John Carpenter's Vampires
Rating -

Horror (US); 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

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"John 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.

Not 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.

Now 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 fun nonetheless.

But 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.

The 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.

Still, 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.

So 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, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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