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Bleeding Love: 10 Titillating Vampire Couples Who Prove Love Sucks

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, here are 10 vampire “couples” whose relationship drama either chills or warms the blood
Ann Magnuson and David Bowie in 'The Hunger.' (Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Drink from me and live forever,” reads the deadly but inviting tagline for Neil Jordan’s infamous 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, a compelling but compromised rendering of queered subtexts which still survived in the film’s coded performances. It’s a swooning cornerstone in the cinematic vampiric subgenre of doomed lovers cursed by an infernal condition, feeding off the ignorant masses. But the universal appeal of bloodsuckers taps into our disastrous conditioning regarding what love is supposed to look like, an eternal status whose merits reside in a fictional realm of indestructibility. 

Is there anything more romantic than finding an immortal beloved to spend eternity with, even if it means the destruction and decimation of others? For this, essentially, is what such a monogamous bond demands, an isolated union requiring the services of others whilst remaining estranged and aloof from physical or emotional attachment. Ultimately, the vampire couple is, then, the most disastrous and dysfunctional example of the codependent relationship. Electropunk husband-and-wife duo ADULT. perhaps stumbles on the sentiment most effectively with their 2013 track “Tonight, We Fall,” in which Nicola Kuperus moans, “Because this feeling came over me/It sticks to you/It sticks to me/Forever (and ever).”

Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas in ‘Interview with the Vampire’ (Credit: Francois Duhamel/Sygma via Getty Images)

Vampirism as a sexual metaphor of ravening, unsatisfied desires is arguably why it remains a prolific staple of both genre and arthouse films, demanding the exchange of fluids, often violently and without consent. They are a creation that perfectly walks the dangerous intersection of sex and death, and suggests the possibility of an existence devoted to hedonism. Within vampire lore packaged for mass consumption, the main victims of interest are almost always virginal females whose sexual purity is sought in conjunction with their hemoglobin, or women who are reminders of dead lovers, making their victimhood somehow excusable yet also diminished. More contemporary tropes also tend to cultivate sympathetic, romanticized villains, many of whom abhor their violent destinies, attempting to diminish their guilt by seeking morbid personalities to feed on. Such tortured, brooding souls have crossed over into pop culture rom-coms, such as the daffy Twilight series or the cutesy Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (2023).

But the oft-unstated attraction to vampires is their taboo sexual and romantic appeal, even as the overall mythos has become rote. While inevitably some of these narratives veer into camp territory, bloodsucking couples, navigating various rituals and parameters, are often compelling metaphorical mirrors representative of desires or fantasies left unspoken. Outside of the various adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there exists a splintery assemblage of complicated relationship issues involving the undead. Yes, Count Dracula and Mina Harker are an interesting, albeit one-sided duo, but if they’re the Adam and Eve of vampire love, many far wiser have unfurled in their wake. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, here are 10 vampire “couples” whose relationship drama either chills or warms the blood.

10. El Conde (2023)

While not entirely successful in its gonzo revisionist explorations, Pablo Larraín’s audacious El Conde examines the dark legacy of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as a vampire predating the French Revolution. In this version, his mother, Margaret Thatcher, narrates the story of her troubled son, whose human children aim to exorcise him – with the help of a nun posing as an auditor so they may receive their inheritance. Pinochet’s wife Lucia (Gloria Münchmeyer), meanwhile, plots to finally receive her husband’s deadly curse thanks to his vampiric butler Fyodor (Alfredo Castro) as her own means to stake an everlasting claim to Pinochet’s finances. Notably, her vampirism is only feasible as a gift from her lover, for her human condition has allowed her to be inferior. Delirious, to say the least, love is merely a parasitical function in a novel defamation of a tyrant’s horrific legacy. 

9. Sleepwalkers (1992) 

Arguably vampire-adjacent, this Mick Garris-directed psychosexual horror film penned by Stephen King focuses on supernatural creatures posing as mother and son humans but looking like large, skinned felines in their original form. They travel from various American small towns feeding off the virtue of virginal women, with the son posing as a handsome high schooler to troll for the prey he brings back to his mother for feeding. That’s in between uncomfortably incestuous sex scenes with a wicked Alice Krige and her rather Aryan-looking son, played by Brian Krause. In essence, they’re more of the incubus/succubus ilk, their mortal enemy being actual domesticated cats. They’re unfortunately heeled by the resourcefulness of their latest victim, a Twin Peaks-era Madchen Amick (who’s assisted by a police officer’s tenacious cat, Clovis). As campy as it is alarming, Sleepwalkers makes an indelible impression while tweaking the familiar formula of beings whose survival depends on the consumption of others.

8. Immortality (1998)

While it received middling reviews upon its release in 1998, this ambiguous vampire film from Hong Kong director Po-Chih Leong (which was also known by its much better international title, The Wisdom of Crocodiles) finds Jude Law as a vampiric lothario who preys on lonely women needing love. Once they’ve developed feelings for him, he can now utilize the “love in their blood,” the essence he requires to survive. Law belongs to the George A. Romero tradition of Martin (1977), where he might just be a serial killer who’s convinced himself he needs blood, but after the film’s initial victim (Kerry Fox) is dispatched, he woos Elina Lowensohn (who famously played a vampire in Michael Almereyda’s Nadja, a 1994 title executive produced by David Lynch). The allure of Lowensohn is her resistance to his advances, and with a wily detective played by Timothy Spall hot on his trail, the streets seem to be closing in on him just when it seems he might also be falling in love as well. 

7. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

“When you are alone eternally, you live for the comfort of the senses,” whispers Anne Parillaud’s vampire at the beginning of Innocent Blood (1992). But what happens to vampires attempting eternal companionship with an equal? The answer would logically be something like Jim Jarmusch’s unorthodox comedy Only Lovers Left Alive, where married vampires Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, named Adam and Eve, find themselves living apart (in Detroit and Tangier, respectively). When an existential crisis hits Adam, a musical Luddite contemplating suicide, his betrothed returns to assist in regulating his ennui. They’re interrupted by her troublesome younger sister, the irresponsible Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who makes a 21st century faux pas when she drinks the blood of Adam’s human friend (Anton Yelchin). Playing like a zany B-side track itself, melded as it is with music from Jarmusch’s band Squrl (with Carter Logan), Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love” sets the stage for this droll tale about ancient vampires who have evolved by acquiring uncontaminated blood by medical means. But with immortality, absence really does seem to make the heart grow fonder in this off-kilter examination of reclaiming excitement and passion when complacent rhythms are disrupted.

6. Let the Right One In (2008)

The surprisingly cathartic Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the celebrated novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, ironically was released in the U.S. the same month as Twilight, a welcome countermeasure. Although the film is more ambitious than the novel on some of the more insidious subtexts, Eli (Lina Leandersson) presents as a 12-year-old girl who happens to be a vampire looked after by an elderly man who procures that good stuff for her. As this becomes more precarious for him, Eli begins to befriend the film’s protagonist, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12-year-old boy being bullied at school. What follows is something of a novel take on the Dracula/Renfield dynamic, with Eli, seemingly a victim of sexual abuse, grooming her new friend to be her new “companion.” The notion of consent is effortlessly collapsed in a morbid interplay, suggesting we should be more careful about the inevitable, even necessary dangers accompanying those we allow into our inner circles. Alfredson conjures an icy, sinister tone in this budding friendship based on retribution, and its combination of vampiric and coming-of-age aesthetics allows for a haunting and emotional approach to a familiar scenario. Matt Reeves directed a serviceable 2010 English language remake, Let Me In, but the sinister desperations and wistful romanticism for these strange bedfellows don’t land quite as adroitly as in the subversive original. 

5. Thirst (2009)

Accidental vampirism is the dramatic catalyst in Park Chan-wook’s inventive 2009 title Thirst, starring Song Kang-ho as a priest who inadvertently becomes a vampire through a failed medical experience, a blood transfusion rendering him undead. Resisting temptations of the flesh, however, appears to be even more difficult than the martyred priest anticipates, and his desire for Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), an unhappily married woman treated like an indentured servant, pushes him into erotic oblivion no amount of flagellating can equal. It’s here where the meat of Chan-wook’s narrative is lifted from Emile Zola’s 19th century novel Therese Raquin, about a woman unhappily married to her cousin through an arranged marriage, whilst a love affair with his friend leads to tragedy. Tae-ju, once she discovers Song Kang-ho’s condition, initially recoils, though his “When two people are in love, does it really matter?” argument wins her over. Oh, and his agreement to assist her in murdering her husband, his childhood friend. Eventually, they discover too much of a good thing can quickly become a problem. 

4. Ganja & Hess (1973)

One of the most brazen and bizarrely constructed vampire films you’re apt to see, Bill Gunn’s 1973 Ganja & Hess is a rather circuitous tale of undead love. Duane Jones (of Night of the Living Dead fame) is an anthropologist studying ancient African blood-drinkers who is stabbed by one of their swords when his assistant (played by Gunn) goes haywire. Jones becomes a vampire, but his cohort’s wife (a fabulous Marlene Clark) comes looking for her husband, only to be seduced and then turned into a vampire by her new lover. Rich in metaphorical subtexts about the dangerousness of religion and the sublimation of Black culture, it’s an often difficult, formally uncomfortable exploration of imminent annihilation beneath the wheel of white dominance and the resulting, sabotaging self-consumption of Black culture without a support system. Ambitious, rough around the edges, and (like all of Gunn’s projects) quite daring, the film was remade by Spike Lee in 2014 as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. 

3. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Belgian director Harry Kümel crafted one of the most successful sensual erotic vampire films with Daughters of Darkness, starring Delphine Seyrig as the historical Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian noblewoman who reputedly killed hundreds of young women to bathe in their blood. This version of the Countess ends up in Ostend with her minion (Andrea Rau), who descend upon a newlywed couple staying at the same isolated seafront hotel. In the fine tradition of many such narratives, the Countess (modeled after Marlene Dietrich) exchanges one undead lover for another by the end of her stay. It’s also one of the most lush lesbian vampire films in a much more explicit vein than something like the coded classic Dracula’s Daughter (1936). An odyssey of sexual decadence, Daughters of Darkness is an open artery of corruption.

2. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

A juggernaut of vampire touchstones, Anne Rice’s 1976 novel received a surprisingly high-profile studio treatment in 1994, directed by Neil Jordan. Hollywood heartthrobs Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt are mostly reduced to coded queer composites in this adaptation as Lestat and Louis, whose sexuality is much more explicit in the 2022 television series update. But the sumptuous self-loathing and agonizing vitriol evidenced in Jordan’s version remains a formidable time capsule of queered vampire narratives. By the time we get to the third act, Jordan introduces us to the seductive Armand, played with unabashed lustiness by Antonio Banderas. Banderas exudes a primal desire for Pitt’s Louis, suggesting the possibility of a more pleasurable co-dependence than that offered by his initial partner Lestat, the man who made him into the creature he’s become. It’s an extravaganza of gory soap opera anguish still dangerous enough to inspire angst in moody teenagers, especially those prone to admiring an ultra-pouty and petulant Brad Pitt.

1. The Hunger (1983)

There is, perhaps, no more glorious moment in vampire cinema than the opening sequence of Tony Scott’s debut, the infamous cult classic The Hunger. Vampiric couple Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (David Bowie) search for a victim in an industrial nightclub while Bauhaus performs their classic track “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” an ironic in-joke which could have been corny but instead heightens the dangerous titillation. We soon discover that Bowie, who was turned into a vampire by his much older lover, suddenly begins to age. Seeking treatment from Susan Sarandon’s gerontologist, who studies rapid aging in primates and might be close to a potential cure-all, Bowie finds himself stored in a box alongside Deneuve’s other lovers, all apparently doomed to the same fate (his name being “John” also seems to be a telling tidbit). Meanwhile, Deneuve sets her sights on Sarandon as her replacement lover, formulating an infamous, sexy scene of seduction between the two women. Things, of course, don’t ultimately end well for the all-consuming Miriam Blaylock, but The Hunger satisfies on all levels of depraved arthouse vampire aesthetics. Unfortunately, it was also a film hampered by conservative cultural critiques, and sent Tony Scott, brother of Ridley, off into an entirely different cinematic trajectory, following this up with Top Gun (1986), never to return to the dark recesses he so confidently plundered.