John Carpenter’s Vampires

vicsage-halloween-movie-madness

Year: 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Don Jakoby
Starring: James Woods, Maximillian Schell, Sheryl Lee, Daniel Baldwin, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tim Guinee

I killed my own father, padre. I got no trouble killing you.

Back in my youth I was lucky enough to see John Carpenter at the San Diego Comic-Con showing some clips from the then upcoming Vampires film. It was a good crowd and almost every single thing that the great James Woods said brought on thunderous applause. Of course it was nice to see John Carpenter bringing us horror fans a pretty brutal vampire to the silver screen, the last of which was delivered by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula way back in 1992. At the heart of this film though, Vampires, is most assuredly a western.

Starting in New Mexico we meet Jack Crow (Woods) and his Vatican financed team of Vampire slayers as they descend upon an old broken down farmhouse, a lair for the bloodsuckers. With Crow is his right hand man, Anthony Montoya (Baldwin), who as Jack leads his team into the farmhouse operates the winch controls on one of the team’s vehicles. The basic operation is by using large spears the team will hold a bloodsucker in place until Jack can fire a crossbow bolt attached to the winch in the creature and then let Montoya drag them into the sunlight outside where they erupt into flames. The Vampires in this film are pretty violent, more animals than undead humans, which requires the team to wear a type of chainmail to protect themselves during their encounters. Jack feels that this lair might possibly house one of the masters but after their day is done they’ve slain 9 Vampire ‘goons’ but no master has been found. This troubles Jack but he allows his team to return to their motel so they can relax and celebrate.

That night we see the team celebrating…finding out that the Vatican has paid off even the local law enforcement to keep quiet about the Slayers and the bloodsuckers as well as providing them with prostitutes and liquor, and we learn that Jack is none to pleased that he has to meet Cardinal Alba (Schell) the next day. He is distracted though as he catches the eye of Katrina (Lee) and they agree to meet up at his room after he gets her a drink, however as she lets herself into his room she becomes victim to the master the team had missed earlier, Jan Valek (Griffith). Next the team itself comes under a brutal attack by Valek and as most of the team have been drinking heavily they are slaughtered almost to the last man with only Jack and Montoya making a getaway, along with Katrina who they meet as they jump in a vehicle and flee for their lives. The most troubling thing for Jack even more than the loss of his team is that during the attack, Valek calls him by his name…which no one should know. Jack decides to return to the motel and personally take care of his fallen team, beheading them and setting the motel on fire to cover they were ever there.

Jack realizes he can use Katrina, she is psychically linked to Valek, so he plans on finding out where Valek is holed up and wipe him from the Earth. As Montoya and Katrina hole up in a hotel they await Jack to return from his meeting with Cardinal Alba, there is more disturbing news as we learn that another team in Germany has been wiped out as well, a painting left at the site is that of Valek. During the meeting Jack is informed he will be getting some help by the way of Father Adam Guiteau (Guinee) who informs the Slayer that he has learned that Valek is the very first and most powerful of the Vampires. Jack is commanded to return back to Monterey and rebuild a new team with Guiteau, Jack agrees but later informs the young priest that he is not going to return as ordered but is planning to go after Valek himself. Montoya the meanwhile is having problems with Katrina as with each day she is becoming more and more of a Vampire.

There the spoilers end, friends.

The music for this movie by the way is done as usual by Carpenter, though he is joined by Bucket Baker and Jeff Baxter, and it really has a nice feel to it, emphasizing the horror/western theme to the film. Make sure to keep your eye out for the cameo by Frank Darabont. I think if you find you have some spare time this Halloween season you’ll not be entertained by John Carpenter’s Vampires, I give it a solid four pumpkins out of five.

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5 thoughts on “John Carpenter’s Vampires

  1. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I love all of John Carpenter’s movies and every one of his soundtracks.
    But I also didn’t warm to this one when it came out.
    I’ll give it another shot to rectify the situation.

  2. I think it took people by surprise just how much of a western it was in spirit, Atari Adventure Square. Of course considering how much Carpenter has said he respects Howard Hawks that shouldn’t be much of a surprise I reckon. :)

  3. Atari Adventure Square says:

    That might be true, VicSage2005.
    It was presented in a horror festival in town here, before its official release, with Carpenter proudly in the audience and signing autographs after the show.
    Opinions were split among the horror-seeking patrons, but they couldn’t say the man doesn’t love movie-making – and his audiences.
    It was an enjoyable evening.

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