Saturday 28 July 2012

John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)

As part of's Vampire Week 2012, which runs from July 22 - 28, I'll be reviewing 8 Vampire movies. Yes, that's right, EIGHT, this is my favourite sub-genre! This is the seventh film...

"You ever seen a vampire? .....Well first of all, they're not romantic. Its not like they're a bunch of fuckin' fags hoppin' around in rented formal wear and seducing everybody in sight with cheesy Euro-trash accents, all right? Forget whatever you've seen in the movies: they don't turn into bats, crosses don't work. Garlic? You wanna try garlic? You could stand there with garlic around your neck and one of these buggers will bend you fucking over and take a walk up your strada-chocolata WHILE he's suckin' the blood outta your neck"

Meet Jack, a brash, loud, foul mouthed, no nonsense talking or taker of nonsense, shit kicking fucking badass of all badass vampire hunters!

He leads a, Vatican sponsored, small army of hunters from town to town, tracking vampires and their master's (creator) movements in order to efficiently slay them. A rag tag group, but non the less, a group of hard working vamp killers loyal to their leader. Only hunting in daylight, armed to the eye balls they slowly approach a derelict building. One by one they enter. All except Montoya and Father Giovanni.

Jack is armed with a crossbow, the arrows are attached to a steel cable, the steel cable is attached to a winch, the winch is attached to a jeep. When Jack tags a vampire, Montoya reels them out into the sunlight and the priest says a prayer. Simple!

As they clear the vamp nest, it starts to get dark and there's no no sign of the master. So they all head to a motel, where the party begins with beer and hookers. But drunken laughter soon turns to screams of terror! The master of the nest the team hit earlier decides to crash the party after seducing and biting one the call girls. The whole team of hunters is nearly wiped out, all that's left is Jack, Montoya and the bitten call girl, Katrina.

After their escape, Jack and Montoya split up. Jack heads to headquarters while Montoya takes Katrina to see if they can track the master's movements, as Katrina is now telepathically linked due to the master's bite. When Jack gets to HQ, he's met by Cardinal Alba, who has more bad news. The master vampire who attacked his team is no ordinary vamp, but is in fact, the 600 year old Valek, the first vampire in creation and formerly a priest of the catholic church.

Valek is on a mission to find the Berziers Black Cross, which was an ancient artifact that was used long ago by priests during exorcism rituals and were used to remove demons that were believed to possess human forms. The cross was once used on the priest Valek who was believed to have been overcome by demons but the exorcism ritual was cut short which resulted in Valek being forever changed. This brought about the creation of the very first vampire. He now intends to use it to complete another ritual, which would allow him to walk in daylight and make him almost unstoppable.

Jack is ordered to regroup and build another team with Father Adam Guiteau, but after they leave Jack is having non of it and makes plans to meet up with Montoya and track Valek's foot steps using Katrina's new found skills. Hopefully finding the the Black Cross before Valek does, they can stop the ritual from even happening. If not, then they'll have to take out another nest of vamps and Valek, all before the next time the sun goes down.

As things don't quite go the plan, and the sun starts to set and Valek has a surprise up his sleeve. A surprise that involves Jack and Cardinal Alba. In the mean time Montoya and Katrina get a little closer, but Montoya and Father Guiteau still have a job to do as they try to stop Valek before it's too late.

"Let me ask you a question. When you were stabbing that vampire in there...did you get a little wood?"

It's brutal, it's bloody and it's got some of the best lines ever in a vampire movie! Most of which are delivered by James Woods (Videodrome). The movie got banned in the UK for around 6 months, before being released on video, yes video, remember those things?! It got banned for "blamming the catholic church" for the creation of vampires.

Woods gives his typical performance of brutal chaotic mayhem when playing, the almost anti-hero, Jack Crow, which is complemented by Thomas Ian Griffith's performance as the cool, calm, collected but vicious Valek.

Woods really steals the show but that's no reflection on the rest of the cast, Daniel Baldwin and Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks) give believeable performences, Tim Guinee's plays the inexperienced priest with precision and Griffith's Valek is the perfect villain. Everybody else falls into place as they should.

With a solid story and even better direction, this vampire horror, with a western feel to it, is one of my favourite films of the genre. In my humble opinion, I think this is up there with Halloween (1978) and The Thing (1982), as one of Carpenter's best films.

Vampires gets 9/10

Director - John Carpenter
Writers - John Steakley (novel) & Don Jakoby (screenplay)

The Cast -
James Woods as Jack Crow
Daniel Baldwin as Anthony Montoya
Sheryl Lee as Katrina
Thomas Ian Griffith as Jan Valek
Maximilian Schell as Cardinal Alba
Tim Guinee as Father Adam Guiteau
Gregory Sierra as Father Giovanni
Mark Boone Junior as Catlin
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as David Deyo
Thomas Rosales, Jr. as Ortega

Check out the trailer below...

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