Beyond 'Twilight': Vampire Movies For Grown-Ups

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These are mighty dispiriting times if you're a follower of vampire movies. You know what I mean: Twilight, Twilight, Twilight. Enough already. Actual grown-ups are getting the vapors and swooning like teenage girls over the new franchise, and that can't be right. Anyway, it's not like this is a fresh development: Pop culture has been running twists on the Dracula legend ever since Nosferatu back in 1922. Here are three great revisionist vampire movies to make Edward Cullen look like he's still got his baby teeth:

'Near Dark'

Near Dark
Near Dark, 1987. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright and Lance Henriksen. Running time: 94 min.

In this hellacious, drive-in classic, a redneck clan of bloodsuckers roams the Midwest in a van, visiting destruction upon unsuspecting biker bars. That's right, it's the first Red State vampire movie. It's also directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the rare female director whose action sensibility is riskier and more lowdown than any of her male peers. Near Dark has jet-black humor, but the scariest thing about it is the way Bigelow connects New World serial killers with the storied Old World history of Nosferatu. This is gutter American gothic served with precision and flair, and it has maybe the best vampire-movie line ever, when Bill Paxton's trailer-park creature of the night complains, "Ah hate it when they ain't been shaved."

'Shadow Of The Vampire'

Shadow Of A Vampire
Shadow of the Vampire, 2000. Directed by E. Elias Merhige, with John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier. Running time: 92 min.

Shadow of the Vampire asks the question: Did you know the guy who played Nosferatu in the classic silent film actually was a vampire? Well, all right, he wasn't, but don't let a little thing like the truth stop you from enjoying a cheeky and very clever horror comedy. Willem Dafoe's character, a mysterious thespian named Max Schreck, introduces method acting a few decades ahead of schedule, biting into his role and driving director F.W. Murnau, played by John Malkovich, to distraction. All Murnau wants is to make a brilliant movie, and all Shreck wants is to live forever on film. Well, that and using the crew as his personal studio commissary. Shadow of the Vampire opens up whole new avenues for vampire films: Can a meta-movie about Bela Lugosi's off-camera diet be far behind?

'Vampire's Kiss'

Vampires Kiss
Vampire's Kiss, 1989. Directed by Robert Bierman, with Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals. Running time: 103 min.

Vampire's Kiss — one of my favorites — is a movie that features one of the great lost Nicolas Cage performances. Cage plays a pompous Manhattan yuppie who gets bitten by a one-night stand and comes to the conclusion that he's turning into a vampire. Actually, he's not – he's just having a plain old nervous breakdown — but that's not special enough, so the delusional hero buys a pair of cheap plastic vampire teeth and sets about trying to kill people. All right, maybe this is more of a slapstick psychological case study than a vampire movie per se. Still, Vampire's Kiss is more consistently and entertainingly deranged than any other 10 movies you can think of, up to and including the scene where Cage eats a cockroach live and on camera. Yeah, that's right — top that, you Twilight kiddies.

Ty Burr is a film critic for the Boston Globe and the author of the book "The Best Old Movies for Families." He's as pale as a vampire but only from watching movies all day.

Ty Burr is a film critic for the Boston Globe and the author of the book "The Best Old Movies for Families." He's as pale as a vampire but only from watching movies all day.

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