I am now officially Carpenter’ed out. In the first year or so of this website I ploughed through his classics; The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, some of his middling efforts; Escape from New York, Halloween, and the dregs.
Now as this website rounds out its third year I think I can safely say that John Carpenter made a lot of dregs in the 90s and 2000s.
After helping define the modern slasher film in Halloween, and then creating one of the best effects driven horror films in The Thing, Johnny C thought he might try once more to write the rulebook, this time with vampires.
In the opening scene of Vampires Jack Crowe (James Woods) and his ragtag bunch of expert vampire killers converge on a possible vampire den, and then painstakingly eradicate every last vamp lurking in the rundown building. And what happens when a group of men complete a dangerous job well done? The after party at a local motel, replete with booze, loud music and hookers.
Unfortunately the guy Valek knocking on the door isn’t there to ask for the tunes to be turned down, but to drain the blood from every participant in the soiree, because he is a Master, which while never really explained I think means a bigger, badder, stronger vampire. The only survivors of the massacre are Jack, his missus (for the night) Katrina, and a random Baldwin brother – one so obscure I think even his brothers couldn’t name him.
It turns out that Valek is the very First vampire, so that every person he has infected with the vampire virus can be cured only by his death. Of course Katrina was bit in the chaos, and given that (according to this film at least) every vampire bitee that has not yet turned shares a psychic connection with the biter, she becomes the guys vampire tracking sat nav.
There is the usual ‘bad guy wants X, so good guys must stop him from getting it or everyone dies’ thing, the infighting, the one step behind stuff and the tense wait for nightfall before going in. You hardly rewrote the rulebook here JC!
James Woods reverts to hamming it up just as soon as he realised that this wasn’t Oscar-bait, which I think was obvious quite early, and the guy who plays Valek walks a fine line between looking Vampish or merely confused.
There is ONE good effect that they waste early in the after-party crashing scene, though I guess it helped keep me awake, and the finale involves a lot of faux life or death struggling before the vampires are dragged into the sunlight.
Vampires isn’t totally awful, but it is cheesy, boring and just plain bad.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. The scariest thing in Vampires is that despite how bad it is, it remains one of John Carpenter’s better films since 1990.