Director: John Carpenter
Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell
The final confrontation between good and evil has begun.
Jack Crow is the leader of a badass vampire slaying crew founded by the vatican church. Their lives consist of traveling from place to place, finding the nest of the vampires and brutally slaying them before partying with hookers and then going on to the next place. After doing a routine slaying in New Mexico, their party gets interrupted by a master vampire who kills everyone except Jack Crow and his buddy Montoya. They fled the scene together with a bitten hooker named Katrina, who they saved since she will start to get a telepathic link with this master vampire while she turns into a one herself in the following days.
While recuperating and trying to figure out what happened, Jack goes to see the Cardinal Alba to get information regarding this master vampire. He finds out that he is called Valek and is the big original vampire that was accidentally created by the church back in the 1400’s. Jack is ordered by the Cardinal to take the young priest Adam with him and train a new team before going after Valek. Meanwhile, Katrina is starting to turn and ends up biting Montoya. Montoya hides this from Jack and Adam when they return. Jack still thinks the church is hiding something and while threatening Adam he learns that Valek is out for the black cross which might help him walk in daytime. The trio decides to hunt down Valek to destroy him themselves, against both the church and Adam’s wishes.
Vampires was originally supposed to be directed by Russel Mulcahy, who at that point was mostly known for Highlander, and was going to have Dolph Lundgren in the leading role. Now that would have been a totally different entity. The story is based on a novel by John Steakley with a lot of changes from screenwriter Don Jakoby.
Vampires is not a traditional vampire movie where the vampires are romantic seducers, drinking the blood of young voluptuous women. The main focus isn’t even the vampires here, but rather the outlaw good guys, especially Jack Crow. It is a part of a few movies in the late 90’s that went outside of the regular vampire traditions such as Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn. Vampires might not have the same respect and love that the two other ones have, but I enjoyed this one the most out of these films.
James Woods stars as Jack Crow, a macho no-nonsense foul-mouthed hero. Woods seems to be enjoying himself tremendously and is great to watch. He is perfect for this role as a bad ass hero and for me, Jack Crow will always be the character that I will remember James Woods for even though he has been in several great genre films. Daniel Baldwin plays the sidekick Montoya and he did not impress me. I would have prefered to see another guy in this role as he was stiffer than the undead in some of the scenes. He also didn’t make his relationship with Katrina work as good as it had the potential for. Thomas Ian Griffith looks intimidating as Valek and plays the part quite well. Sheryl Lee is the eye candy and her part as Katrina doesn’t need anything more than what she delivers here. Even though it is a smaller part, Maximilian Schell is great as Cardinal Alba. He is just perfect as a sleazy evil plotting guy.
John Carpenter has always been a big fan of western movies and this is perhaps the closest he has been to making one. The New Mexico setting, the macho characters and the music all is very western inspired. Carpenter balances the action, comedy and horror excellent here by not letting one of those elements dominate the movie. The visuals are also superb, the shot where Valek and his vampires come up from the sand and enters the night is simple but brilliant. He also brings the gore and the massacre in the hotel is excellent entertainment.
Vampires is a fun western in a vampire custome by the great John Carpenter. It would probably have done a lot better if it was released ten years later since the humour and concept would work better in the late 2000’s than in the 90’s. I like it a lot and would recommend it to anyone looking for a bloody, fun and entertaining movie to watch.