The TSL’s Grindhouse: John Carpenter’s Vampires (dir by John Carpenter)


Wow, there certainly are a lot of vampires in New Mexico!

Well, I guess I can understand the logic behind it.  My family used to visit New Mexico frequently.  We even lived there for a few months when I was a kid.  If you’re looking for a place to hide out, New Mexico is a good place to do it.  You can drive for hours without seeing another car or another person.  Add to that, New Mexico is state where people respect your privacy.  No one’s going to show up at your house demanding to know why you only come out at night.

Of course, if I was a vampire, I might avoid New Mexico because of the bright sunlight.  Seriously, if you’re trying to escape being touched by the sun, the New Mexico desert might not be the ideal place to hide out.  I don’t know, though.  I’ve never been a vampire.

In John Carpenter’s 1998 film, Vampires (actually, John Carpenter’s Vampires because everyone know the power that the Carpenter name holds for horror fans), Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) is the world’s oldest vampire and he’s looking to perform a ceremony that will take care of that whole sunlight issue.  If he can perform the ceremony, he’ll be the most powerful creature in the world.

Fortunately, the Vatican has put together a team of ruthless vampire exterminators.  Led by Jack Crow (James Woods), these guys have no problem tracking down vampires and riddling their undead bodies with bullets that have probably been dipped in holy water.  Unfortunately, with the exception of Jack and his second-in-command, Tony (Daniel Baldwin), the vampires hunters aren’t too smart because Valek gets the drop on them while they’re partying at a hotel with a bunch of prostitutes.  The only survivors are Tony, Jack, and Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a prostitute who was previously bitten by Valek.

After teaming up with an enthusiastic but inexperienced priest named Father Guiteau (Tim Guinee), Jack tries to find a way to stop Valek. Meanwhile, Tony finds himself falling for Katrina despite the fact that Katrina will soon be transforming into a vampire and he and Jack have pledged to destroy every vampire that they come across.  It leads to several chases, several bloody shootouts, and a lot of panoramic shots of the New Mexico desert.

The first time I ever watched Vampires, I thought it had its moments of demented fun and I thought that James Woods gave a wonderfully frantic performance as Jack Crow but overall, I got a little bit bored with the film’s constant violence.  There’s only so many times that you can watch people die in slow motion before you get tired of it.  The second time I watched the movie, I was able to better appreciate the film’s self-awareness.  As directed by John Carpenter, it’s intentionally over-the-top in just about every regard and it’s definitely not meat to be taken seriously.  It’s a mix of a western and a vampire film and Carpenter is basically saying, “If we’re going to do this, let’s go crazy with it.”  The film still has its flaws, of course.  Daniel Baldwin seems lost in the role of Tony and the film is oddly paced,  It ends awkwardly, with the promise of a direct sequel that was never made.  (There were sequels, don’t get me wrong.  But Jon Bon Jovi is no substitute for James Woods at his most nervy.)  But the important thing is that, on a second viewing, those flaws were overshadowed by John Carpenter’s kinetic direction and the performances of James Woods, Sheryl Lee, and Thomas Ian Griffith.  

The first time I watched the film, I thought it was just another movie about modern-day vampires killing people while being hunted by unconventional extrerminators.  However, the second time that I watched it, I found myself considering that Vampires is actually a movie about Catholics kicking ass!  Yay!  The lesson here is to always do a second viewing.  Flaws and all, Vampires was far better than I remembered.

One response to “The TSL’s Grindhouse: John Carpenter’s Vampires (dir by John Carpenter)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 10/18/21 — 10/24/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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