Vampires were sure having a moment there, weren’t they? Then the sun came up: Somewhere around Twilight and True Blood, it sputtered and stalled. Their prominence in pop culture —and the extent to which people care about them — has been on a steady downhill slide since.
True Blood was partly at fault for starting so strong and fizzling out so weakly, though it still managed to get its vampire mojo back enough to give us this:
And Twilight has gotten so much shit over the years — not least from its own star — that it helped to kill off the undead.
Our current state of vampire fatigue owes a lot to the Twilight backlash, which even its own author joined. The final nail in the coffin was when, as in all monster narratives, just when you thought it was dead, Twilight sat up, opened its eyes dramatically, and morphed into a beast that was even worse than the original.
But we can’t let them ruin vampires. Like all mythical creatures, when they’re done well, vampire narratives operate on many storytelling levels. By their nature, they are big on mayhem and shenanigans that touch deeper underlying subtexts about mortality, loneliness, sexuality, alienation, and desire.
Or lack thereof.
From Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, which contains surprisingly innovative structuring for an “old” book, to Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, which is full of casually homoerotic subtext in 1871, to Joss Whedon’s game-changing Buffy The Vampire Slayer that played with conventions on every level, the vampire genre has always been a space for progressive, forward-thinking storytelling. And in our current age of vampire fatigue, you’ve probably ignored some pretty fantastic stuff that was simply late to the party. Such as …
What We Do In Shadows
This vampire mockumentary from the guys behind Flight of the Conchords is hilarious, oddly adorable, and entertaining as hell. It pays loving tribute to the genre while satirizing its well-worn tropes.
Showtime’s ‘Penny Dreadful’
This hidden gem is one of the most interesting shows on TV right now. It has an all-star cast in the form of Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, and Timothy Dalton (yes, two generations of Bond alums), and the restrained period-piece sensibilities of Downton Abbey mixed with the sex-and-blood batshittery of True Blood and a pinch of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to boot.
Remember when Colin Farrell and David Tennant, two fabulously entertaining actors, both channeled Nicholas Cage at his most over-the-top, facing off against each other as a vampire and a guyliner-wearing vampire hunter in this remake of an awesomely ridiculous ‘80s movie? No? That’s because it dropped in peak vampire-craze, while the market was flooding with some admittedly deeper fare like Let The Right One In. But although it was forgettable at the time, this film is solid in its entertainment. I’ll just say it again: Colin Farrell. David Tennant. Faceoff. Crossbows. Blowtorches. Guyliner. Which one of them wears it? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Hint: It isn’t not David Tennant.
‘The Vampire Diaries Seasons One through Four’
Hear me out with this one. You might have turned up your nose because of its name and because it gives off the vibe of another Twilight knockoff, complete with a lame love triangle and characters who look 30 pretending to be teenagers. And for the first handful of episodes, it kind of is. But once it gets going, it’s full of snappy dialogue, dynamic characters, and some of the most breakneck plotting on TV. Every time you thought you had a plot development figured out, every time you thought you could see where a stretch of episodes were going, the show would burn through it in the very next episode. Unfortunately, this is only sustainable for so long before burning through plots entails resurrecting dead characters multiple times, which is why I can only endorse the first few seasons.
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’
This film was not my cup of tea, but it got good reviews from the general public, so it might be yours. It will appeal to you if you’re a more serious-minded fan of vampires-of-yore and you don’t mind plotlessness, or, alternately, if you like watching Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton prowl around with Russell Brand hair, staring at each other while striking various poses against urban-decay-porn backdrops for two hours.
The genre is more diverse than non-vampire lovers might think, so whether you’re in the mood for a farce, a brooding affair, or a mishmash of everything, there’s been enough solid vampire material of late to please even the most picky vampire aficionados. If none of those do it for you, at any rate, there are always some oldie-but-goodies you might have forgotten about on Netflix right now. Just don’t let a few lame entries put a stake in a genre that’s been kicking, with good reason, for hundreds of years.