Watch This Now: Vampires on demand

The world of film is changing. For one thing, there’s not much actual film anymore. The future is digital; more and more, it’s streaming on our computers, too. Every week in FYIVOD, we survey the landscape online movies to bring you a snapshot of what’s available. This week, the stakes get a whole lot higher as we take in some vampire movies.

All right, here’s what you need. A cross. Some holy water. A couple of pieces of silver couldn’t hurt, although it might not help in all cases. Ooh, and a good supply of lumber, and if you can get it pre-sharpened, all the better. You can’t be too careful preparing for this week’s FYIVOD because it’s all about the dark world of vampire movies. From some of the earliest days of the silent era to the latest VOD premieres, vampires have fascinated audiences and filmmakers alike. There are literally dozens of movies about vampires and their bloodsucking buddies, but here are five options you can watch online right now that go straight for the jugular.

Jugular? Get it? Cause the vampires, and the, the blood, and the jugular, with the biting and the necks and the whatnot? You get it. You don’t like it, but you get it.

On SundanceNow
Directed by Mary Harron
$9.99 to rent or stream

From Mary Harron, the director of AMERICAN PSYCHO, comes a vampire story set at an elite all girls boarding school. The new student in town, Ernessa (Lily Cole), drives a wedge between two former best friends, Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) and Lucy (Sarah Gadon), and Rebecca begins to suspect there’s something strange about Ernessa. Could she be a vampire? The school’s resident hunky lit professor (Scott Speedman) — by federal regulation, every all girls academy has to have one — fills Rebecca’s head with stories of gothic horror where, he says, all the classics feature “anxiety about female power, female sexuality.” Hmm, I wonder what this movie might be about? Could it be anxiety about female power and sexuality? Mmmmmaybe. Speedman’s prof also says all vampire stories contain three things: blood, sex, and death. Hmm again, when he puts it that way maybe Harron, directing her first film since 2005′s THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, started making thinly veiled vampire stories way back with AMERICAN PSYCHO.

On Netflix
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Free for streaming plan members

Bela Lugosi might be the most famous onscreen Dracula, but Max Schreck’s Count in F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU might be the creepiest. With his bald head, ratlike teeth, spindly fingers, and endless claws, he looks more like a zombie than the prototypical vampire, and that’s exactly what makes him so scary. Schreck’s Orlok isn’t going to charm with you with Eastern European manners and suave pick-up lines, he’s just going to burrow his way into your home like a giant, evil rodent, and slurp from your carotid artery. Though all the names were changed to protect the copyrighted, NOSFERATU was a blatant but superb ripoff of Bram Stoker’s classic novel — and proof that movie piracy existed long before the Internet. Schreck’s performance in NOSFERATU was so convincingly cadaverish that decades later someone made a whole film about it — in 2000′s SHADOW OF A VAMPIRE, Schreck, played by an almost-as-eerie Willem Dafoe, is not an actor imitating a vampire, but an actual vampire using the role as a cover for his nocturnal activities. I’ve heard of Method acting, but that’s just ridiculous.

On Amazon Instant Video
Directed by Tony Scott
$2.99 to rent, $9.99 to purchase

Once described as an “agonizingly bad vampire movie” by Roger Ebert, THE HUNGER has nevertheless persisted as a cult horror classic, largely because of the words that immediately followed Ebert’s description of it as an “agonizingly bad vampire movie,” noting that those terrible elements circled around “an exquisitely effective sex scene.” That scene takes place between Catherine Deneuve as some kind of Egyptian vampire goddess-slash-sexpot and Susan Sarandon as the latest object of her desire. The film, the first from director Tony Scott, is undeniably trashy, but it does have a certain camp charm (particularly in the scenes featuring David Bowie as Deneuve’s previous lover, a rapidly aging cellist whose ghoulish physique suggests the Cryptkeeper doing an impression of Ziggy Stardust) and, yes, the sex scene is worthy of its reputation. Regardless of Ebert’s scorn, I continue to assert that THE HUNGER remains the single best film about sex-crazed Egyptian vampire princesses that screened at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. Prove me wrong, world. Prove me wrong.

On YouTube
NEAR DARK (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
$1.99 to stream

Decades before Catherine Hardwicke put a teen romance twist on the vampire genre in TWILIGHT, another badass female director, THE HURT LOCKER’s Kathryn Bigelow, did much the same with far greater creative success (and, sadly, far less financial success). Her NEAR DARK tells the story of a young man (Adrian Pasdar) bitten by a strange girl (Jenny Wright) and forced into a coven of violent, sadistic vampires that includes Lance Hendriksen and Bill Paxton. NEAR DARK contains most of the broad thematic strokes of TWILIGHT with none of the glossy beefcake. Not that there’s anything wrong with glossy beefcake, per se, but if you’re looking for a darker, bloodier, sadder take on teen bloodsuckers — one that also manages to bring some of the look, feel, and grit of a Western to the vampire genre — this one will fit the bill. It’s a near perfect horror-action film.

On iTunes
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
$3.99 to rent, $4.99 to rent in HD; $9.99 to purchase, $12.99 to purchase in HD

Speaking of teen bloodsuckers, the best recent gloss on that subgenre was this brilliantly chilly Swedish film about a mysterious young girl who moves into an apartment complex in suburban Stockholm with her… well what the hell is he? Her father? Her former lover? The film doesn’t make it clear but either way, this middle-aged man kills people to provide blood for Eli (Lina Leandersson), who looks like an innocent — if a little sickly — 12-year-old girl. Eli strikes up a friendship with a boy in the neighborhood, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a deeply troubled outsider in desperate need of a friend. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, who made last year’s TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN pulls off a rare cinematic feat, vampiric or otherwise: it manages to be both heartwarming and bone-chilling all at once. You root for Oskar and Eli, even as you realize that their mutually beneficial alliance will result in the death of a lot of (admittedly none-too-innocent) people. You can also find the 2010 American remake, LET ME IN, on iTunes, but if you’re going to really let the right version in, go with the original.

Need more bloody action? Check out Sundance Channel’s LOVE LUST & THE UNDEAD on Friday at 3P and throughout the week.