5 Films From the Sad Vampire Cinematic Universe

Written By Avra Margariti

Avra Margariti is a queer author and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Strange Horizons, F&SF, The Deadlands, Vastarien, and Reckoning. Avra lives and studies in Athens, Greece. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).

Vampires or other blood-drinkers are popular creatures to appear in movies. Once, vampire horror was a social commentary on wealth, power, and decadence sucking people dry. Then, media depictions turned toward the erotic, a representation of forbidden desires and transgression given voice through sensuality and blood splattered artistically on the screen. But what about the art wave of the sad vampires? Immortality as a curse or illness, an obstacle to building meaningful human relations?

Let the Right One In

The Swedish film (based on the novel of the same title) follows Oskar, a preteen boy growing up in Stockholm’s suburbs in the ‘80s. It is a tale of loneliness and alienation: Oskar has a superficial relationship with his divorced parents, is being relentlessly bullied by his school classmates, and harbors secret fantasies of violence he can only play-act on his own, in the dark. Oskar meets Eli, his mysterious neighbor who appears to be around his own age, at a snow-covered playground empty of other children. Soon, he finds out Eli is a vampire, turned centuries ago when they were young, then later maintaining their child-like wonder while manipulating unscrupulous adults into providing them with the blood necessary for their survival. Oskar is drawn to Eli, who is also lonely and at odds with their surroundings just like he is. Despite the blood, bleakness, and violence of the film, the love story between the two characters is a tender exploration of melancholy, gender, and early sexuality.

Only Lovers Left Alive

The depressed rockstar vampire movie. Adam and Eve are a vampire couple that has been married for a large part of human history, but choose to live apart across the world as they each follow their creative pursuits. The two reconnect when Adam, a famous musician and composer disillusioned with modern living, expresses his suicidal thoughts to Eve while on the phone. Together again, Adam and Eve attempt to rekindle their love for human art and meaningful connections, until Eve’s younger sister arrives. Another vampire, Eve’s sister wreaks havoc on the couple’s carefully constructed habits of finding blood donors and human patrons to help their vampirism remain undiscovered.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

An older brother and sister spend all their time cooped up inside a deteriorating house where a Christmas tree remains decorated year-round, and their younger sibling lives in need of extensive care and attention. This indie movie is a slow burn take on vampirism as chronic illness. Thomas, the younger vampire brother (although the word ‘vampire’ is never used by the characters to describe his condition) is a relatable character, one who craves to be let out of the house and join other people his age, but is limited by his fatigue and muscle weakness that drinking human blood can’t cure, only momentarily improve. Thomas’ older siblings also face constant seclusion and pressure to bring blood home to their brother, while being prohibited from building any sort of human connection with the outside world, in case those connections end up hurting the brother dependent on them. The family ties fray by the scene, reflecting the siblings’ fraught emotions which not even the perpetual fairy-lights and festive gift exchanges can soothe.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

An urban fable shot in black and white. As the story unfolds, A Girl… becomes populated by characters struggling with feeling adrift through their lives, striving for a tether, for connection. Arash is a young Iranian man who must work hard to earn a living and take care of his addict father. He meets a woman skateboarding by herself at night, a vampire who takes him to her apartment, where they connect through music but she resists the urge to drink from his exposed neck. Later, the two characters become further entangled as they navigate the night and its human monsters and monstrous needs.


Sang-hyun is a Catholic priest who, despite his parish’s dedication to him, often finds himself under fits of sadness and divine doubt. When he gets infected by what is known as the Emmanuel Virus and finds out he has unwittingly become a vampire, he struggles even further with his faith and his new, all-encompassing need to consume human blood. Meanwhile, Sang-hyun becomes attracted to Tae-ju, his old friend’s wife. The two engage in a mutually destructive relationship as well as in acts of vampirism. Sometimes it’s not clear to the characters whether they want to hurt themselves, or each other—or, even, if the reason they are hurting each other is because they wish they could be hurting their own selves. This codependency continues, as does the thirst for blood, to a calamitous conclusion.

Vampirism can represent illness, loss of self-control, being shunned by one’s community, experiencing unpredictable changes to one’s body (which can often be a metaphor for gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia, or even for mental illness that distorts one’s perspective of the self in relation to the other). If we consider all this, it makes perfect sense for vampire films to be this melancholy, but also this cathartic.