1998; Rated R; 104 Minutes
James Woods: Jack Crow
Daniel Baldwin: Tony Montoya
Sheryl Lee: Katrina
Thomas Ian Griffith: Valek
Tim Guince: Father Adam Guiteau
Produced by Don Jakoby,
Sandy King and Barr B. Patter; Directed by John Carpenter;
Screenwritten by Don Jakoby
by DAVID KEYES
Carpenter's Vampires" begins as a promising, intriguing
tale of our typical bloodsuckers, who are being hunted by
bounty hunters at the order of the Catholic church. Then
it slowly falls into a mass of dead weight and witlessness,
until it eventually falls flat on its face and refuses to
get up. To put it bluntly, it's a movie of mixed qualities.
We get worked up at the very beginning, because we expect
to see something great, all in the end to be disappointed
by the over-toned blood scenes and obvious plot stages that
seem to plague the typical horror movies these days.
that the movies is that bad. It has its redeeming value
(mostly found in the visuals and set design), and it has
its well organized premise that sets us up to expect something
great. Of course, this could also be the fault, because
what we truthfully expect is something that will blow the
"Scream" pictures away. What we get is mixed feelings as
the blood pours forth from a neck of a vampire's victim
and the story molds itself in ways beyond description.
in order to argue its faults and values, let me first give
you the details. John Carpenter envisions in the distant
future that Catholics have given up holy water, exorcisms,
prayer--things that they used to destroy vampires in the
past. Now, they turn to a group of vampire killers, more
appropriately called mercenaries, who slay vampires, expose
them to sunlight, collect their skulls, and celebrate their
successes. In the opening shot of the movie, they expose
a group of them to the sunlight by pulling them out of their
lair with a cable hooked up to a motor vehicle. Afterwards,
they vampires are confronted with instant death, which is
so visually creative to admire that it gives you goose bumps.
They explode into flames, and before you know it, the mercenaries
are collecting their skulls, as they head for town to party
over their victory. Little do they realize, though, that
they failed to dispose of the vampire leader, Valek, played
by Thomas Ian Griffith, who has the yes and feelings of
the typical John Carpenter villains. At nightfall, he escapes
to the city, finds the group, disposes of most of them,
and bites a hooker on the neck. But she doesn't become a
vampire herself; instead, she becomes Valek's window to
the remaining mercenaries. In biting her, he tapped into
her mind which enabled him to see and know what the others
were doing around her. This idea, of course, I've never
seen demonstrated in a vampire movie, but its original and
of course, that's not all involved in the story. The two
vampires who Valek leaves living are (1) Jack Crow and (2)
Tony Montoya. Jack Crow, played by James Woods, is a strong,
stern man who knows he wants to kill vampires for a living,
since he, after all, witnessed some of them murder his own
parents. Tony Montoya, Jack's colleague, is played by Daniel
Baldwin, who is not well developed, but serves his purpose
alongside Jack in the movie well. The Catholic church is
trying to protect a mystic black crucifix that, when grasped
by a vampire, will make all of them invincible to sunlight.
Thus, this may explain the reason why the church chose to
have mercenaries take the place of slaying vampires instead
of their typical tools, like the holy water.
level of violence in "Vampires" is, of course, very bloody,
but perhaps we should expect that. After all, did you ever
hear of a vampire movie where there wasn't much blood.
I could find plenty wrong with it. Most of it, I'm afraid,
is just part of the stories resolution, so I won't reveal
it here. I'll simply make the point of informing you that,
no, it does not meet our expectations.
I guess, in short, I can recommend "John Carpenter's Vampires,"
simply because it does have quality that is worthwhile.
If it had lived up to the promise and intrigue of what it
demonstrated in the beginning, it could have easily receive
three or four stars, depending on the changes that were
made. The bottom line here is that the movie is worthwhile
in some cases, but dismal or unexpectedly mediocre in some
others. It is worthy of its material, but it does not compare
in any way to a level as the other good vampire films, like
"Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "Nosferatu." But then again,
how often do we see movies as good as those
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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