Horrormeister Goes for the High Resolution Jugular
John Carpenter is a director who knows how to make a horror flick.
With "Halloween," 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.
"Vampires" 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 of course 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 fighting.
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 down
the master Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) 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 very well.
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 gratuitous.
The Superbit DVD takes an already visually great film and ups the
ante in the usual Superbit tradition. The anamorphic widescreen picture is
razor sharp with deep and rich color (wanna see real, deep reds?). Audio, which
as usual with a Superbit titles is offered in dts and Dolby Digital 5.1, is
also superb, and Carpenter makes very good use of the surround channels.
Naturally, there are no extras.
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 - The Superbit Edition, from Columbia
Tristar Home Video
108 minutes, ananorphic widescreen (2.35:1), dts and
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
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
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think