Originally created 10/25/02

Cinema gives vampires a variety of appearances



Close your eyes and think of vampires.

What did you see? Probably pale skin, fangs, a flowing black cape and a satin-lined coffin conveniently located in a dark dungeon or cellar. We have Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi to thank for that. But not all cinematic blood-suckers slip so easily into the dapper Dracula mold. In honor of Halloween, we here at the Reel Releases laboratories have reanimated some of the more original re-imaginings of the vampire mythology.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996): Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) and written by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), From Dusk Till Dawn is a hyper-kinetic crime-road-trip-vampire flick that wears its humble aspirations with pride. A dewy-eyed tribute to the Hammer and AIP B-movie masterpieces that fueled the death of the drive-in, Dusk features murder, mayhem, sex, strippers and very little plot to get in the way of its story.

NEAR DARK (1987): Were vampires to make middle America their big buffet, chances are they wouldn't stroll around in teeth-and-tails, Dracula-style. Chances are they would be more like the cadre of supernatural killers in Katherine Biglow's cult classic Near Dark. Bedecked in boots and black leather, these blood-suckers sport a biker/cowboy chic and tool around in a tin-foil shaded van. The film features an early appearance by Bill Paxton as a scene-stealing psychotic creature of the night.

CRONOS (1993): In Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's Cronos, immortality doesn't come from the bat-breathed bite of the undead, but from a mysterious mechanical bug, fashioned in gold, that injects an alchemist's secret formula into the unwary or unwise. Not a horror film in the classic sense, Cronos examines characters' responses to the possibilities of immortality. Beautifully shot, the film is particularly notable for its innovative use of Roman Catholic iconography.

THE HUNGER (1983): More style than substance, The Hunger is an unusually intelligent vampire film disguised as a music video. The film stars rocker David Bowie and French screen goddess Catherine Deneuve as an undead couple and Susan Sarandon as a physician they see as the key to their continued existence. Slick, stylish and sexy, the film takes Lugosi's well-dressed vamp and gives him a much-needed makeover for modern audiences.

BLACK SABBATH (1963): Although only one of the three stories in this Italian horror anthology involves vampires, it's a doozy. Monster movie legend Boris Karloff (he was the big guy with the bolts in the classic Frankenstein) stars as a father who may or may not be endangering his family after a run-in with a vampire. The American version of this film also features a charming Karloff send-off after the movie's final segment.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.