Goes for the Jugular
John Carpenter is
a director who knows how to make a horror flick.
Carpenter was unfairly credited with spawning the entire genre of "slasher
films" - even though his film relied more on suggestive violence
than the overtly violent gorefests of the "holiday horror films"
(Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc. etc.) that followed.
With "John Carpenter's
Vampires," however, he has opened up the red sluices in what's probably
his most graphically violent movie to date. The gore doesn't get in the
way of what's a nifty yarn, though, and Carpenter once again shows he
can handle a scary story as well as anyone.
revolves around Jack Crow (James Woods) and his Catholic Church-mandated
team of vampire killers. This group hunts nests of vampires and cleans
them out of their undead population. The movie opens with just such a
"cleansing" - a well-staged effort in which they enter the nest
and drag the vampires out into the sunlight - which destroys them.
But this nest is different,
in that there's no "master" in evidence, and before long this
omission comes back to haunt them. Crow's team is virtually destroyed
when the master catches up with them and Crow realizes that he has not
only been set up, but that this was no ordinary vampire master he was
And, of course, he's
right on both counts. It turns out this vampire is "the mother of
all vampires" and the rest of the movie is spent with Crow and his
sole surviving associate Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) tracking the master
Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) down with the help of a prostitute (Sheryl
Lee) he infected.
Carpenter does a great
job of building the mood and the suspense. The film, set in the Southwestern
United States, looks great - and Carpenter's musical score blends in perfectly
with the setting and the mood. He also mixes a lot of the music (which
he also composed) through the rear channels. This is unusual, but it works
Most of the film takes
place during daylight hours (when it's safe to face a vampire) and even
in broad daylight it's as creepy a film as only Carpenter can make. Sure,
it's violent as hell, but with Carpenter's hand at the helm it never seems
The DVD gives you
both widescreen and pan/scan versions on opposite sides, which is as it
should be. Audio and video quality are nothing short of superb, and Carpenter
makes very good use of Dolby Digital's stereo surround capabilities.
Extras include a generous
liner essay, and you get a John Carpenter commentary audio track as well.
There's also the usual theatrical trailer, chapter stops, etc.
If you're a fan of
John Carpenter's "body" of work (we think he's only made one
stinker in his life: "Prince of Darkness"), we think you'll
enjoy the way he goes for the jugular in this outing.
John Carpenter's Vampires,
from Columbia Tristar Home Video
108 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1)/Pan and Scan, Dolby Digital
Starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith
and Maximilan Schell
Produced by Sandy King, Screenplay by Don Jakoby, based on the novel "Vampires"
by John Steakley
Directed by John Carpenter
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