Vampires (1998)


Why do bad films get made? Because they sound great on paper. The idea of a vampire flick by John Carpenter sounds brilliant, but the end film is mediocre at best. What could go wrong? Vampires can be frightening given the right director, and John Carpenter knows how to milk suspense. You’ve got vampire hunters which can make for an interesting ragtag group dynamic, unless you kill them all off in the first act.  Plus there’s plenty of cool weaponry to be had as long as you have some scenes to show them off in. So what goes wrong? A simple inability to discern what is interesting and what is boring.

Jack Crow (James Wood) and his crew of hardcore vampire hunters are weaving their way through New Mexico, hunting down vampire nest by nest and searching for the local vampire master. But after clearing out a nest and celebrating with beer and hookers, the master Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) finds them. In a torrential downpour of blood, boobs and booze the vampire kills all the hunters except for Jack, his right hand man, Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a hooker bitten by the master.


The main problem is that the film is simply not as cool as it thinks it is. Sure, killing vampires can be awesome, but it’s like the entire film is trying to prove how masculine and macho it is. There’s Jack, beating up everyone at the slightest provocation because he’s supposed to be badass and because there are no vampires around in the daytime. A lingering scene of the vampire hunters walking slow motion Reservoir Dogs style or the number of snarky one liners Jack Crow spat out probably seemed like an awesome idea at the time but in execution they simply aren’t near as cool as they want to be.

As the film progressed there’s this unnecessary reoccurrence of plot points. The only plot points this film needs is vampire hunter finds vampires, kills vampires, find out none of them are the vampire he’s looking for and then continues to find next group of vampires. Instead, there’s this entire convoluted plot about the Vatican hiring these vampire hunters and how this master vampire is “different” and bla, bla, bla. The more conversations the film has the stupider this film becomes.  By the conclusion you are left with an absolutely preposterous series of events. Furthermore, all this plotting takes away from the pacing and, more importantly, the action. There are a total of 3 vampire fighting scenes the entire film and two of them are in the first twenty minutes.


So what does the film give us instead? Montages. Montages of people getting ready for a fight, montages of vampires slaughtering random people, montages of vampires rising from the earth and montages of walking down the road. Yes, a montage can be a good way to covey the passage of time but they are also a good way to fill a movie with perfectly unnecessary scenes. Not a single montage in this film adds anything to the narrative, action, character development or any other substantial aspect of the film. It’s a mindless waste of screen time that the film could be spending killing vampires.

Is it too much to demand some vampire action in my vampire action flicks? This is a prime example why I’m not keen on action films, they simply bog themselves down in boring exposition and characters I don’t care about. And where’s the action? 3 scenes? 3 scenes! I wasted almost two hours of my life so I could see 3 scenes of vampire action? Well, at least there wasn’t any corny vampire/human romance—o wait, I forgot about that hooker.

© 2009 James Blake Ewing

Vampires [DVD]