lucy, and wants Dracula to turn him immortal so he'll be cured. Yikes. Most other characters are completely written out of the story altogether: Jonathan Harker dies in the beginning à la Horror of Dracula (1958); Van Helsing barely appears at all, and when he does, he's so terrified of Dracula he's rendered completely impotent; Seward, Quincy, Renfield, and many others are nowhere to be found at all. Add to that an extremely lackluster, yawn-inducing performance by Marc Warren as the Count and you've got yourself a genuine, bona fide stinker. There's plenty of adaptations of the novel I don't like, but this is the only one I actively hate.




Van Helsing (2004) – Bad special effects and thin performances abound in this flick directed by Stephen Sommers of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and the Mummy reboot. Hugh Jackman stars as the titular hero Van Helsing, and neither he nor Kate Beckinsale's lovely visage can save this farce. A huge failure at the box office, this movie actually set back the horror genre as a prospect for big tentpole productions. I have no doubt in my mind that, if it weren't for the X-Men franchise, Hugh's career would have begun a long, downward spiral into mediocrity. Thankfully, after Kate & Leopold and a bit part in the atrocious Movie 43, he's still been able to come out on top.




Blade: Trinity (2004) – After the masterful Blade II (another movie that didn't quite make my previous list, but still gets lots of love), Blade: Trinity was a pure WTF moment for the franchise that effectively killed the prospect of another Blade film for many years. Supposedly, Dominic Purcell is supposed to be the in-movie inspiration for Dracula, but he's not fooling anyone. Instead, he spends a lot of time running away from Blade, the fight scenes are less-than-stellar, the story is largely incoherent, and Wesley Snipes was already on his way to the big house for tax evasion by the time the movie was released. There are plenty of stories about Snipes butting heads with director David Goyer, who took over the reigns from Guillermo del Toro, and Patton Oswalt has gone on record claiming that Snipes spent almost all of his off time sitting in his trailer smoking weed. The only bright light of the film comes from Ryan Reynolds's performance as Hannibal King, whose side-splittingly funny one-liners are the only reason to see this pile of crap.




Vamp (1986) – Ah, Grace Jones. Enjoying a bit of notoriety in the 80's after turns in Conan the Destroyer and A View to a Kill, she shows up in some of the weirdest makeup ever committed to film as the head vampire of a strip club. Also on hand are Gedde Watanabe, famous for playing Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, and Dedee Pfeiffer (sister of Michelle) as a girl who works in the club but doesn't know it's run by vampires. Seriously, how could she miss that? This one is probably the best one on this list in terms of quality and watchability, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a pretty terrible film.




Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) – I remember being morbidly curious after seeing the book cover for Seth Grahame-Smith's novel, and even more so after hearing it was being made into a big blockbuster movie. Then I rented it...and immediately regretted it. This movie is just awful. I appreciate a bit of alternative history mixed with horror as much as the next guy—heck, I'm writing a story based on that premise now—but the execution of this one is just dreadful. Take a look at the ridiculous horse stampede scene, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Physics are thrown right out of the window in favor of Zach Snyder-esque slo-mo shots that defy every law of science we have, almost making the movie an unintentional comedy. The movie appears very self-aware at first and invites you laugh along with it, but then it all comes crashing down when the vampires kill Lincoln's son in retaliation, and the story suddenly shifts into a more grim path. This took me right out of the movie. I know it's supposed to “explain” things that actually happened in real-life history, but this movie is supposed to be escapist entertainment first and foremost. It's completely ruined by that one scene.




Fright Night (2011) – I actually very much enjoyed Colin Farrel's portrayal of a vampire throughout the first half of this film and thought we were on track for a decent remake; it was just different and menacing enough to feel like a fresh take. Then, somewhere along the line, the film takes a turn for the worst and becomes just another action-driven, CGI-heavy junkfest. Contrary to the popular opinions of Doctor Who fans everywhere, David Tennant seems intent on proving he can be a complete douche without any redeeming qualities in the role once played by Roddy McDowell, and Anton Yelchin is just annoying as Charlie Brewster. Watch the original instead, you'll thank me.




Dracula 2000 (2000) - Since I first discovered the Internet in my high school library, I have gravitated toward websites about upcoming movies. One I frequented way back in 1998 or 1999 had an entry about a new Dracula movie. Since this was the first Dracula movie I'd heard of since Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992, this was kind of a big deal. What ended up gracing the screen after I began attending college, however, was significantly less soul-stirring. Gerard Butler makes his debut to Americans as the Count, and he's actually competent enough in the role, but the big issue here is how the film was produced. There were actually lots of great ideas in this movie (I personally felt the idea of Dracula actually having been Judas Iscariot, explaining his hatred of God and all of his weaknesses, was brilliant) which could have made for a truly interesting take on the character, but they initially took a backseat to all the Matrix-styled action and over-saturation of sex appeal. Add to that a truly annoying Nu-Metal soundtrack and a woefully under-utilized Van Helsing (they had Christopher Plummer, for God's sake!), this film just doesn't quite have the impact it could have. It's a tremendous wasted opportunity.



That's it for this list...as before, here's a short list of runners up:

Dracula 3000 (2004)
Children of the Night (1991)
Priest (2011)
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Dario Argento's Dracula 3D (2012)
I Married a Vampire (1987)
Fright Night 2 (2013)
Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (1978)
Grave of the Vampire (1972)

Thanks so much for reading! Did I miss anything? Agree with me or disagree? Let me know in the comments below. If you like what you've seen so far, just know that I have so many ideas for more content, and I'm also open to suggestions and requests! Please subscribe for more updates, and help spread the word!