The vampire genre is mostly filled with terrible, schlocky violence – and that’s what makes it so entertaining. For centuries, people have been entranced by the vampire myth, and every few years, the craze returns to film and TV in force. This year, it’s Sony’s turn with the Jared Leto-starring Morbius. If you enjoyed its schlocky good-bad trailer, these are the 11 must-watch vampire TV shows and movies to binge while you wait.
One of the hills I will die on is that Dracula Untold is not nearly as bad as people say. Yes, it’s schlocky, and sometimes it’s a little bit cheesy, but that’s typical of vampire fiction. Luke Evans makes for a fantastically haunted Vlad DrÄƒculea in the film, which charts the birth of iconic movie monster, Count Dracula — although the movie barely resembles the classic tale. Towards the end, Dracula Untold starts down a weird path intended to set up the now-pretty-much-defunct Universal Dark Universe , but for the most part, the movie presents a fun and over-the-top power fantasy about the lengths that people will go for love. Even turn themselves into spooky bat whisperers, apparently.
The Vampire Diaries
The post-Twilight years were unkind to The Vampire Diaries, which was written off as a cheap teen drama in an era filled with vampire fiction. While the first season leaned heavily into the teen drama genre, it evolved quickly by developing its supernatural lore and introducing new complications in the form of ‘original vampires’, werewolves, witches, hybrids and more. Yes, The Vampire Diaries comes with a generous helping of teen drama, but it’s also got rampant murder and mayhem, and moments of genuine horror that are consistently entertaining, even when the show is at its worst.
Moonlight was a short-lived vampire drama on CBS starring Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin as Mick St. John, a vampire detective attempting to protect a woman he’d once saved as a little girl. And then she gets old, and he doesn’t, so they end up together. Yeah, okay. Despite that weird little quirk, Moonlight was a good, fun time. The dialogue was pretty nasty, but O’Loughlin put in a fantastic performance as eternal moper Mick, and he shouldn’t be forgotten as one of TV’s premier vampires. Sadly, Moonlight was cancelled after just one season, and before the vampire craze of the late 2000s kicked off — but the episodes that we got were totally fun, even when they were silly as hell.
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series
The George Clooney and Quention Tarantinto-starring From Dusk Till Dawn is a strange, strange film. It starts off simply enough, with two brothers escaping from a brazen heist. Along they way, they kidnap a family and eventually find themselves holed up in a mystery bar. Suddenly, the bar is being run by vampires, and they kill nearly everyone. Then one of the brothers turns into a vampire, and the other one has to kill him. It’s fantastic, and comes highly recommended — but if you’re looking for something meatier, the film was turned into a TV series in 2014, and it expanded significantly on the original film’s thin vampire lore.
D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz have fantastic chemistry as the Gecko brothers, and it’s filled with fun, dumb action for the entire ride. It’s also unique in that it ties its vampire lore directly into Mexican folklore, making it visually unique and impressive.
The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys was such a phenomenon that it’s since spawned multiple (direct-to-DVD) sequels, a comic book continuation, a Pop Vinyl set and countless other merchandising opportunities — largely thanks to Kiefer Sutherland’s portrayal of vampire David. If you’ve never seen the film, you might assume he’s the main character, but that honour goes to Sam and Michael Emerson, two brothers who end up confronting the vampires of Santa Carla alongside intrepid comic book nerds, the young Frog Brothers.
The Lost Boys is vampire schlock at its prime, and features the awesomely gross practical effects of the 1980s with true style. It also works as a companion film to the original version of Fright Night, another gloriously gory 80s vampire banger.
Being Human (US/UK)
Being Human was a successful little show out of the BBC that featured a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost living together. Their chemistry buoyed the series, which went from lighthearted banter to moments of hideous gore and monstrous transformations at the drop of a hat. Naturally, the U.S. decided to ‘borrow’ the concept, and retooled it into their own version. While the names were changed, the spirit remains the same, and both of these shows are equally delightful and cheesy in good measure.
Speaking of BBC vampire drama, Young Dracula is another great (sometimes terrible) TV show that follows a family of vampires living in Wales. While it started out as a children’s comedy (and many childish gags carry over from the early episodes), later seasons settled into a darker rhythm, expanding on the show’s vampire lore, introducing new characters and flirting with the idea of all-out vampire war.
The show also has one of my favourite Count Dracula interpretations, with scene-chewing performances by Keith Lee Castle of a Dracula completely exasperated by his inability to kill mortals. It’s irreverent, often silly and very schlocky, but it’s still a great time.
Underworld is schlock at its finest, and for the most part, is just an excuse for Kate Beckinsale to run around in tight leather. But it’s filled with plenty of bloody action and eye-catching setpieces. It also features a character I’ve been exclusively referring to as ‘hot Michael Sheen’, because Michael Sheen has no business being attractive in Underworld, and yet miraculously, mind-bogglingly, he is.
Underworld is about the centuries-old war between vampires and werewolves, and contains a deep lore that was explored in many, many equally bad sequels with equally bad acting. But it’s oh-so-very watchable, and stylish in its awfulness.
Henry Fitzroy is the second vampire detective to make this list — but he isn’t the last. In this Canadian TV show, Henry Fitzroy (actually the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII) is a comic book writer and vampire detective who solves crimes with his near-blind partner, Vicki. Together, they beat interdimensional demons, incubuses, fiends and all manner of terrible creatures. The chemistry between Vicki and Henry really holds this terrible show together, but unfortunately they never got their happy ending — the show received only 22 episodes. But what terrible joy those 22 episodes bring.
Near Dark arrived in the midst of the 80s vampire craze, but has long been overshadowed by enduring hits like The Lost Boys and Fright Night. Near Dark tells the tale of Caleb Colton (played by a young Adrian Pasdar, who would go on to play Nathan Petrelli in superhero drama Heroes), a young man bitten by a young woman, and later kidnapped by her stark-raving vampire family. It’s a tale of teenage love, family and whole lot of vampires. Plus, there’s plenty of blood, guts and feral hormones along the way.
Forever Knight was ahead of its time, and kickstarted the vampire detective genre that lasted well into the early 2000s — and which is currently being revisited for the Quibi streaming service. The show follows established detective Nick Knight (a fantastically cheesy moniker) as he teams up with his oblivious partner Don Schanke to solve crime. The first two seasons are solidly entertaining, balancing Nick’s dark past with his charming irreverence and witty banter.
It was a show ahead of its time, and that meant its end came suddenly, and stupidly, with a damp squib of an ending — but before that final bum note, it was brilliantly silly and always exciting.
When vampire movies and TV shows are at their best, they’re bloody, fun and yes, sometimes they’re bad — but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be ridiculously good fun.
Morbius is unlikely to be an Oscar contender when it comes out (no matter how much Jared Leto tries), but there’s no doubt it’ll still be a schlocky good time — and I, for one, am very excited.
Morbius opens July 30 in Australia.
This article has been updated since its original publication.