John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998): A Macabre Review.

John Carpenter's Vampires Poster

Ahh the good old days of vampires, when bloodsuckers were savage and merciless, and they DIDN’T FRIGGIN SPARKLE!!!!!  Ahem.  Anyway these were the days when I liked vampires and actively watched vampire movies without any reluctance.  So I wanted to take a trip back in time and talk about one of them.  John Carpenter’s Vampires, which was released back in 1998, had my attention immediately because of its star James Woods, and of course John Carpenter.  At the time, I was rather curious to see if Vampires measured up to the other great horror movies prior.  And today, I’m gonna talk about it and see how it holds up after all these years since it’s release.Vampires starts off straight into action, as a team of vampire hunters led by Jack Crow (James Woods) is scoping out a run down home that’s suspected to contain a nest of vamps.  After prepping for a fight, they enter the house only to be met with silence for a couple of minutes.  That is until a bloodsucker leaps right on top of one of the hunters, then it’s on.  Fortunately, the team is well-trained, and they manage to cleat the house out without any major issues.  However, the master vampire the hunters expected to be there was nowhere to be seen.

John Carpenter's Vampires

So, Jack? What do we say when they realize we aren’t Jehovah’s Witness?

Later that night the hunters are at a nearby motel celebrating a job well done with some quality liquor and whores.  Unfortunately for them the celebration gets cut short by the arrival of Valek, the vampire master.  Valek proceeds to tear through everyone single-handedly, demonstrating why he is called the master.  Crow, his partner Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and one of the prostitutes named Katrina (Sheryl Lee) barely manage to escape Valek’s clutches.

After a couple of minor situations on the road, Crow and Montoya split up.  Crow goes to speak with Cardinal Alba about what happened, while Montoya takes Katrina to a safe spot at a motel.  Crow learns who Valek is, and later suspects that Valek is looking for an ancient relic that can enable vampires to walk in the daylight.  Meanwhile, Katrina (who was bitten by Valek earlier at the motel) is gradually turning, but in doing so develops a psychic connection to Valek.

John Carpenter's Vampires

Let me show you what happened to the last guy who tried to bum a ride from me.

Crow meets up with Montoya, with Father Guiteau tagging along from the church.  They decide to use Katrina’s connection to Valek to learn where the vampire is and what he’s up to.  Unfortunately, it’s all bad news. Not only has Valek been cutting a path of destruction in his search for the relic, he has gained seven new vampire followers, all of them masters.  The odds are stacked against the remaining vampire hunters like never before.  Will it be enough to crush the good guys once and for all?

No two ways about it; I love this movie.  John Carpenter was right on the money with this one.  The vampires as I mentioned earlier were ruthless killing machines who didn’t have any conscience, just a desire for your blood.  Also, Vampires has a very western feel to it, from the locations to much of the wardrobe choices, and even the music has the feel.  I admit I’m not too much of a western fan, but I couldn’t see this movie working as well without the western vibe it has.

John Carpenter's Vampires

Um, I really don’t think this is the best time for Tebowing.

The acting was solid all around as well.  James Woods is delivering his ‘A’ game with his lines, and if you don’t find yourself at least chuckling at some of the things he says, then you just don’t have a soul.  Also, Thomas Ian Griffith did an excellent job playing Valek.  The man oozed menace in the role, and in my opinion is one of my favorite vampires portrayed on-screen.  Steven Baldwin and Sheryl Lee did great in their roles, doing a good job working off each other.  Speaking of working off each other, Woods and Tim Guinee (Father Guiteau) did an excellent job in their scenes together.  I always feel bad whenever Crow gets rough with Guiteau, since Guiteau is a man of the cloth and too weak to fight back regardless.  Last but not least, Maximilian Schell as Cardinal Alba.  He did his role justice, but there’s something about the man’s smile that’s somewhat unsettling.

There isn’t much in the way of negatives to speak of.  The only issue I really had is not that major at all.  As I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I was a little disappointed that the whole cross/garlic/seduction aspects weren’t there.  But it didn’t really affect the movie in any way as the rest of the standard vampire traits were there.  So I was more than willing to let it slide.

So there you have it.  If you somehow let Vampires slip under your radar, I recommend you do something about that when you get the time.  It’s a great movie experience that will let you forget about the lackluster quality of today’s vampire scene, and hopefully will fill your blood and violence quota for a little while.  Until next time, rest n peace.

Macabre Rating: 4 out of 5 tombstones.

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