We love our vampires. There is no denying that. And whether they be the frilly shirt wearing kind or the pointy toothed Alaskan invaders, whatever form they come in, we eat them right up (pun definitely intended). In celebration of the VOD and limited theatrical release of the Hong Kong vampire flick Rigor Mortis, we bring you the Top 5 Foreign Vampire Films.
A film by Juno Mak, Rigor Mortis promises to be one insane ride of vampirism. Heavily laden with F/X and action, the film is a sort of homage to the Chinese vampire movies of the ’80s.
Definitely a unique experience, Rigor Mortis looks to make its mark as a memorable foreign vampire film itself.
But back to the topic at hand. We have a couple of honorable mentions to start off with, including (and we’re speculating on this first one, but we know it’s going to be killer) Guillmero del Toro’s vamps from “The Strain” (shot in Canada), Frostbite from Sweden, Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst from South Korea and hell, we’ll even throw some love to The Seven Golden Vampires from Hong Kong.
Now, without further ado, we give you…
Nosferatu (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Germany, 1922)
May as well dig right into it with what has to be the most iconic of all foreign vampires, Nosferatu. F.W. Murnau’s legendary 94-minute film would go on to create the face of a vampire that would be used for decades to come. Sure, other horror films came before it like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem, and they were amazing, but Nosferatu has remained in the forefront of horror for nearly 100 years! Hell, he even turned up on “SpongeBob Squarepants”! So, the fact that the studio could not get the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula when they wanted to make a vampire movie in 1922 actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave us Max Schreck as Count Orlock, who is no less chilling today then he was when the movie was released. Iconic horror at its best and one of the best German exports since Beck’s beer.
Drácula (Spanish version) (Spain, 1931)
The Spanish version of Dracula was shot during the same time and on the same sets as the original Bela Lugosi version. The English edition would be shot during the day with the Spanish team coming in at night to work on theirs. And, as would be expected, many feel the Spanish take is superior for the simple fact that the crew got to see the dailies of what was done for the English version during the day, and they would try to improve on what they saw, using different camera angles and lighting. However, of the cast, only Carlos Villarías (playing Conde Drácula) was allowed to see what was being done during the day and he was encouraged to imitate Lugosi’s performance. Not a bad gig, huh? As long as you don’t mind being a bit micromanaged. ‘Here, do this.’ It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The film was directed by George Melford, and although thought to be lost, in the 1970’s a copy was found and restored. The video below is a clip from the film in its original form with no subtitles. We caught some of the meanings. “La sangre es la vida” was certainly clear!
Nosferatu the Vampyre (Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) (West Germany, 1979)
By the time Nosferatu the Vampyre reared his ugly head in 1979, Germany had become two countries, but Nosferatu still remained a viable horror character. Legendary German director Werner Herzog took on the task of bringing the pale-faced, pointy-eared menace back to the big screen. Herzog created an interesting movie that was a tribute to Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu but holding closer to Bram Stoker’s original tale (because now, of course, the story was in public domain). Herzog adored the original German film and put his frequent collaboration partner, Klaus Kinski, in the role of Count Dracula. Interestingly, there were actually two versions of the movie shot, one in German and one in English, so Herzog would shoot two versions of each scene with dialogue so an English version would be available without the need of subtitles or overdubbed voices. Now that’s dedication!
Cronos (Mexico, 1993)
Deserving a spot on this list just for the fact that this was the film that kicked off the career of Guillermo del Toro, Cronos is another unique telling of the vampire legend. This one involves a nearly 500-year-old artifact that basically injects vampirism into the subject…and that sudden euphoria the young vamps always enjoy surfaces. A feeling of youth, vibrancy and the ol’ increased libido…all tell-tale signs that you might be a vampire…or have taken just the perfect dose of Cialis. Either way, eventually things are going to go bad, and Cronos is a perfect demonstration of just how quickly things can go from good to bad for a vamp. Del Toro’s first feature film, Cronos was also his first collaboration with Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi, both of whom he would go on to make beautiful music with later in their careers.
Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In) (Sweden, 2008)
As unique a vampire tale as you’ll find, Let the Right One In blew audiences away when it was first released at the Göteborg International Film Festival in 2008. Eli instantly became a beloved anti-hero, and her beautifully innocent relationship with Oskar brought such a depth to this film that it was nearly impossible not to fall in love with it. Of course, it was given an American adaptation with Let Me In, which did a satisfactory job of relaying the story, even bloodying it up a bit more, but you need to go to the original to experience the true strength of the tale. Based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In easily goes down as one of the most beloved foreign vampire films, combined with a beautiful coming of age tale, wrapped in a revenge scheme and finally a story of ultimate possession. A really amazing movie.
Be sure to check out Rigor Mortis to see what new foreign vampire nightmares await us!
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