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Thursday, June 28, 2012

180: Vampires

Gee, I wonder what this movie is about

Another day, another John Carpenter movie. He's been working horror for over thirty years and has been involved with some of the biggest and best horror movies ever. Halloween, The Thing, They Live are some of his best work. Even his non horror movies like Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13 are fun. Recently, though, John Carpenter has hit a bit of a rough patch. His return movie, The Ward, was thoroughly mediocre and Ghosts of Mars was just plain bad. Fun, but bad. Sometimes you just have a cold streak and sometimes you just have nothing in the tank. But how about the movie right before Ghosts of Mars, Vampires?

Vampires is a 1998 horror movie starring James Woods (Videodrome, Any Given Sunday) as the vampire hunter Jack Crow and Daniel Baldwin (Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman, Phoenix) as his partner, Anthony Montoya. Jack leads a group of vampire slayers as they clear out a house, or nest, in New Mexico. That night, the crew parties with a group of hookers, including a pretty blond named Katrina (Sheryl Lee, Winter's Bone, Twin Peaks). A master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith, xXx, The Karate Kid Part III) arrives, bites Katrina, and brutally kills most of the crew and the women. He calls Jack by name and goes after him, but Jack is able to escape along with Montoya and a woozy Katrina. Montoya and Katrina hold up in a hotel while Jack visits Cardinal Alba (Maximilian Schell, Joan of Arc, The Brothers Bloom) and Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee, CSI, Iron Man). They explain that Valek was the first vampire, thus the most difficult to kill. Meanwhile, Katrina now has a psychic link to Valek, seeing what he sees. She tries to kill herself, but Montoya stops her from jumping out a window, cutting his arm in the process. Katrina sees the blood and bites his arm. Through Katrina's link, they are able to eventually piece together that Valek has found a mythical black cross, The Berziers Cross. It is revealed that Valek was a priest who became possessed by a demon and the cross was used in his exorcism. The exorcism was never completed, turning him into a vampire. Now that he has the cross, he will be able to complete the ritual, allowing him and his vampires to walk in the sunlight. Will Jack, Father Guiteau, and a bitten Montoya be able to stop Valek and his vampire crew and how is Cardinal Alba involved?

Great band picture

This movie is fun, plain and simple. I watched it many times growing up and even through the years, I am still entertained by it. It is filled with loads of action and some genuine laughs. Most of those laughs could be attributed to clever writing and James Woods. Jack Crow is practically made for Woods; he is loud, crude, and obnoxious. He looks like he is having fun in this role and it shows on screen. Screaming “Die! Die! Die you fuck, die!” isn't exactly Shakespeare, and in fact, may have been written by a 16 year old boy, but it does have a fun ring to it. There is plenty of guns, stakes to the heart, stakes to the head, and exploding in sunlight. The exploding bits could have been executed better because certain scenes just looked like the actors had flares attached to their clothing. There is a good amount of blood and one fantastic scene in the beginning when Valek splits one of the vampire hunters in half. Makes me wish they did more of that.

The story itself isn't particularly original, but its enough to keep things moving along between gunshots and curse words. It feels like there is a vampire movie out ever few years where the main vampire is about to unlock the ability to walk in the day time. It just feels played out, but again, the story isn't the real focus of the movie anyway. Thomas Ian Griffith is good as the brooding Valek and Sheryl Lee does well as Katrina. She is very convincing when she is transitioning to vampire and psychically linking to Valek. Daniel Baldwin keeps up with Woods in the fun department and is a good supporting role.

Give me a "T"!

Vampires is a fun, action-packed vampire movie with a good amount of blood and lots of gun shots. The acting and dialogue play very well in between action sequences, making the movie a complete and enjoyable watch. James Woods is great in his role and looks to be enjoying every minute of it. When an actor is having fun and gets into the role, we the audience benefit. While the story isn't anything special, the one-liners will keep you smiling as well as the gunshots and vampire staking. It's not John Carpenter's best, but he does well enough to craft and entertaining vampire movie.


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