I thought, "What greater thing could you find
to do on a Halloween Day, to place you in the mood for the ghouls and goblins
that come out at night, than to go see a Vampire movie? Well... I can think
of a WHOLE lot of other things when the movie is "John Carpenter's Vampires."
Man, I REALLY wanted to be scared. I REALLY wanted to give it a chance.
I LOVE vampire movies... even bad ones! Unfortunately, Johnny and his cast
just phoned it in on this one.
The formula for "B" movies was followed to the letter: Babes, Boobies,
Blow ups (explosions), Boring, Bodies, Blood, Brains, Burnings, Bondage,
and Beatings. Did we mention Boring? Vampires steals from every classic
horror film out there, including the flashlight on the shotgun and,
even, a Lady in Lavender! Hmmm... why does that sound familiar?
Having said that, KNB came through in spades with great prosthetics,
like the vertically split body that falls away, the master vampire (Valek's)
face appliance, the full body burns and the cool weapon props. The FX quality
seemed to take a stumble when the prosthetic neck bite on Montoya (Daniel
Baldwin) looked more like a dime store gag in the final scenes than the
fine handicraft of KNB Effects. Guess it was a slow day in the shop. Too
bad. There were some really great crane shots, though, and kudos for the
Dolby Digital sound and killer locations in Las Vegas, Cerrillos and the
Bonanza Creek Movies set in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
CLICK HERE FOR THE THEME SONG: http://www.johncarpenter.com/Audio/slayerst.ram
The only thing that was more routine than the repetitive 16-note theme song throughout, is the boring plot line that could best be described as "Dracula meets Commando," with a little Dusk 'Til Dawn and Tombstone added. It resulted in huge gaping holes in the story, a serious lack of scare factor, and gratuitous predictable violent scenes to include kicking a priest, killing another one, beating one scream queen and slashing several others. Don't even go there with the "violent drunken Indian" character.
Example: Take the whole methodology of the vampire/ghoul killings. The
concept is to shoot a wooden arrow into the demon's heart and, with a line
attached, drag it kicking and screaming to burn to death in the sunlight
- followed by decapitation. Prior to that, there's the scenes where
the "Crow Team" is screaming, "KILL IT! KILL IT!" as a stake - resembling
a chair leg - is thrust deep into the very place where the narrow arrow
shaft is shot next - followed by dragging, burning and decapping of the
ghoul. What's wrong with this picture? If a "staking" can't off `em with
a 3" diameter chair leg, how can the arrow be then lodged through the gaping
whole securely enough for a winch to drag it out? AND, if EITHER the sun
OR the wooden stakes/arrows can kill the demon, WHY do both? If staking
and burning are the chosen methods of dispatching the dervishes then why,
also, waste precious time (and film stock) pumping them with the buckshot
and bullets? Ratings... that's why. It looks "cool" to have guns blazing
in scenes and bodies exploding throughout the story. Me thinks, however,
that the "coolness" of an action film was confused with "spackle" to fill
the gaping holes in Vampires' plot.
As a "fashion victim" myself... I have to ask... How in the WORLD does
one crawl out of a dank, dirty ol' hole in the ground looking like walking
dirtballs and in the next scene look like adds from Vogue and GQ? Hmmm...
have to give JC a buzz for a consult!
When you watch a film, you hope to be endeared to, a least, ONE of the
characters! Even if it's the bad guy or a sidekick. The ONLY character
that even began to evoke a sense of humanity was "offed" in the first ten
minutes of the film! They could have done much more with veteran
actor, Gregory Sierra, as the priest. As I watched, I failed to experience
a single tear jerk (although there was plenty of opportunities for them),
or sense of loss, or hopelessness, or empathy. This can be blamed on, again,
a lack of direction in the story line and vacuous dialogue between characters.
It's difficult to believe that ANY of these characters presented a stretch
for the actors portraying them. We're expected to feel the development
of the deepening relationship between Katraina (Sheryl Lee) and Montoya
(Baldwin) as demonstrated by his coming to defend her honor when Jack Crow
(James Woods) physically and verbally berates her as a vampire prostitute.
This might be a little more believable where it not for the preceding scene
in which Montoya, himself, has beaten Katrina, stripped her, and bound
her face down to the bed, followed by knocking her up side the head when
she bites him. There's no chemistry between the couple as he gets in her
face yelling at the top of his lungs that she has "to be QUIET."
Sometimes, less is more. The scene could have been played much more naturally
by closing in on her and intensely whispering the line through his gritted
teeth, rather than trying to knock hers out.
Crow comes across consistently as just a big jerk as opposed to the
best friend of Montoya and battled wearied leader of his crew. As a result,
when (what should be) meaningful scenes come down between them, the intensity
of the moment is lost as Crow warns Montoya, "I will hunt you down and
I will kill you." Any military war veteran will tell you, there should
be a greater sense of loss when condemning a best friend and comrade, with
whom he has shared so much in life, death and battle, to such a sure and
tragic fate. In the end, Montoya winds up coming across as more of a "weepy"
vampire than an adversary or grieving friend.
Valek (played by Thomas Ian Griffith) as the "First Vampire" and the quest for the "black cross" to be able to walk in the daylight were, at least, creative takes on the legacy. The end was befitting to the "master vampire." We were also presented with a "cardinal twist" with the involvement of, and ultimate betrayal by, the Catholic diocese. For the most part, though, many of the scenes were simply a lame attempt at gratuitous shock value leaving the viewer shell-shocked rather than spellbound through images like shooting one priest's brains out (Gregory Sierra), kicking another (Tim Guinee), beating and binding one prostitute (Sheryl Lee), and decapitating another.
"Pulse monkey fashion victim." (James Woods)
"Let me ask you something. It's been 600 years - how's the dick working?"
"So, Father... level with me. Killing those vampires gave you a chubby,
didn't it?" (James Woods)
"Chubby. Mahogany. Teak." (Tim Guinee)
The one thing I always say about a horror film, whether I like it or not, is "At least it got made and more of our people got work." But, coming from the acclaimed Mr. Carpenter, with a $20 million dollar budget and all the Hollywood hype that preceded the release, one just expects more. Would I pay $7 to go and see it again? No. Would I rent it for $1.50? Yes... after all it IS a vampire film!
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