ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
If you haven't heard that the movie "Twilight" opened this past weekend across the nation, well, you probably aren't a teenage girl or the parent of one. The film took in $70 million in North America over the last three days, the biggest Hollywood opening since "Batman" swooped into theaters in July. Ty Burr is a film critic for The Boston Globe. He says if it's blood suckers you're craving, well, you should take a nibble on three other tasty options.
Mr. TY BURR (Film Critic, The Boston Globe): 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.
Let's start with "Near Dark" from 1987. 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, "I hate it when they ain't been shaved."
Then there is 2000's "Shadow of the Vampire," which 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.
(Soundbite of movie "Shadow of the Vampire")
Mr. JOHN MALKOVICH: (As F.W. Murnau) Schreck! What is the matter with you?
Unidentified Actor: He's a Stanislavsky lunatic. That is what is the matter with him.
Mr. BURR: All Murnau wants to do is make a brilliant movie. And all Shreck wants to do 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?
And here's one of my favorites, "Vampire's Kiss" from 1989, 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.
(Soundbite of movie "Vampire's Kiss")
Mr. NICOLAS CAGE: (As Peter Loew) What is happening to me?
Mr. BURR: 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.
(Soundbite of Nicolas Cage eating a cockroach)
Mr. BURR: Yeah, that's right. Top that, you "Twilight" kiddies. Unlike that teen angst blockbuster, these three old-school vampire movies make good on their promise - there will be blood.
SEABROOK: Ty Burr is as pale as a vampire, but only from watching movies all day long. He's a film critic for The Boston Globe and the author of the book "The Best Old Movies for Families."