John Carpenter sucks the life out of me.

Vampires (1998)

“How do you like your stake, bitch?!”

That line, uttered by Daniel Baldwin (he’s the fat one!) is either really cheesy or really awesome. I can’t decide.

And that’s sort of the problem that I have with the whole movie.  It’s got a cool concept.  Vampire slayers, hired by the Catholic church, are hunting down the original vampire before he gets his hands on an ancient artifact that will allow him to walk around during the day.  It’s not super-original, but how original can you really get in a vampire movie?  The premise, along with the location (the southwestern desert) has a lot of potential for a pretty unique vampire tale, a vampire Western of sorts.  And that kind of seems to be what John Carpenter was going for here.  Unfortunately, by this point, Carpenter had apparently run his creative well dry, and Vampires is left with no style, no atmosphere and no scares.

Was Carpenter trying to make a non-scary vampire movie or what?  Seriously, the movie plays almost like a straight-forward action movie.  The bad guys just happen to be undead blood-suckers.  And the main villain, a vampire named Valek, (played by Thomas Ian Griffith) is the epitome of a cliched vampire.  He runs around looking like he just bought some new threads at Vampires R’ Us.  Pale skin?  Check.  Dark hair?  Check.  Black clothing?  Check?  Cape?  Erm, how about a flowing black coat instead?

It feels like a movie that some no-name first timer will no real feel for the genre would create.  Not something created by the guy who’s responsible for one of the all time classics.  (After this, Carpenter made Ghosts of Mars so, uh, things could always be worse.)

I watched Vampires with the intention of writing about it for The Moon is a Dead World’s Vampire Blog-A-Thon.  I hadn’t seen the movie since about 10 years ago when it was released on VHS.  And 16 year-old me really liked it.  Unfortunately, it seems, 16-year-old me had pretty bad taste in movies.  Either that, or he just hadn’t seen enough really good stuff to make comparisons with. 

I thought I’d write about Vampires and maybe try to make a case for it as some sort of “lost gem” of horror cinema.  But I just can’t do that.  If the film feels like it hasn’t gotten any love over the past decade it’s because, quite frankly, it doesn’t deserve much.  It’s not exactly an awful film.  It’s just yet another formulaic horror movie that just happens to have a former master’s name attached to the marquee.  In fact, I’d have to say that if Carpenter’s name were not attached, Vampires would’ve become nothing more than a late-night pay cable staple.  As it turns out, it is a late-night pay cable staple.  It’s just one that you kind of wish would’ve turned out a little bit better.

Viewed on DVD (Personal Collection)

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10 Comments

  1. Well, shit…I remember really enjoying this one. Sure, it wasn’t scary and it wasn’t smart, but there was something to it…wasn’t there? I’ll have to revisit.

    (and for the record, “How do you like your stake, bitch?!” is really awesome…in my humble opinion)

  2. I saw it for the first time about 2 weeks ago, and I can still remember it today which means it was halfway decent in my opinion. I’m planning to watch the second movie soon, whenever I have time off from work.

  3. Carpenter is my hero. Most of his movies just get better and better with age. I thought revisiting “Vampires” a couple months ago that it would be better than I remembered but for some reason this one just never works for me. I actually like “Ghosts of mars” better.

  4. Ghosts Of Mars bored the crap out of me…honestly, I didn’t even finish it. But give me Jimmy Woods hunting vampires and I’m bout it bout it. I’m also rowdy rowdy, but that’s another story (but the same song).

  5. You guys can keep your Jimmy Woods and your Ice Cube. I’ll stick with Kurt Russell, thank you very much.

  6. I hear ya, Justin…I’d take just one Kurt over 100 Jimmys and 1,000 Ice Cubes any day of the week.

  7. Joanna Cassidy in a wayward hot air balloon does nothing for you guys?

  8. I prefer her in ‘Blade Runner’ mode, actually. Case in point:

  9. Bycza stronica internetowa, rewelacyjnie się czyta komentarze. Gry dla dzieci ciufcia.pl

  10. […] on and on and on – blame me because I haven’t finished up Bite Night – where he reviews John Carpenter’s Vampires. He didn’t love it, but it’s a little less than scathing. Check it […]


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