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Vampire Movies That Aren't Actually About Vampires

List Rules
Vote up the movies that best re-vamp the vampire.

Okay, yeah, we admit it: Vampire movies have been done to death (no pun intended). But many modern vampire movies like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night know that and subvert expectations by doing something different with the formula - or not even using the "v" word at all. Then again, vampire movies have been twisting and turning the mythos since the dawn of the moving picture. Even Nosferatu, the silent classic from 1922, is a remake of Dracula with the serial numbers filed off - and a strikingly different look for the Count.

From romantic vampire movies to sterile scientific takes to ambiguous art films and bleak coming-of-age stories, there are plenty of movies out there that do something very different with the standard bloodsucker than Bela Lugosi's velvet capes or Christopher Lee's fangs. Here are a handful of vampire flicks - from the earliest days of cinema through modern vampire movies - that aren't really about vampires, or that do something unexpected with the mythology.

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  • 1
    122 VOTES

    Maybe better known for starring David Bowie than for being Tony Scott's directorial debut, The Hunger is perhaps even better known for its status as a goth anthem. It's hard to beat David Bowie and nightclub scenes set to Bauhaus music for goth appeal, after all.

    The story follows a pair of vampire lovers (Bowie and Catherine Deneuve) who become involved in a love triangle with a doctor (Susan Sarandon) as they discover that, while Bowie's character may have eternal life, he is experiencing rapid aging. The highly stylized film has a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, which calls it "stylish yet hollow," but it has developed a cult following, especially in the goth community.

    • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff DeYoung, Beth Ehlers
    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Tony Scott

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  • 2
    94 VOTES

    The "Cronos device" is a little golden machine that looks like an insect - and has an actual insect inside - that can give you eternal life, but only if you feed on fresh blood. That's the basic premise of Guillermo del Toro's directorial debut, which stars Argentinean actor Federico Luppi, as well as Ron Perlman, who would go on to work with del Toro many more times over the years.

    "A vampire film where the word vampire is never used," as it says in del Toro's book Cabinet of Curiosities, Cronos is a movie "about immortality and how we want time to stop." Jesús Gris, the film's vampire, is not the villain; he's an old man who at first uses the device to simply reclaim some of his youth and vitality, only to find that his addiction to it is too dangerous, even without the predations of an obsessed industrialist (Claudio Brook) and his brutish nephew (Perlman).

    • Actors: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath
    • Released: 1993
    • Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

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  • 3
    73 VOTES

    Based on F. Paul Wilson's 1981 novel of the same name, Michael Mann's The Keep is "a preposterous mess" that Wilson himself called, "Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible." This is probably in part because Mann's original version of the film was more than 200 minutes long, with the studio making judicious edits to bring it down to a mere 96 minutes.

    The story involves a group of Nazis during WWII who seize a Romanian castle (the eponymous "keep") and inadvertently free an ancient entity known as Radu Molasar. Initially taking the form of a smoky energy, Molasar eventually takes on a humanoid form, and its presence begins to affect not only the Germans themselves, but also the residents of a nearby village. Classic vampire stuff, especially when Molasar's ancient enemy and functional Van Helsing Glaeken (Scott Glenn) shows up.

    Besides German soldiers fighting an ancient evil entity, The Keep boasts music by Tangerine Dream and starring turns by the likes of Jürgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, and Ian McKellen.

    • Actors: Ian McKellen, Gabriel Byrne, Scott Glenn, Alberta Watson, Robert Prosky
    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Michael Mann

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  • 4
    67 VOTES

    George Romero called this low-key 1978 vampire picture his "favorite" of his own films, a movie that Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film describes as, "Too disturbing, bleak, and personal to have been a financial hit, even at midnight showings."

    That Martin was also Romero's first collaboration with special effects artist Tom Savini, who would later provide effects for many of Romero's other films, including Dawn and Day of the Dead, may lead newcomers to expect a gruesome gore piece, but Martin is, instead, understated, intensely intimate, and ultimately ambiguous about whether or not the title character (played by John Amplas) is an actual vampire or merely an unhinged kid.

    • Actors: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini
    • Released: 1978
    • Directed by: George A. Romero
  • 5
    76 VOTES

    Directed by Tobe Hooper from a screenplay by Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby, Lifeforce has been called "an obvious tribute to Nigel Kneale's Quatermass" with "deep roots in Lovecraft's mythos," according to Lurker in the Lobby, a book on the cinematic adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, written by Andrew Migliore and John Strysik. Based on a novel by Colin Wilson, the film follows a spaceship that discovers a massive, seemingly derelict craft in the tail of Halley's Comet, a setup that should sound relatively familiar to fans of O'Bannon's Alien.

    Unlike that film's fiendish Xenomorph, however, these "space vampires" initially take the form of beautiful, unclothed humans - the main one is played by French actress Mathilda May, without a stitch of clothing - who feed on the "life force" of human beings and leave behind only shriveled husks that then rise to feed on more life force themselves and so on, leading to an apocalyptic ending sequence in a devastated London. The film also stars Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, and Patrick Stewart.

    • Actors: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard
    • Released: 1985
    • Directed by: Tobe Hooper

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  • 6
    48 VOTES

    "Australia’s only postmodern vampire movie," Thirst was produced as part of the "Ozploitation" boom of the late '70s and '80s, starring Chantal Contouri alongside British actor David Hemmings and American Henry Silva, who were brought in to "bolster international marketing potential." The plot concerns a woman (Contouri) who is believed by a shadowy group called the Brotherhood to be a descendent of Elizabeth Bathory. The members of the Brotherhood claim to be descended from vampire lineage themselves, and they abduct her and bring her to their "farm," where they collect the blood from hypnotized "blood cows" (other captive humans) in order to retain their youth.

    This science-fiction take on the vampire story mingles "ancient evil" with "hi-tech horror," as the Brotherhood's blood-harvesting facility is ultra-modern and as automated as any factory. In fact, in one "darkly comic scene a cheery tour guide extols the germ-free purity of the factory’s product to a group of happy-snapping visitors."

    • Actors: Chantal Contouri, David Hemmings, Henry Silva, Max Phipps, Shirley Cameron
    • Released: 1979
    • Directed by: Rod Hardy

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