When I mentioned that I was writing a romantic vampire story to a group of writer friends recently, their collective snorts shook the windows. And it does sound like a bit of a weird mix. But in reality it’s a popular genre in its own right, as this collection of favourite movies shows:
- Love at First Bite (George Hamilton, Susan St James, 1979). The very first vampire movie I ever saw, and the one that switched me on to the possibility that vampires could be a force for seduction as well as horror. More comedy than romance and probably very cheesy by today’s standards, but at the time I loved it.
- The Hunger (David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, 1983). Made only 4 years after Love at First Bite but with a completely different look and tone. This is a slick, stylish, erotic yarn loosely based on the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name. I found it rather ‘style over substance’ and ultimately a bit empty.
- The Lost Boys (Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, 1987). Fast forward another 4 years and you get this wonderful tongue-in-cheek action-comedy-teen drama with a stellar cast, terrific one-liners and a thumping rock soundtrack. It was deliberately designed to make the New Romance-style vampires as alluring as possible and I can’t be the only fan secretly wishing they’d stayed alive!
- Interview with the Vampire (Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, 1994). A surprisingly good film version of Anne Rice’s famous Vampire Chronicles with sympathetic performances by the two main leads as Lestat and Louis. The New Orleans setting is heavy with Gothic romance and the books’ homoerotic subtext is nicely portrayed.
- Only Lovers Left Alive (Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, 2013). I’ve seen arguments that this isn’t really a vampire movie in the true sense of the word, but it involves vampires and a centuries-old romance, as well as a sub-plot about the species’ demise, caused by the blood they drank from infected humans. It’s pure arthouse, more a slow dance of death than a coherent plot, and utterly beautiful to look at, and the soundtrack is mesmerising too. One of my all-time favourites.
So, that’s the five I’ve chosen, but there are others too. The Underworld series starring Kate Beckinsale, the Twilight series, which I’ve never seen myself but know to be wildly popular; and of course, the 1992 version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Gary Oldman (a film that has colossal flaws, but is quite possibly the most poignant and romantic of all).