John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)
Directed by John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximillian Schell, Tom Guinee.
1998 105 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, gore, nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 31, 1998.
There was a time when John Carpenter was a great horror director. Of course, his best film was 1978's masterpiece, "Halloween," but he also made 1980's "The Fog," and 1987's underrated, "Prince of Darkness." Heck, he even made a good film in 1995, with "In the Mouth of Madness." But something terribly wrong happened to him in 1992, with the terrible comedy, "Memoirs of an Invisible Man." Somehow, Carpenter has lost his touch, with junk like his failed 1995 remake of, "Village of the Damned," to his uninspired 1996 sequel, "Escape From L.A." Those movies, however, look like cinematic works of art compared to his latest film, "John Carpenter's Vampires." If I was him, I definately wouldn't want to put my own name in the title. It is a sad state of affairs when Carpenter can make something as misguided and flatly written and filmed as, "Vampires."
The story is simple. Jack Crow (James Woods) is a vampire hunter who, along with one of his partners, Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and a prostitute, Katrina (Sheryl Lee), survives an attack from the Master vampire, Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith). Since Katrina was previously bitten by him, Crow takes her along because anyone who is bitten by Valek becomes telepathically linked to him until they themselves turn into vampires a couple days later, and Crow is hoping to find him with the help of her. It seems Valek's mission is to steal a black, wooden cross from a Roman Catholic church that will enable him to become so powerful that sunlight will not destroy him.
My question is: how many time have we seen this same story played out? Well, the answer is just about as many times as a better version of the story has been made. "John Carpenter's Vampires," sadly enough, is one of the most unscary horror films I've ever seen. In fact, there isn't even one suspenseful moment in the whole 105-minute running time. The non-stop vampire attack sequences are stylelessly filmed, without any interesting camera work, which is usually a trademark of Carpenter's. And then we come to the screenplay, which, as far as I can tell, is nearly non-existent. There is no story development, and there isn't even an attempt to flesh out the characters.
James Woods can be a good actor, but he has nothing to do here but to say a couple of "pseudo"-clever lines of dialogue. Daniel Baldwin has some potential, but his character comes off as being very dense. And Sheryl Lee (faring much better as Laura Palmer in "Twin Peaks"), like all of the female characters, plays an offensive stereotypical whore.
There is not an ounce of intelligence, or excitement in, "John Carpenter's Vamires," which is very disheartening coming from an ex-fan of Carpenter's. He has said that he turned down directing, "Halloween: H20," because he couldn't work up any excitement for it. And yet, when asked about a "Vampires" sequel, he said he would be happy to do it. I think that's a definite sign that Carpenter has finally lost any trace of his lasting talent, not to mention a significant number of IQ points.
©1998 by Dustin Putman