By Claire Farrow and Sammi Brennan
Editor’s Note: Each week in October, Netflix Guru will showcase a series of films that focus on a specific theme or subgenre of horror. Within eah theme there will be a variety of well-known and obscure flicks to round out the subgenre. After all, what is Netflix for but to give you options for alternative film?
Vampires and Werewolves. Two of the most classic monsters to roam literature and film. So iconic, in fact, they often appear as (im)mortal enemies pitted against one another. We’ve seen it most recently in the Twilight saga and the Underworld series. Think of it like PB&J–you can’t imagine one without at least conjuring a thought of the other. True to tradition, these beasts are at odds in this week’s Netflix Guru; but don’t worry, you’ll be able to watch all the gory goodness provided by both parties. Go on, take a look. We won’t bite…much.
Upon hearing the director’s name Wes Craven, most recall Scream (1996), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and The Hills Have Eyes (1984). One of Wes Craven’s smaller known works is the horror film Cursed. With the death of their parents, Ellie (Christina Ricci) has been raising her eccentric teenage brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) by herself while balancing a full time job. One night, as Ellie is driving Jimmy home, a strange wolf-like beast causes a car accident. Surviving the beast’s attack, Ellie and Jimmy start developing strange symptoms. Ellie has become entranced with the smell of blood and Jessie can finally fight back against his bullies. As bearing the mark of the beast begins to take its toll on the siblings, they begin to realize that there is a target on their heads, and they cannot trust anyone.
Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (2012)
In a 19th century village, bodies litter the streets. Contorted, rotting and mutilated, the corpses are eerily reminiscent of the bubonic plague. As opposed to other werewolf films set in that era, the villagers widely recognize the presence of werewolves, and know that if you’re wounded by the beast, you become it. In fact, the villagers are so accustomed to this way of life that several minutes into the film, Doc, the town doctor played by Stephen Rea, whips out a pistol and shoots an infected patient in the head without flinching. On a daily basis, bodies are piled into a wagon and wheeled to the incinerator. Doc’s protege, the young and amiable Daniel (Guy Wilson), decides enough is enough. Daniel joins the ruthless hunter Charles (Ed Quinn) and his rugged crew to track down their biggest hunt yet. Initially, the film is brutal and cringe-worthy, with outrageous dialogue and mediocre acting. However, the further into the film, the more deeper you are submerged into the unraveling mystery. The brilliant twists make this film a must-watch.
Late Phases (2014)
Werewolf cinema has practically covered it all, from werewolves in different countries to werewolf societies to teenage werewolves. Late Phases adds a needed dose of originality to the genre. If you’re expecting hunky werewolves with abs and crazy sex drives, then this film is quite the contrast. In a seemingly normal retirement community, once a month there is a vicious “animal” attack. Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is a blind retired veteran placed into the community by his son Will (Ethan Embry), who cannot take care of his father any longer. After a gruesome attack the first night with the death of both Ambrose’s neighbor and his dog, Ambrose decides to stay in the community and prepare himself for the next full moon. Ambrose is an incredibly complex character, seen as crotchety and capable of violence among neighbors. Because he uses the dirty shovel he buried his dog with as a walking stick, the audience wonders if he is a lunatic or merely misunderstood. It’s an engaging story, to say the least.
Interview with the Vampire: the Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Probably the most quintessential vampire movie currently on Netflix, this ‘90s classic was romanticizing these terrifying bloodsuckers long before Twilight (2008). An adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel of the same name, this film is filled with beautiful people who go around seducing unsuspecting victims into the clutches of their hungry jaws. Not a single vampire sparkles when caressed by sunlight (in fact, vampires can’t live in the sun), but that doesn’t stop either Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise from cranking up the ethereal irresistible-ness. Also, what can be said about the eroticism present in this film? Why isn’t there more? Quite frankly, if you put Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas in a film together, slap long flowing wigs on them and give them intense contacts, lust is bound to happen between these characters. Of course, you can’t forget Heathers (1988) heartthrob Christian Slater as the inquisitive reporter and a small, young Kirsten Dunst as Claudia. The greatness of this film doesn’t just revolve around the wonderful performances of the actors, but also the world created in the film, with the beautiful sets, costumes, and cinematography all creating a complete experience of cinema loveliness.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
This isn’t your typical vampire tale; in fact, vampires don’t make an appearance until more than half way through the film. When they do, however, all kinds of messed up mayhem ensues. It’s interesting to note that, although it does classify as a vampire monster flick, it is a classic Quentin Tarantino film. Following the success of Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), Tarantino penned the screenplay to the Robert Rodriguez directed film, and like the aforementioned movies, also starred in it. But he isn’t the only (now) big name to appear in this gratuitously violent motion picture. George Clooney, in his post-ER days before grey hair, major movie stardom and Batman and Robin (1997), plays the main character. Seth Greko is a hot headed thief who’s been freshly busted out of prison by his demented brother, Richie, played by Tarantino. Other at-the-time new faces include Danny Trejo, Salma Hayek and Juliette Lewis. Harvey Keitel, Cheech Marin and Fred Williamson fill out the veteran side of the cast. Probably the best part of this film is the combination of the vampire legend and the Tarantino film narrative–what you end up with is a hilarious mashup of genres, ranging from horror to western to action to comedy, all an amalgamation of classic story tropes, and it somehow all works. Also worth noting is the different approach to the look of vampires–rather than appearing more human-like, these blood suckers resemble bats.
Stake Land (2010)
Stake Land is like a cross between The Karate Kid (1984) and The Walking Dead, but instead of zombies killing people in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s vampires doing the killing. Interestingly enough, these vampires, like the ones that appear in From Dusk Till Dawn, don’t look much like the classic gothic vampire; these vampires instead look more like bloody zombies with fangs. Stake Land follows a teenager named Martin (Connor Paolo) as he travels with Mister (Nick Damici*), a vampire hunter, as his apprentice. They are in search of New Eden, the answer to all of their problems–a place with no vampires. Along the way they pass through towns, pick up a few hitchhikers/people in need, avoid a violent religious cult, and stake vampires through the heart. What makes this film memorable is that it isn’t the typical vampire narrative. They aren’t romanticized or sexualized–they are a plague, plain and simple, who only have the taste for human blood. They are a mindless horde, again, much more akin to zombies than typical vampires.
*See Nick Damici in Late Phases (2014)
Sammi Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Claire Farrow can be reached at email@example.com.