In 1998 John Carpenter directed his last commercially successful film. Not saying other things he did were not good (I loved his episode of Masters of Horror) but sadly this was the last to turn a profit. That film was Vampires. Starring James Woods, yes the James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, and a personal favorite of mine Thomas Ian Griffith it was based off of the novel Vampire$ an offered a very different and unique take on the genre at the time. If you watch it closely you will see how heavily it has influenced the vampire films, and shows from the 2000’s on. It was a fantastic film that did huge business in the home video market as well.
Vampires stars James woods as Jack Crow. When he was just a child his mom and dad were murdered in front of him by a vampire that he was able to kill. Raised by the Catholic Church he was trained to become a vampire slayer and now leads a vampire hunting team that is funded by the Vatican. The film opens hot with Jack and his team, along with his Vatican sponsored priest raiding an old house in Mexico using harpoons to “catch” the vampires then hooking the lines to a winch to drag them out into the sunlight to burn them. It’s a great scene that really shows how different this film is trying to be. The team is able to destroy all the vampires and they head into a local motel to celebrate with the company of some hookers and alcohol.
During their festivities they are attacked by powerful vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith aka Terry Silver)who manages to kill everyone except Jack, Tony (Baldwin) and a hooker named Katrina, although he did manage to bite her. That bite as it turns out not only means she will turn into a vampire but it also gives her a psychic link to Valek which Jack uses to help track him. Valek is faster and stronger than any vampire they have faced and uses almost superhuman speed and strength to disembowel everyone in sight.
Jack and Tony take Katrina back to the Vatican where they are teamed with a priest named Adam Guiteau. He tells Jack that Valek was a priest that became possessed by demons hundreds of years ago. He possession was so strong that a special cross was used during the exorcism. It was called the Black Cross of Berziers. The exorcism failed and the end result turned Valek into a vampire, the first ever vampire if you will. Now Valek is seeking the same cross as it possesses the power to let vampires walk in the sunlight as well as making them invulnerable.
This is a fantastic film. Great acting from the entire cast, and the casting of Griffith as Valek was incredible as he is a martial artist and was able to showcase a lot of his talents during the film. Back in 1998 vampires didn’t know martial arts as much as they do now. It really added a great element to the film. Carpenter, who is one of the best directors of all time knew exactly how to film him. Throw in the acting of James Woods who is just a complete bad ass in this film and the effects by Greg Nicotero and you have a sure fire horror classic
The score is fantastic, and as this is a Scream Factory release you know it sounds great. The audio simply thunders out of your speakers. The transfer on the picture is amazing as well. Crisp and clear. The day scenes are breathtaking and the night scenes are simply ominous. I have had the DVD for years and this is just leaps and bounds above it. Its another masterpiece from Scream Factory. And its even loaded with tons of special features.
NEW Time To Kill Some Vampires – An Interview With Composer/Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King Carpenter, And Cinematographer Garry B. Kibbe
NEW Jack The Slayer – An Interview With Actor James Woods
NEW The First Vampire – An Interview With Actor Thomas Ian Griffith
NEW Raising The Stakes – An Interview With Special Effects Artist Greg Nicotero
NEW Padre – An Interview With Actor Tim Guinee
Audio Commentary By Composer/Director John Carpenter
Vintage Making Of Featurette
Top to bottom this is a fantastic film. Action and horror fans alike will love this release. If you’re a fan it’s a must own. If you have never seen this before you need to pick it up and add it to your collection
Overall 4 out of 5 Stars!