James Woods as Jack Crow in Vampires (1998)

Woods gets Wood Thanks to Carpenter

You mention the name John Carpenter and the movie "Halloween" comes to mind, maybe "Christine" and of course "The Thing", three great horror movies which had edge of your seat atmosphere. The thing is that if you then watch John Carpenter's "Vampires" expecting the same you are going to be sorely disappointed as this isn't some classy horror built around sudden frights. Instead "Vampires" feels more akin to a b-movie, a comical action flick full or gruesome but amusing scene, OTT stereotypes and a touch of the exploitation about it and if you watch it with that in mind it is not half bad and in truth is a lot of fun.

Jack Crow (James Woods - Contact) is the leader of a team of vampire slayers, commissioned by the church to seek out and destroy the creatures of the night. But whilst partying in a motel following their most recent vampire encounter a stronger and deadlier vampire called Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) sweeps in massacring everyone except Jack, his right hand man Anthony (Daniel Baldwin) and a call girl Katrina (Sheryl Lee - Bogus) although Valek got his fangs into her before they escaped. Now with Padre Adam (Tim Guinee) assigned to him by Cardinal Alba (Maximilian Schell - Deep Impact) Jack is determined to track down and kill Valek before he gets his hands on a significant cross which would give him even greater abilities.

Sheryl Lee and Daniel Baldwin in Vampires (1998)

I'll be honest story wise "Vampires" did little for me because what we have is a good guy after a bad guy and after a variety of action scenes we get to the big action finale. There is more to in that that because this master vampire is after a religious artefact which will allow him to be able to move about in the sun and we also have a bit of treachery as Jack thinks someone within the church is in cahoots with the vampires. But even then and with the addition of rules for hunting a vampire which Jack lives by the basic storyline isn't great.

But that basic storyline is a good base layer for everything else especially the style because everything about "Vampires" veers towards being over the top. The camera angles, the posing, the soundtrack and even the colouring being rich but dark makes it all false and I am sure intentionally so because I can't believe that "Vampires" was ever a serious movie but director John Carpenter having fun. Fun is how you have to describe the action because again it is over the top and when it is gruesome as people get slaughtered it has that edge of being comical.

Comical is what you certainly get from the performances be it Daniel Baldwin as Anthony the winch man in the team or Sheryl Lee as Katrina who gives us sexy and dangerous. But it is James Woods who is the centre of attention making Jack Crow a larger than life character who you get a sense gets wood when there is danger or at least likes to know if others do. It is full on and wonderfully over the top but it is so right for the movie making Jack a man who doesn't think twice about being ruthless.

What this all boils down to is that "Vampires" is John Carpenter having fun with vampires and vampire slayers, delivering over the top action and gruesome comedy. It won't entertain if you watch it expecting classic Carpenter horror but it will if you want something more akin to a horror b-movie.

Tags: Vampire Movies