Vampires (1998) – John Carpenter

The chapter on vampires in DK Canada’s highly enjoyable Monsters in the Movies continues to provide me with countless films to sink my fangs into, and this week I got to revisit a classic John Carpenter film, as he takes on the creatures of the night.

Based loosely on the novel by John Steakley (which I read when it came out back in the day) the film plays almost as a western in vampire teeth.

James Woods, back when he didn’t seem quite as out there, stars as Jack Crow the lead slayer of a Church-backed group of vampire hunters who finds himself going up against the First, the original, the vampire that started it all, Valak (Thomas Ian Griffith).

Valak, it seems, is on a quest that once achieved will allow the vampire to walk in the daylight.

When his team is wiped out, with just Jack and his friend, Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) surviving, they use one of Valak’s most recent victims, Katrina (Sheryl Lee), who shares a telepathic link with the vampire, to track his movements.

But things aren’t as cut and dried as that, there’s a rat in the church, and Valak knows who Crow is.

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While not one of Carpenter’s best films, this one proves to be enjoyable, and it’s cool to see his take on the undead.

Woods is almost too cynical and too snarky to be enjoyable as the hero of the piece, and its an odd choice that he wants to put on sunglasses every moment, as if he’s the one who’s unable to face daylight.

I enjoy most of Carpenter’s films, and this one I do like, I’m just not keen on Woods in the film. He’s inaccessible, and despite his way to turn a phrase and some of the snappy buts of dialogue, there isn’t much to like about the character, which makes it hard to cheer for him.

There are no surprises or twists that you don’t see coming, everything that happens in this film has been seen in other films and series, but Carpenter does his best by putting his own bent on it, and musical score as well.

I think if they had a more likable lead, a tighter story, then this could have been a real winner, Sheryl Lee is great, and Tim Guinee as Father Adam (the newly assigned priest to Crow) is a lot of fun. The cast is rounded out by Maximilian Schell, which because of his casting lets us know to expect something with his character – see, no surprises.

Still, the vampire movies keep coming, and DK Books Monsters in the Movies keeps bringing me things to stake. Pick one up today, and find something bloody to watch tonight.

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