Wednesday, October 8, 2014


JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES is a mixed bag.  It has one of the best representations of vampirism put to screen and an extremely strong out going lead in James Wood's character.  But the story or lack there of and a rushed finale really hurt the film.  Yet despite having some major issues this is one of my favorite John Carpenter films simply because I like the basic concept.  What Carpenter has created is THE WILD BUNCH vs. a bunch of vampires.  I love that idea.

James Woods is a vampire hunter whose team is wiped out by a single vampire.  Discovering this vampire is looking for a black cross that can make it possible for vampires to walk in the light James goes after the vampire to stop him.  There is a little more to it but we all know the story with movies like this.  You don't need me to type it out for you.  It always has to be about saving the world.

The execution of the story is a little weak.  It seems like the writers didn't know which direction to take the story so we the audience find ourselves watching people talk in hotel room for a good chunk of the film's running time.  I never timed it so maybe they aren't in there too long but it sure does feel like it.  The plot of getting the black cross and stopping vampires from walking in the daylight is mentioned at least three times throughout the film adding nothing but redundancy to the plot.  The end itself is a rush job with little in the way of action and conflict.  Apparently they ran out of money which is sad because this film could have used a more violent and elaborate ending.  Instead we get this weird montage of vampires running into an old prison to avoid sunlight with some priest and one of the Baldwins shooting at them with worthless guns.  Big whoop.  They might as well have used harsh language to fight off the vampires by that point.  The result would have been the same.

VAMPIRES is unique though for it's use of the sun.  Vampires do not like the sun but so much of the film takes place in the open sunlight.  Most vampire movies take place at night unless they are really low budget.  Besides the fact that the movie takes place in the geographic west having most of the movie take place during the day adds to the Western movie formula.  Everything shot through a red filter helps with the dry arid desert look as well.  You got these Gothic looking vampires strutting their stuff in the wild west which you don't see too much in vampire movies.

These vampires kill to kill not just to drink blood.  In fact I am not sure if there is much blood drinking in this movie.  They are killing machines as John Carpenter puts it.  These baddies seek power and the cross is going to help them get it.  I particularly like how the vampires ignite and explode in the sun.  If you notice our vampire hunters have a tendency to overkill them.  They stake them, burn the corpses in the sun and then take their heads.  I think they do that because like in the book, VAMPIRE$, they are discovering what will and what won't kill them.  They make sure these vampires have no chance of coming back.  I always liked that concept.  Usually someone has all the answers on how to deal with the undead.  I think it is a little more realistic and exciting if nobody knows for sure.

The gadgets, weapons and outfits our vampire hunters were wearing at the beginning of the film are super cool.  These costume dressings are the kind of badass style we want to see more of.  The vampire hunters themselves would have made the movie better if the writers hadn't killed them all off ten minutes into the film.  Our "Wild Bunch" sadly do not last long.  These guys live the fast  lifestyle.  They know they can die at anytime so they live it up the best they can drinking, smoking and tearing up hotel rooms to impress their whores.  I would have liked the movie to explore that aspect instead of giving us a film with the standard save the world and revenge dead parents plot.  There was definitely a missed opportunity here.  Still James Woods is enough to keep the film interesting.

Maybe VAMPIRES isn't the best in John Carpenter's career but it struck a cord with me with some of it's concepts.  I recommend it but this is one of those movies that has a lot to forgive.  This is one of those rare occasions where I wouldn't mind seeing a remake but with the same director.  Read the book there is a great movie you can make out of that.


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