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Creature Features: 8 Vampire Movies to Watch This Halloween
All sorts of things go bump in the night. Ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, witches — creatures that haunt our nightmares and ignite our imaginations. Then, there are vampires. These denizens of the dark hold a special place in human history; our ancestors were genuinely afraid to travel when the sun was down, lest vampires bleed them dry. Entire communities feared bats and wolves, believing them to be bloodsuckers in disguise. Vampire hunting became a legitimate profession in 18th century Europe. We really can’t overstate how much these monsters have messed with our minds over the years.
Maybe that’s why vampires have experienced so much success on the big screen. Vampires have frightened and excited audiences for decades — changing with the times and reflecting some of our darkest desires. As much as we dread these creatures of the night, there’s a small part of us that’s utterly fascinated with them.
Spooky season is in full swing this year, and many of us will participate in the festivities at home. Looking for a way to liven up the night? Here are eight iconic vampire movies to watch this Halloween.
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (or Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens in German) is a staple of the horror genre. This German Expressionist masterpiece was helmed by director F. W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as the infamous Count Orlok.
Special effects and robust film sets weren’t exactly a thing in the early 20th century. Murnau instead relied on mind-bending camera angles, striking shadows and innovative set design to scare audiences. This film’s impact on the history of cinema can’t be exaggerated — many horror film franchises likely wouldn’t exist if Nosferatu hadn’t crept onto the scene and paved the way.
Nosferatu’s popularity spread across Europe like wildfire. It didn’t take long for American filmmakers to catch wind of F.W. Murnau’s success either. But here’s the thing: Nosferatu was essentially an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — one that Murnau filmed without permission. Stoker’s wife successfully sued Murnau and Nosferatu was pulled from theaters. Enter Universal Pictures, which paid approximately $40,000 for the rights to adapt Dracula . Garrett Fort penned the script while Tod Browning took the director’s chair. Bela Lugosi was cast as the titular prince of darkness, and the rest is cinematic history.
Dracula is a genuinely terrifying landmark film. When many people think of Count Dracula, they think about Lugosi’s chilling performance. Universal’s adaptation takes plenty of inspiration from Nosferatu . However, Dracula is not a silent film; characters deliver their lines either with palpable dread or devilish delight. “Talkies” had only recently hit theaters in the early 1900s. Dracula helped legitimize sound films and reshape the movie industry.
Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958)
Similar to sound films, Technicolor movies were also relative rarities in the early 20th century. Films were primarily shot on black and white stock, and filmgoers were accustomed to greyscale pictures. The opposite was true by the 1950s, which is when The Horror of Dracula hit the scene. Hammer Films spared no expense when it adapted Bram Stoker’s timeless tale; special effects and ornate gothic sets were specifically created for this film. The Horror of Dracula is also a much more visceral visual experience due to being shot in color.
We’d be remiss not to praise Christopher Lee’s performance as Count Dracula; he aimed to play the character as a “heroic, erotic and romantic” figure — one that was just as mystifying as he was terrifying. Lee’s good friend Peter Cushing starred as Doctor Van Helsing, further elevating the film. And The Horror of Dracula revealed something truly harrowing about vampires: they were dark reflections of human nature.
The United States’ counterculture movement gathered momentum in the 1960s and persisted well into the 1970s. People vocalized dissatisfaction with the government, civil rights initiatives swept the nation and artists used their platforms to critique the powers that be. The Blaxploitation films of the 1970s echoed these sentiments, challenging decades-old stereotypes that were (and still are) imposed on the Black community. Blacula is precisely what its name implies; an adaptation of Stoker’s tale made primarily for Black people by Black people.
The late William Marshall portrays Prince Mamuwalde, a Nigerian man who asked the original Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to intervene during the transatlantic slave trade. For his trouble, Prince Mamuwalde was transformed into Blacula, sealed in a coffin and transported to America. Indeed, Count Blacula is a tragic anti-villain; he was stripped of his identity, taken from his homeland and left to fend for himself in a hostile environment. Allegorical, innovative and genuinely frightening, Blacula is worth a watch — and post-screening analysis.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Drugs, sex, rock n’ roll and excess are hallmarks of the 1980s — hallmarks that naturally found their way into ’80s cinema. The Lost Boys epitomizes this trend; “It’s fun to be a vampire” is the film’s tagline, and that sentiment is more than reinforced throughout its runtime. Vampires are ageless, powerful, beautiful beings who live by their own rules and party like rockstars in The Lost Boys. That’s the scariest part about this film — how enticing vampirism can seem on the surface.
The Lost Boys can also be viewed as a metacommentary of the 1980s. Vampirism is an analogy for the excess and hedonism of the decade. Just like it seemed “fun to be a vampire,” it also seemed fun to be a hard-partying rockstar. Spellbinding performances by a committed cast, strong directing by Joel Schumacher and a compelling script helped The Lost Boys break new ground. Vampires weren’t just creepy anymore. They were also undeniably cool.
You can’t talk about cool vampire movies without giving Blade its due. The 1990s were an incredibly experimental time for the film industry; spec scripts were being produced by the dozens and comic book adaptations were becoming much more prevalent. Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan created Blade in 1973 for Marvel Comics. At last, in 1998, Wesley Snipes would bring the Daywalker to life on the big screen. Directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer, Blade redefined what superhero movies and vampire films could be. Action, horror, pathos and even a bit of comedy are seamlessly woven into this film.
Though Blade was initially overlooked when it premiered, the film has since been recognized for setting several precedents. It’s one of the first Black superhero movies to achieve widespread critical and commercial success, grossing $131.2 million off of a $45 million budget. Blade also paved the way for many of the superhero films that have become commonplace today; it’s not a stretch to suggest that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, the Underworld franchise and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t exist if Blade hadn’t resonated with audiences. Lastly, this film proved that vampires could transcend genres; Blade is more of an action film than a horror flick, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hate it or love it, Twilight’s impact on cinema is undeniable. This adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s 2005 novel was an international phenomenon in its heyday. It focused solely on the romantic aspects of vampirism — living forever, being young forever and loving forever. If reading that sentence was painful for you, imagine how excruciating it was to write.
Personal feelings aside, Twilight is an iconic film in its own right. It spawned four sequels, launched numerous careers and kept vampires at the forefront of our collective imagination from 2008 to 2012. Even Burger King got in on the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debacle. Twilight ultimately proved that there was still a thriving, thirsting market for vampire films in the 21st century.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
We end with Blood Red Sky, a British-German Netflix film that’s equal parts graphic, terrifying and heart-wrenching. The film follows Nadja and her son Elias as they try to survive aboard a hijacked airplane. Discussing this film in detail without spoiling it is virtually impossible, but we can say this: Blood Red Sky focuses on the toll that vampirism would exact on a person’s family, community and mental state. Scenes unfold at an intentionally deliberate pace. Minor characters and extras are treated with a degree of respect that we don’t often see.
In many ways, Blood Red Sky is the culmination of the vampire films that precede it; there are genuine scares here, alongside meta-commentary, dazzling action scenes and genuine pathos. Blood Red Sky proves that vampire films can make viewers cry — not out of fear, but out of true remorse.
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‘We Have a Ghost’ Review: Netflix’s Family-Friendly Haunted-House Movie Is a Fixer Upper
Despite strong performances from David Harbour and Jennifer Coolidge, this horror comedy feels like a misfire.
By Michael Nordine
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You know the setup by now: A family moves into a run-down, surprisingly affordable old house whose history the real-estate agent is loath to reveal. Though skeptical, mom and dad (Erica Ash and Anthony Mackie) can’t pass on such a deal. It isn’t long before they realize they aren’t alone in their new abode, of course. David Harbour , fresh off December’s “Violent Night” and in between seasons of “Stranger Things,” plays the spirit in question. Appearing in the attic as teenager Kevin (Jahi Winston) explores his new house, the ghost’s futile attempt at scaring his latest housemate results in uncontrolled laughter — understandable, given not only his combover and bowling shirt but how little conviction he puts into his tortured wailing.
Kevin, who’s withdrawn from his family in the same manner as so many angst-ridden teens before him, eventually stops laughing. Rather than ridicule the entity further or even question whether what he’s seeing is real, he instead tries to understand his plight. He quickly learns that Ernest (as the stitching on his shirt reveals his name to be) can touch others but not be touched. His halfhearted attempt at frightening Kevin seems to have been a defense mechanism, as he’d rather be left on his lonesome. Because he can’t speak and has no memories of his corporeal existence, Ernest is a bit like a stray animal who can only be approached with the utmost caution and on his own terms.
Only Kevin’s mother reacts as you’d expect the average person to: not only with fear when she sees Ernest, but anger upon learning that her family has concealed him from her. (“We are not gonna be like every stupid white family in every horror film. We are leaving!” she yells.) Ernest quickly goes viral, inspiring all manner of TikToks and even a Dr. Phil segment; it’s the latter that finally draws the attention of both a supernatural expert working with the CIA (Tig Notaro) and a TV medium who may or may not be a charlatan (Jennifer Coolidge). It will surprise few in this post-“White Lotus” world to learn that Coolidge steals her scenes and makes you wish there were more of them: It feels like stunt casting, sure, but at least it works. Harbour likewise makes the most of his character’s limitations, with pain etched on every line in his face.
The longer it goes on, however, the more difficult it becomes to discern what “We Have a Ghost” is even going for. On a tonal level, it’s more akin to a feature-length episode of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” than any horror-comedy in recent memory, its 127-minute runtime stretching like so much ectoplasm as Kevin tries to help solve the mystery of Ernest’s life and death. Rarely ha-ha funny and never scary, it’s ultimately more sentimental than anything else — a clunky approach that undermines its strong performances.
“We Have a Ghost” is based on “Ernest,” a short story by Geoff Manaugh first published in 2017 by Vice. Reading it offers a sense of what a better, more ethereal version of this movie might be like had it toned things down and not attempted to go so broad with its comedy. The result feels less like a ghost story than a movie haunted by the specter of what it could have been.
Reviewed on Netflix, Feb. 22, 2023. MPA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 127 MIN.
- Production: A Netflix release and presentation of a Temple Hill, Halsted Pictures production. Producers: Marty Bowen, Dan Halsted. Executive producers: Christopher Landon, Korey Budd, Geoff Manaugh.
- Crew: Director, writer: Christopher Landon. Camera: Marc Spicer. Editor: Ben Baudhuin. Music: Bear McCreary.
- With: David Harbour, Jahi Winston, Tig Notaro, Erica Ash, Jennifer Coolidge, Anthony Mackie, Faith Ford, Niles Fitch, Isabella Russo, Steve Coulter.
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There’s Someone Inside Your House has one great horror idea and a lot of familiar ones
Netflix’s latest Halloween movie is more about horror-movie references than an original vision
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The originality of Netflix’s recent horror offerings is questionable, which is to say that these movies often stand on the shoulders of their genre predecessors. The Fear Street series nods so often at Scream , Friday the 13th , and The Witch that it fell short in developing an identity of its own. No One Gets Out Alive noticeably overlaps with His House in terms of reimagining a haunted house as a source of socially fraught terror and tension. And the streaming service’s latest, There’s Someone Inside Your House , is similarly indebted to films like Black Christmas , Haze , and I Know What You Did Last Summer , which it explicitly references. There is one creepy conceit in There’s Someone Inside Your House , but that one genuinely spooky detail can’t counter the overall familiarity. There’s Someone Inside Your House is intermittently effective, but ultimately unremarkable, and it feels like a product of its time in disappointing ways.
In adapting Stephanie Perkins’ 2017 novel, director Patrick Brice and screenwriter Henry Gayden rely too often on simplistic dynamics that make for flat world-building. There’s little depth here to either the location or the characters. The small town consists of a school, a police station, a church, and cornfields — obviously, viewers are meant to understand that it’s meant to be oppressive. The outcast protagonists are ethnically, biologically, and sexually diverse — it’s clear viewers are intended to empathize with their otherness. The bullies are all mini neo-Nazis, with dialogue that lambasts “fake news,” advocates an alliance with white power, and regurgitates toxic masculinity. The intended point: Their parents probably all voted for Donald Trump.
These components all feel perfunctory, like Brice and Gayden checking boxes off a list of what they think Gen-Z teenagers will respond to. That superficiality means that There’s Someone Inside Your House has to offer something unique in the slasher department to set itself apart, and results are uneven there, too. In an unnerving touch, the killer wears a 3D-printed copy of their latest victim’s face. That costuming choice underscores the killer’s ideology that each of the victims deserves death for their hypocrisy. But those slasher sequences lack the propulsive energy and over-the-top grotesquerie needed to jolt There’s Someone Inside Your House to life. There are bursts of blood from sliced-open tendons, torsos, and throats, but the artificiality of that candy-red gore extends to the whole contrived movie.
There’s Someone Inside Your House set in rural Osborne, an insular community shocked by the film’s opening-scene murder of football player Jackson Pace (Markian Tarasiuk). The photos strewn around Jackson’s dead body and texted to everyone in town reveal an ugly secret: He once beat up teammate Caleb Greeley (Burkely Duffield) in a hazing ritual gone too far. Some people point fingers at Caleb for Jackson’s death, while others, like those Jackson harassed and abused for years, feel a sense of grim satisfaction.
Hovering on the outside of those reactions is new-to-town Makani Young (Sydney Park), who left her parents in Hawaii to live with her grandmother in Osborne. She didn’t know Jackson very well, but she sees how his death fails to faze her friends: outspoken Alex (Asjha Cooper), sensitive Rodrigo (Diego Josef), space-obsessed Darby (Jesse LaTourette), and irresponsible Zach (Dale Whibley). They don’t really care that Jackson is dead (“Fuck these reactive people!” Darby says of her former bully), but they’re curious who could have done it. And they’re quick to point fingers at classmate Ollie Larsson (Théodore Pellerin), who they describe as an “all-in-black school-shooter style icon,” and casually label a sociopath.
No one seems to catch the longing eyes Makani and Ollie are making at each other, because Makani’s friends are too busy doing what teenagers in all horror movies do. They hook up, they party, they miss the killer in their midst, and then they start dying. So it goes in There’s Someone Inside Your House , same as it ever was.
On the good side of things are Park and Pellerin, who give the film’s most naturalistic performances as Makani and Ollie. A secret make-out session in a parked car has more thrills than any of the film’s murder sequences because of Park and Pellerin’s oppositional chemistry, which brings to mind the doomed J.D. and Veronica from Heathers . Less successful is William Arnold’s production design, in particular the prevalence of secret-revealing photographs at each murder scene. The film moves so quickly through these hundreds of printed-out images of bloody faces and burned hands that they lack impact. (At least the killer is getting good use out of their printer!)
But the staging of these scenes exhibits more care than the film’s attempted critique of white privilege, which results in an altercation so soaked in Serious Statements that it forgets horror can have a little bit of fun. Plus, there are not one, but two, hazing-gone-wrong subplots here, which raises the question: Why not just add a third and call it a trend?
“I have watched a lot of true crime,” sniffs student council president Katie Koons (Sarah Dugdale) when the murders start happening, and that statement applies to There’s Someone Inside Your House on a grander scale. This is a film crafted by people who are aware of the genre’s tropes, but unaware of how to put a unique spin on them. The result is that the film never fully transcends the level of “put on in the background while decorating for Halloween” movie. When will the next great slasher film arrive? When will someone dare to be as inventive or as gruesome as this genre requires? There’s Someone Inside Your House will keep people waiting.
There’s Someone Inside Your House is streaming on Netflix starting Oct. 6, 2021.
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There's Someone Inside Your House
2021, Horror, 1h 36m
What to know
A likable cast and strong set pieces give There's Someone Inside Your House a lift, but they're outweighed by its messily misguided story. Read critic reviews
Where to watch There's Someone Inside Your House
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There's someone inside your house photos.
Makani Young (Sydney Park) has moved from Hawaii to quiet, small-town Nebraska to live with her grandmother and finish her final year of high school. But as the countdown to graduation begins, she and her classmates are stalked by a killer intent on exposing their darkest secrets to the entire town, terrorizing every victim while wearing a life-like mask of their own face. With a mysterious past of her own, Makani and her friends must discover the killer's identity before they become victims themselves.
Original Language: English
Director: Patrick Brice
Producer: Michael Clear , Dan Cohen , Shawn Levy , James Wan
Writer: Henry Gayden
Release Date (Streaming): Oct 6, 2021
Runtime: 1h 36m
Production Co: 21 Laps Entertainment, Netflix, Atomic Monster
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Cast & Crew
Deputy Chris Larsson
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‘We Have a Ghost’ Review: A Haunted House Hits Social Media
In christopher landon’s netflix film, david harbour plays a ghost gone viral after the teenagers living in the chicago mansion he haunts post a video of him online.
Feb. 23, 2023 5:15 pm ET
The first scene in “We Have a Ghost” involves an entire family running out of their house screaming, jumping in their car and tearing away. Did they just read the script? That’s a cheap joke and I apologize. Still, there’s a scary amount of stuff going on in writer-director Christopher Landon ’s horror movie/murder mystery/domestic drama/deep-state thriller/coming-of-age teenage romance. It may be based on the short story “Ernest” by Geoff Manaugh . But there’s nothing short about it.
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At the same time, it has its charms. One is the virtually silent performance by David Harbour as the disembodied entity of the title, who is haunting the rambling Chicago mansion quitted so abruptly by the ex-residents above. A year later, looking for a new start, the family of young Kevin Presley (Jahi Winston) moves in, having been kept in the dark by their broker (Faith Ford) about the house’s blighted history. When Kevin first meets up with Ernest (that’s what it says on his bowling shirt), the boy laughs at the ghost’s boogeyman routine, befriending him instead. When Kevin’s dad, Frank (Anthony Mackie), records Ernest on his cellphone, the immediate instinct of both Frank and Kevin’s brother, Fulton (Niles Fitch), is to post the results online, which creates the kind of viral sensation one might expect.
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