John Carpenter's Vampires works under an established system where a group of vampire 'slayers' led by Jack Crow (James Woods) are sponsored by the Vatican, who are fully aware of the existence of vampires. As the slayers are tracking a search pattern, they come across an old house and slay what vampires reside there. However at an 'after-slay' party, the vampires master, Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) seeks bloody retribution against the slayers. Decimating Jack Crow's team down to himself, Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) and Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a hooker who Valek bit when he was looking for Crow. The depleted slayers decide to head back to see their representative from the Vatican who gives Crow another priest, Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee) to help him rebuild his team, but Crow has no intention of leaving this fight. Crow also reasons that because Valek bit Katrina, that she'll now be able to sense his whereabouts.
I liked how they explained Valek's backstory as a fallen priest and stayed away from all the typical Dracula angles. Explaining how Valek was a priest that was found guilty of possession and the church then performed a forbidden form of exorcism that went wrong. The exorcism killed his body, but the possessed soul remained, and thus creating the first vampire. From there though, Valek is fairly one-dimensional as the vampire progenitor who wants to be able to walk in the sun, made possible through a ritual using the same cross that was used in his exorcism. The church knows that Valek is after the Berziers Cross, so why wouldn't they just destroy it? I know there'd be no movie otherwise, but that shit bugs me. They could have made a movie where Valek works his way towards the Vatican for revenge and Jack Crow and his slayers have to stop him. That doesn't matter now. Interesting how the vampires buried themselves in the dirt too, so they could travel across the desert. Even so, it would still get scorching hot under there, vampire or no vampire.
Right from the start Vampires is drenched in this macho rock 'n' roll swagger that portrays the slayers as modern day cowboys, and it's sometimes awesome, and it's sometimes hilarious. James Woods hams it up to a degree I didn't even know existed, but he's always entertaining in one way or another. The acting as a whole was cheesy and over the top, but James Woods easily takes the cake. There is this pervading sense of sloppiness to Vampires though, it almost feels like a grindhouse vampire movie. You might dig it, but it felt like a parody vampire movie to me. There was a lot of sloppy editing, poor framing and continually awkward cinematography, it all just felt very amateurish, which is surprising considering this is John "The Master of Horror" Carpenter. Vampires didn't even feel like a scary movie at all, definitely gory, but not particularly scary, even the action was largely boring and perfunctory.
I didn't buy the character development of Montoya and Katrina at all either, but I did like the baptism of fire that the rookie priest was subjected to, and really came into his own throughout the movie. Vampires failed to make much of an impact financially either, though I wonder how much that has to do with Blade coming out only a few months before it did, and both featured vampire antagonists with a craving for some sunlight. You look at Vampires and Blade side by side and you'd think that Vampires was made a couple of decades before Blade was. But maybe that's unfair, John Carpenter was going for a dry, dusty and atmospheric outback kinda feel for Vampires, while Blade was going for the opposite, at least aesthetically. I don't think Vampires stands the test of time anymore as a worthwhile vampire movie, but still offers some cheap fun, thrills and even laughs. I had to laugh when James Woods growls "First of all, they're not romantic. lt's not like they're a bunch of fags hopping around in rented formal wear seducing everybody in sight with cheesy Euro-trash accents." Can someone please come tell the 21st century this?
Written by - The Sentry - 04/06/2016