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(1998) (James Woods, Daniel Baldwin) (R)

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Horror: A vampire slayer and his team battle a 600-year-old vampire who hopes to find a long- hidden cross that will enable him to live in full sunlight.
Jack Crow (JAMES WOODS) is a vampire hunter currently working in the southwestern U.S. After successfully raiding a "nest" of vampires, most of his team is then killed by Valek (THOMAS IAN GRIFFITH), a 600-year-old vampire who oddly knows Jack by name.

With the only survivors being Jack, his partner Tony Montoya (DANIEL BALDWIN), and Katrina (SHERYL LEE), a prostitute bitten by Valek, but who's yet to become a full-fledged vampire, the threesome set out to find out what's going on. Aware that Katrina will soon develop a telepathic connection to Valek, which will allow them to "see" the vampire's behavior and location, Jack and Tony plan to use her to their advantage to find the master vampire.

Before they proceed, Jack meets with Cardinal Alba (MAXIMILIAN SCHELL), his Vatican contact for funding. Alba can't supply many answers, but assigns Adam Guiteau (TIM GUINEE), a young priest, to accompany Jack and help rebuild his team. Believing that Valek and other vampires are searching for a legendary black cross that will allow them to live in full sunlight, and knowing that time is quickly running out, Jack and his small team set out to find and kill Valek before it's too late.

If they're into vampire/horror films, they probably will.
For strong vampire violence and gore, language and sexuality.
  • JAMES WOODS plays a no nonsense vampire killer who cusses, smokes, and isn't above threatening a priest to extract necessary information.
  • THOMAS IAN GRIFFITH plays the 600-year-old vampire who kills many people.
  • DANIEL BALDWIN plays Jack's partner, a fellow vampire killer who smokes and cusses.
  • SHERYL LEE plays a prostitute bitten by Valek who has yet to become a vampire.
  • TIM GUINEE plays a young priest who joins Jack's vampire killing team (and does end up killing some of them).


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    In something best described as "Dracula" meets "The Wild Bunch," legendary horror director John Carpenter demonstrates that he fully knows how to spill blood, but beyond that, only manages further to prove that his talent for making genuinely scary films has all but evaporated.

    An odd, westernized and campy retreading of the tired vampire genre, the only thing this film has going for it is a fun, over the top performance by James Woods as the head vampire killer. Other than that, there's nearly nothing here to recommend, unless you favor a successful exercise in the art of blood and carnage.

    Once upon a time in Hollywood, Carpenter was the cinematic prodigy who singlehandedly resurrected the horror genre with truly scary films such as the original "Halloween" and "The Fog." Although he went on to direct crossover hits such as "Escape from New York" and "Starman," his later attempts at horror -- "Christine," "Village of the Damned" -- and other genres -- "They Live," "Escape from L.A. -- were misfiring duds. One can now add "Vampires" to that list.

    Perfectly timed to benefit from its Halloween weekend opening, the film is decidedly more trick than treat. As such, I can only hope that Carpenter wasn't trying to make a scary horror film with this release. Playing more like an extended version of the second half of Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn," but without the extreme outrageousness that sent that film into full- fledged, but terrifically fun camp, this film never manages to succeed on any level.

    While it best approaches true camp, the film never goes far enough in that direction. Thus, without many genuine frightening moments, Carpenter's picture is nothing more than an excuse to test the talents of his blood and gore wranglers who, whether for good or not, do completely succeed at their chosen tasks.

    As written by Don Jakoby ("Double Team," "Invaders From Mars") and adapted from the novel, "Vampire$" by author John Steakley, the film follows a threadbare plot and jettisons most of the "traditional" vampire lore, such as the use of crosses or garlic to repel visits from the undead. Of course, a good ol' wooden stake through the heart still does the trick, as does a strong dose of sunlight.

    Sticking with the westernized theme running throughout the film, Carpenter makes good use of the latter as the vampire killers have a thing for stringing up the vampires and then dragging them out into the sunlight like any good cowboy would do, except they use motorized versus equine transportation for such matters. One of the film's few good moments, an early scene where Jack's crew pulls the bloodsuckers, one by one, to their sunburnt deaths, is morbidly funny.

    As is James Woods' take on his vampire hating character. Although his performance clearly won't win any accolades from those propounding political correctness, Woods obviously had a fun time playing this character and is reminiscent of another former big star, Jon Voight, who likewise played an over the top character in the film "Anaconda." Fully hamming it up as the no nonsense and increasingly begrimed protagonist, Woods ("Contact," "Ghosts of Mississippi") is a delight to watch.

    Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the rest of the cast. Daniel Baldwin (TV's "Homicide: Life on the Streets," "Trees Lounge"), as Woods' partner, is about as stiff as all of the bodies littered throughout the production, but to his credit didn't have much of a chance since his character is so pallidly drawn.

    As the lead vampire, Thomas Ian Griffith ("The Karate Kid III," "Kull the Conqueror") isn't given much to do other than glide around in his long overcoat and look menacing, while Sheryl Lee (TV's "Twin Peaks" and "L.A. Doctors") will no doubt delight teen males with her nudity scene, but otherwise looks silly contorting and grimacing during her telepathic/possessed connection with the lead vampire.

    Such silliness pretty much sums up the overall film. Despite a few decent jokes and Woods' hamming it up, the film's inability to fully attain true campiness causes the rest of the material to come off as trite or goofy.

    While I suppose we're supposed to be frightened by the sight of Valek and other vampires "erupting" hands first from their subterranean graves, such scenes aren't any more frightening than similar moments in say, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video (and are missing that toe-tapping beat).

    The film also suffers from lapses of logic (which usually aren't that strong to begin with in this genre). Although I understand from a tension-building standpoint why Jack and his team would enter a boarded up house in a similar manner to that of a covert military mission, why wouldn't they just use a bulldozer to flatten the abode, thus more efficiently and effectively exposing the bloodsuckers to sunlight without all of the other risk?

    Likewise, it seems odd that near the film's end the men would still have their handguns drawn to battle Valek (in true western style) when they're already learned countless times that even a heavy volley of machine gun fire won't do the trick.

    Then there's the whole goofy and contrived bit about the telepathic connection between Valek and Katrina. As stupid as that is, Jack doesn't even think until the end that such a connection is probably two-way and that Valek can probably see and hear what Katrina, and thus Jack and Tony, are plotting.

    Such matters are obviously trivial in a film that doesn't succeed on any level, and they only further prove that this film won't be winning any critical awards. While I understand that's clearly not the intended point, the film completely fails at what it's presumably trying to achieve, and that's eliciting genuine scary moments.

    If not for Woods' performance, this would be a complete disaster and even greater waste of time. As such, and despite the vampire related behavior, the loudest sucking sound you'll hear during this picture will be coming from your emptied wallet and lack of better sense for seeing this movie in the first place. Making us long even more for the days when Carpenter knew how to direct a spooky picture, we give "John Carpenter's Vampires" just a 2.5 out of 10.

    Here's a summary of the film's content. Violence and blood/gore are both extreme with many people being killed in various fashions (decapitation, torn open bodies, ripped or bitten necks, etc...), most of which are extremely bloody and gory. As such and considering the genre, some viewers may find the proceedings unsettling, tense or frightening, but very little of it's genuinely scary (beyond the continual bloodbath).

    Profanity is extreme with nearly 50 "f" words and a large assortment of others, and we see several instances of female nudity (breasts and butts), along with a scene where a vampire is biting a woman on her inner thigh (which looks like oral sex and she responds in a highly aroused, sexual fashion).

    Some drinking and smoking also occurs, and some viewers may not like the film's portrayal of religious leaders as villains, being drunk, or being threatened and beaten up by others. Due to all of that and more, we strongly suggest you take a closer look at the content should you be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home who wishes to see it.

  • People drink at a party, including Jack and a priest, the latter who briefly appears to be drunk (as are several other attendees).
  • Tony has a drink while guarding Katrina.
  • Although we don't really see anything, it's clear that Tony is urinating on the ground.
  • Jack and his team encounter a shriveled up corpse.
  • An injured vampire has blood running from its mouth.
  • Vampires pulled out into the sunlight burst into flames, leaving charred corpses.
  • We see the severed hand of a vampire.
  • Jack pounds a stake into a vampire's forehead, and upon it being pulled out, we see a huge, bloody hole along with lots of blood pouring out.
  • Katrina has two bloody bite marks on the inside of her thigh.
  • Blood splatters a man's face after Valek jams his hand inside the man's chest.
  • Valek vertically tears a man in half and we see the extremely bloody results.
  • We see Valek's hand go straight through a man's body, as well as blood splatter onto a ceiling after Valek shoots a priest with a shotgun.
  • Jack returns to the motel where the above carnage took place and we see dead bodies and blood everywhere. Jack then cuts off all of the victims' heads (we don't see the actual severing, although we hear the sounds of him using an ax as well as hammering stakes into bodies, but just see the consequent decapitated heads and bloody stumps).
  • Later, we see Jack carrying a very bloody sack of those severed heads.
  • We see some black and white photos of another, bloody carnage scene.
  • Valek rips open a woman's neck with the swipe of his hand (the results of which are bloody), and we later see the dead woman on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood.
  • Tony's arm is bloody as in Katrina's mouth after she bites him there.
  • We see a priest get decapitated (very bloody) as well as a later scene showing his severed head.
  • We see more dead and bloody people, as well as a fountain in a mission that's pouring out blood instead of water.
  • A vampire bites a man in the neck, and pulls out a big chunk of bloody flesh, and that vampire's mouth and front of her body are very bloody.
  • A man slices Jack's leg and catches the blood that spills out in a goblet.
  • Obviously, the vampires in the film have both.
  • Some may see the film's portrayal of religious officials (one being an evil villain, another a drunk priest, etc...) as well as the treatment of such people (Jack threatening to kill Father Adam) as having both.
  • A no nonsense type of man, Jack has both toward nearly everyone he meets.
  • Tony steals a man's car at gunpoint.
  • Some viewers may find the scenes listed here (as well as under "Violence") as tense, while others will find much of it rather goofy. Children, depending on their age, maturity, and tolerance for such material, however, may or may not find the scenes frightening.
  • In a prolonged scene that starts out suspenseful and then turns into camp, Jack and his team enter a boarded up house where they believe a nest of vampires is hidden. Upon discovering some, they fight with them, eventually pulling all of them out into the sunlight where they quickly burn up.
  • A scene where Valek attacks and kills many people may be scary or tense to some viewers (but it's more gory than anything else).
  • Valek enters a church, kills a woman, and takes a priest hostage.
  • Tony finds Katrina out on the ledge of a building and has to grab her before she jumps.
  • Father Adam goes deep inside a dark and deserted prison, trying to lure out the vampires so that Jack and Tony can kill them.
  • Jack has to kill a vampire that's holding onto him so that he'll be killed when it burst into flames after being pulled into the sunlight.
  • Jack is nearly torched by Valek and other vampires.
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Shotguns/Crossbows/Stakes/Spears: Used by Jack and his team to wound or kill the vampires. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "Piece of sh*t," "Sh*thole," "Laid" (sexual), "Goon," "Pain in the ass," "Bitch" and "Whore" (said about vampires and prostitutes), "Fags," "Nuts" (crazy and testicles), and "Pissed."
  • Tony steals a man's car at gunpoint.
  • Although it's questionable how far kids would go, the whole vampire thing may intrigue them (as might stabbing people through the heart with stakes).
  • Apparently attempting to kill the vampire "virus," a man takes a cigarette lighter and burns the vampire wound on his arm.
  • A shriveled up corpse falls out when a door is opened.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful or scary music occurs during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 49 "f" words (4 used with "mother"), 20 "s" words, 3 slang terms using male genitals ("d*ck," "pr*ck," and "c*cksucker"), 11 asses (4 used with "hole"), 3 hells, 1 S.O.B., and 9 uses of "G-damn," 3 of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "Jesus Christ," "Oh Jesus" and "Lord" as exclamations.
  • Holding a vampire skull, Tony tells a priest, "Nothing like a little head, eh padre?" (double- entendre).
  • At a party, we see part of several women's bare butts (in the outfits they wear), and later see the bare breasts of many hookers.
  • In addition, Jack agrees to meet Katrina, another hooker (who shows cleavage at various times during the movie), in his room, but nothing ever happens (other than her coming on to him and telling him "where to start" looking for some action).
  • We see Valek with his head down between Katrina's spread legs, and she makes sexual sounds from this (despite how it looks, he's only biting her inner thigh for blood). Valek then runs his hands across her body, including her clothed breasts as she continues to react in a sexual fashion.
  • We see a prolonged view of Katrina lying face down and nude on a bed (that Tony has tied her to). As such, we see her bare butt as well as the side of her bare breast.
  • Joking around, Jack asks Father Adam, "Did you get wood? Did you get a little mahogany from that? regarding a scene moments earlier where Jack was beating him up. At the end of the movie the two make similar comments.
  • Jack tells Father Adam, "Tell me what you know and I'll buy you a beer and get you laid."
  • Jack smokes cigars several times, Tony and Katrina also smoke a few times, a team member smokes, and people at a party also smoke.
  • Jack briefly mentions having to kill his father (who, as a vampire, killed his mother) in the past.
  • Whether vampires really exist.
  • A vampire attacks one of Jack's crew, and he and the rest blast the vampire with machine gun fire. Other vampires then show up and fight with the team members who shoot them with crossbows and stab them with spears. The crew then drags the vampires out into the sunlight where they instantly burst into flames. Along the way, Jack hacks off one's hand so that it can be pulled outside, and then pounds a stake into another's forehead and then into the chest.
  • A guy at a party picks up a lamp and throws it through a window.
  • Valek attacks and kills many people at a party. He thrusts his hand inside a man's body and completely through another, he vertically tears another in half, and kills many others by breaking their necks or striking them.. Others then fire machine guns at Valek, but he can't be killed by them (although a woman who gets in the way is shot and killed). Valek then takes a shotgun and fires it into a priest (we see the blood splatter onto the ceiling). The end result is that nineteen people are reported dead.
  • Fleeing the scene, Tony then shoots Valek in the head as the vampire tries to attack from the back of his truck.
  • Jack returns to the motel where the above carnage took place, cuts off all of the victims' heads, and then sets the motel on fire.
  • Jack grabs Father Adam from their truck, throws him to the ground, and then proceeds to kick him several times (thinking he may be the vampire conspirator).
  • Valek walks up to a cleaning woman in a church and swipes his hand across her neck, ripping it open.
  • Katrina bites Tony on the arm, and he in turn backhands her, knocking her unconscious.
  • Trying to get Father Adam to tell him everything he knows, Jack hits the priest hard enough with a phone to knock him into a wall.
  • Valek kills a priest by decapitating him with a powerful blow.
  • Jack again threatens Father Adam. He cuts his hand with a knife and then holds that knife to his throat.
  • Jack mentions that in the past he killed his own father (who was a vampire).
  • Valek and other vampires kill many missionaries in another violent and bloody scene.
  • Tony slugs Jack.
  • Tony slugs a vampire, Father Adam stabs another one with a spear (and then repeatedly with a stake), Tony shoots one with a machine gun, and other vampires are killed by dragging them out into the sunlight.
  • A vampire bites a man in the neck, and pulls out a big chunk of bloody flesh.
  • A man slices Jack's leg and catches the blood that spills out in a goblet.
  • Father Adam shoots and kills a man with a shotgun.
  • More vampires die in the sunlight.

  • Reviewed October 27, 1998

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