Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Vampires"(1998)d/John Carpenter

I didn't think we'd ever get to March here at the Wop, between a week of brutal flu symptoms leaving me sweating and shivering in bed like Regan MacNeil in need of a cruci-fix, and half-assed local DSL connections effectively keeping me off the interwebs when I was coherent enough to get outta bed.Well, that's all behind us now, kiddies.Tonight,we'll take a look at the movie that genre god John Carpenter followed his ill-advised reload of Escape From New York with, already treading dangerously upon the waters of mediocrity with such non-impact fare as Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Village of the Damned under his recent belt at the time.Carpenter, as you'll already know, had a streak of amazing movies not many directors have ever gotten close to, from around 1976 to 1987 or so.When he finally lost his grip on success, his descent from the top wasn't as instant or constant as one might think, as tonight's review should illustrate.He helmed some pretty uninspired pictures during his dry spell, but Vampires wasn't one of them.
Based upon the 1990 John Steakley novel of the same name,Carpenter's Vampires offers some witty dialogue, inventive grue, and much needed new life breathed into the all too familiar(by now,dontcha think?) vampire legend.Two crappy unrelated direct-to-video sequels not withstanding,I have no complaints at all here.My old man, a guy with one of the healthiest fears of fanged bloodsuckers I've ever seen in my life(here's a guy who'll start to backpeddle and shout for help if I pretend to lunge towards his neck), actually took this one in with me at the theater and volunteered for rewatches when I snagged the dvd.Now, that's saying something.If only Ghosts of Mars didn't follow.If only.
Valek(Thomas Ian Griffith) plants an inspired hickey.
Somewhere in a New Mexico dustbowl,Jack Crow(James Woods)and his merry band of vampire slayers have just eradicated a nest of "goons", or entry level vampires, from an abandoned farmhouse.While the team parties it up at a nearby motel that night, Crow ponders the missing piece to the sunlight-deprived, undead puzzle; there was no master vampire at the nest as per usual.That's because the master of this vanquished nest just happens to be Jan Valek(Thomas Ian Griffith), only the pioneer proponent of blood drinking, unwittingly unleashed upon Earth's inhabitants by the Catholic Church in a botched exorcism ritual centuries earlier.Valek crashes the slayer party that night, and at full lunar-powered strength, he effortlessly lays waste to vampire hunters, whores, and lawmen with equal,blood-soaked aplomb, leaving only Crow, Montoya(Daniel Baldwin), and a thigh-siphoned prostitute named Katrina(Sheryl Lee) alive in his vengeful wake.The decimated team scrambles to regroup, with Crow meeting with Cardinal Alba(Maximillian Schell, slightly less ridiculous here than his turn in "The Black Hole"), while Montoya holes up with the hooker who's now psychically linked to Valek as vampirism begins to take hold of her with each passing hour.Gripped in terror, she helplessly watches as he and a group of seven masters brutally slaughter priests and monks alike in search of the famed Berziers Cross, rumored to hold the power to allow vampires to walk unaffected during daylight hours.Yeah,you're probably gonna wanna stop him before he gets a hold of that one, guys.
I used to think I was pretty good at crashing parties...
Crow is paired up with a new priest(seeing as how Valek forced the last one to shotgun his own brains all over the motel room ceiling),Father Guiteau(Tim Guinee), who he indoctrinates as a slayer by wisecracking, punking him out, and kicking him up his ass on the side of the road a little bit.Bullying God's bullies always made perfect sense to me, I dunno.Montoya, on the other hand, is having a rougher time of it with the infected hussy, now having to conceal the bite he's gotten himself in the midst of a spirited melee with his new she-pal.This all culminates in a knock down, drag out showdown in a Spanish mission where we discover the Cardinal(ooh, you bastard!) is in cahoots with the vampire, using the Berziers Cross and the blood of a crusader(a captured Crow) to complete the ritual that would allow Valek to venture out in the sunlight in exchange for eternal life.Montoya gets himself re-bitten by a fully-transformed Katrina, while Guiteau is hemmed in at an abandoned bar, realizing that this game's players are jumping sides faster than you could croon "Someone to care be there for...I have-James Woods" to the tune of "You Two" off the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack.Will Valek finally be able to update his Bauhaus video extra wardrobe on a daytime High Street shopping spree?Will Montoya run out of extremely painful and hot things to cauterize his vampire bites on?Will Father Guiteau rescue Crow from his current tight spot,and will Crow kick his priestly ass for his troubles afterwards?Snag a copy and find out for yourselves,kiddies!
A Swiffer prolly shoulda been among the nifty doodads in Crow's(James Woods) armoured vehicle.Just sayin'.
Interesting usage of light filters, classic Carpenter-styled shot framing, heaps of inventive gore ladled on by the KNB masters,and some good performances throughout by a solid cast headed by Woods, who fits pretty naturally here as a master vampire slayer, believe it or not, and Griffith, whose fanged turn is adequate if not a little cliched in design, and a decent soundtrack make for an entertaining and original comic book-esque good n' evil sparring match that oughta satisfy most genre fans(that don't require sparkles or teen angst with their bloodlust).Just steer clear of Ghosts of Mars, whatever you do.Three biggies.
You've got some miserable looking sunflowers coming up out front...


Ty said...

The practical effects were very well made. Also without James Woods, this would have been a dud.

beedubelhue said...

I'm with ya on that one,Ty.Woods kicked it all up a notch.


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