Did you hear the one about the priest, the vampire slayers, and
the hooker? Its no joke; its John Carpenters Vampires. Now,
it would be easy to say that watching John Carpenters Vampires
is like having a stake driven into your skull, but that would
be giving this movie a tad too much credit, and would imply that
it has some impact when it is, in fact, pretty dull.
The film is based on the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley and adapted
by Don Jakoby. It centers around a group of Vatican-sanctioned
vampire slayers led by Jack Crow (James Woods). In the first scene,
the crew swoop onto a rickety old house in New Mexico and wipe
away all the vampires, using guns to stun them, spears to stick
them, and a pulley system to drag them bursting into flames into
the sunlight. The slayers nab nine vampires on this run, but the
master vampire eludes them.
A days work done, the group heads to a local motel for a night
of booze and hookers. Just as the beer is running low and the
women are loosening their tops, the master vampire descends upon
them, leaving a bloody mess and only three survivors Jack, Tony
Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and one of the hookers, Katrina (Sheryl
Lee), whos been bitten and is just days away from turning into
This master vampire, it turns out, is no ordinary master vampire
but the master vampire; the one who started it all, the original
vampire, Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), who was the first to walk
the earth undead. While the slayers have been looking for him,
Valeks been on a search for a religious relic that would give
him the ability to work during the day, thus doubling his productivity.
Jack is determined to kill Valek, so he seeks guidance from Cardinal
Alba (Maximillian Schell), who can give him no information but
does saddle him with a wimpy priest, Father Adam Guitau (Tim Guinee).
Carpenter, who made a name for himself with such films as the
original Halloween and Escape from New York, specializes in the
chase and the hunt and made a mint from startling his audience.
This gift earned him the right to tag his name to his films, though
sometimes, in the case of this film and his remake of Village
of the Damned, it doesnt really matter what words you put in
front of the title.
In Carpenters take on the vampire legend, he concentrates more
on the slayers than on the creatures themselves. He was going
for a Western feel. The church being the law here, Valek the outlaw.
He relies on the showdowns to be the pulse of the film, but in
following the storyline of methodically offing the vampires
the suiting up, the same weapons the action is, well, methodical.
So the film must ride on its players, and they dont have much
to work with. The slayers are supposed to have a sort of dusty
renegade coolness. Baldwins main duty is to stand around in too-tight
pants and a bad dye job working a winch. He also falls in love
with the bitten hooker, which is a little bit more than creepy
since she spends most of the time passed out. Woods character
is a nerves-of-steel tough guy. He comes off as a high-school
wiseguy bully who only thinks hes cool. His version of the wedgie
is hassling the priest by asking him if hes got an erection.