Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vampires (1998 film)

Based on the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley, Vampires is the story of a group of vampire hunters who are trying to protect a sacred cross from the very first vampire ever created. Directed and scored by John Carpenter and screenplay by Don Jakoby, the film is a mixture of horror and the western where it revolves around a group of Catholic-sanctioned vampire hunters who are trying to protect the world as they battle a very powerful vampire. Starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Maximilian Schell, and Thomas Ian Griffith. Vampires is a funny yet adventurous film from John Carpenter.

Under the order of the Vatican, a group of vampire hunters try to hunt vampires in the American Southwest as they look for a master vampire who is trying to find a sacred cross to finish up a ritual. At the same time, they try to protect a hooker who was bitten by the master as she has a psychic connection with the master just before she is to turn. It’s a film with a simple plot where there’s not a lot that goes on as it has this strange mix of horror, terror, and the western as it’s lead character Jack Crow (James Woods) is a man who hates vampires as he has no problems killing them for the Catholic church or for anyone. The script doesn’t go for anything that is serious while it does have some exposition about the cross and what the vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) wants. Yet, it does manage to help tell the story and play into the many motivations of Crow and his team where they also have to use Katrina (Sheryl Lee) to see what Valek is up to.

John Carpenter’s direction definitely pays tribute to the world of the western as it is shot on location in New Mexico where it doesn’t just play to a world where there are still rules of what to do. It also showcases that even though Crow and his gang will do things that not everyone will be pleased by, they get the job done and party afterwards as they know that people wouldn’t have to worry about vampires. Carpenter’s approach to the compositions are simple while he does create some unique wide shots and framing to play up the feel of the western. Even as he creates sequences that are gratuitous with lots of violence as he harkens back to something where it is wild and not to be taken seriously. Even in the way he approaches his music score as its mixture of rock and country play into that sense of unruliness that is the West. Even as its climax does play like a showdown between Crow and Valek for the sake of the world. Overall, Carpenter creates an exciting and off-the-wall film about vampire hunters.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this element of the West with its naturalistic look of the skylines as well as scenes in the desert while using some stylish lights for scenes set at night. Editor Edward. A. Warschilka does fantastic work with the editing with its approach to rhythmic cutting for some of the action scenes along with some stylish montages for a few moments that play into Crow‘s sense of duty as a vampire slayer. Production designer Thomas A. Walsh, with set decorator David Schlesinger and art director Kim Hix, does terrific work with the look of the hotel/motel rooms Crow and his friends stay at as well as some of the design of the churches that Valek goes to kill.

Costume designer Robin Michel Bush does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the exception of the all-black clothes that Valek wears. Special effects makeup designers Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero do amazing work with the look of the vampires in their scary state as well as what happens to them when they‘re killed. The special effects work of Gene Grigg, Darrell Pritchett, and Corey Pritchett do superb work with the special effects for scenes where the vampires get burned by the sun. Sound editor John Dunn does wonderful work with the sound as it plays into some of the sound effects and sound textures for many of the film’s action scenes.

The casting by Reuben Cannon and Eddie Dunlop do brilliant work with the casting as it includes some notable small roles from Henry Kingi, David Rowden, Clarke Coleman, Thomas Rosales Jr., Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Mark Boone Junior as members of Crow’s crew as well as Gregory Sierra as Father Giovanni as another member of Crow’s screw who is their spiritual advisor. Tim Guinee is terrific as Father Guiteau as a young priest who joins Crow in finding Valek as he would also provide some information about the relic that Valek wants. Maximilian Schell is excellent as Cardinal Alba as the liaison for the Vatican who is also Crow’s superior as he warns Crow about going too far.

Thomas Ian Griffith is superb as Valek as one of the very first vampires ever created as he is searching for a cross as he also knows who Crow is and how determined as it’s a role filled with some charm despite the lack of dialogue he’s given. Sheryl Lee is fantastic as Katrina as a hooker who is bitten by Valek as she is one person that knows where Valek is through a psychic connection as she also copes with losing her humanity. Daniel Baldwin is brilliant as Anthony Montoya as Crow’s partner-in-crime who is tasked in watching over Katrina as he falls for her despite the fact that she’s becoming a vampire. Finally, there’s James Woods in an incredible performance as Jack Crow as a vampire slayer who doesn’t take shit from anyone though he knows he has a moral code to follow as he copes with trying to find and kill Valek where Woods brings in a lot of charm and wit that makes his performance so fun to watch.

Vampires is a stellar film from John Carpenter that features a great performance from James Woods. While it is flawed in some ways due to its lightweight script and lots of exposition, it does make up for it thanks in part to its cast as well as some cool action sequences. In the end, Vampires is a wonderful from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2015


Matt said...

Oh! I remember this one now. It didn't interest me when it came out but now that my tastes have changed, this sounds like an absolute blast. And I miss James Woods.

thevoid99 said...

It's not one of Carpenter's best films though it's still a good one but James Woods makes it so fun to watch. I remember both Siskel and Ebert were in awe of Woods' performance as they were hoping he gets some attention for the Oscars.

Dell said...

I need to stop procrastinating and see this one.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-It might be a minor Carpenter film but this one of his more fun films as you will just enjoy James Woods kicking ass. Just stop whatever you're doing and watch more John Carpenter.

ruth said...

I haven't heard of this film but based on your review, it sounds like something I'd enjoy. I'm not really into horror but ' funny yet adventurous film' sounds like fun, and I like James Woods.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It's one of these films where if you don't take it too seriously, you'll enjoy yourself. Plus, how can anyone not enjoy James Woods as a vampire hunter? That is $$$$$$$$

Chris said...

I might give Vampires a watch at some point, it sounds underappreciated. Right now I think Christine (1983) and They Live (1988) are higher priorities for me in terms of blind spots in John Carpenter's filmography.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-It's a minor Carpenter film but one that is actually very entertaining. It doesn't compare to any of the works he did in the 80s but still, it's a lot of fun. I just finished watching Christine as I think the 80s was his golden period.

Unknown said...

Sergio Leone meets Peckinpah with vampires - what else do you need? James Woods is firing on all cylinders in this one. Plus, Sheryl Lee and duct tape. So much fun.

thevoid99 said...

@J.D.-Oh, that is $$$$$$. If someone was to tell me that, I would say "shut the fuck up and take my money!"