SBS is currently dealing with an infestation of vampire movies. Purge from your mind all Universal- or Hammer-derived imagery, though; you’ll find no (well, very little) formal eveningwear here, no bats or wolves, no Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee, much as the entire subgenre owes them a tip of the cap (or flap of the cape).
No, our bloodsuckers are a younger, meaner, more diverse breed. These leeches spit blood in the face of convention, turning the vampire legend to stranger, more provocative purposes. Cue up one or two of these, pour a glass of… red… and delve into the night-time world of arthouse horror.
Kathryn Bigelow’s first solo outing as director takes the vampire legend and makes it American – specifically, a Western road movie. When cowboy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) falls for the alluring Mae (Jenny Wright), he finds himself sucked into a nomadic, predatory existence, prowling the lonely highways of the American Southwest for fresh blood. Near Dark posits immortality as a desperate, hardscrabble existence, with Mae’s vampire family – including Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein, who all featured in Aliens – only ever one step ahead of the law and the killing rays of the sun.
Near Dark is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Billed as “The first Iranian vampire Western,” Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 feature debut takes place in the fictional, nigh-mythical Iranian burg of Bad City where a young man, Arash (Arash Marandi), is struggling to cover his heroin-addicted father’s debts to local thug Saeed (Dominic Rains). Things start to look up when Saeed is seduced and murdered by a mysterious skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand), who is using the decaying city as her hunting ground, but as Arash begins to romance the vampire, he soon realises that death will follow them wherever they go. Shot in luminous black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a sleek, stylish take on the vampire archetype.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Iconoclastic auteur Jim Jarmusch brings us vampires of the jaded Eurotrash variety in the form of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), an elder vampire couple whose unlives of comfortable malaise are upended when Eve’s impulsive vampire “sister”, Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to visit. Jarmusch’s wry, arch sensibilities and eye for an arresting static tableau are an interesting match for the horror genre, with the Down by Law and Dead Man director playfully puncturing many of the genre’s conventions while upping the loneliness and ennui. Ultimately it’s a “Vampirism-as-addiction-metaphor”, with the achingly cool Adam and Eve eventually revealed to be junkies always in need of a fatal fix.
Only Lovers Left Alive is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
An unusual entry on the revered Spike Lee’s cinematic ledger, and his only foray into horror to date, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is a remake of Bill Gunn’s seminal 1973 Black vampire movie, Ganja & Hess. Wealthy anthropologist Dr Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams) finds himself craving blood after he is impaled with a ceremonial dagger he has acquired for his extensive art collection. Taking to his newfound nightlife, he soon initiates Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams), the wife of the man who stabbed him with the dagger, into vampirism. What follows is an unsettling tone poem of a film, moody, bloody and often puzzling, that sets the vampire legend firmly in Lee’s beloved New York City and raises troubling questions about race, class and legacy.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus airs at 8:30pm Saturday 30 September on NITV.
Queen of the Damned
Reviled upon release, this pseudo-sequel to Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire is now revered as a cult classic. Directed by Australian Michael Rymer and shot in Melbourne, Queen of the Damned sees Anne Rice’s literary bloodsucker Lestat (Stuart Townsend subbing in for Tom Cruise) making a play for rock stardom in modern day L.A., only for the power of his music to awaken the immortal Queen of the vampires, Akasha, played by R&B star Aaliyah in her final film role. Whether the cheesy gothic trappings and camp tone are deliberate or not is largely beside the point; as long as you’re not a particularly po-faced creature of the night, Queen of the Damned is a horror hoot.
Queen of the Damned airs at 8:30pm Thursday 2 October on NITV.