It’s been 21 years since John Carpenter’s Vampires was in theatres, and it’s been the same amount of time since I’d seen it. But with Scream Factory releasing a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the film, it was definitely time to revisit it.
In the film, James Woods plays a Catholic Church-sponsored vampire hunter named Jack Crowe. He and his colleague Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) are tasked with taking down Master Vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) who is looking to be able to walk in the sun. The film costars Sheryl Lee from Twin Peaks as a bitten prostitute named Katrina and Maximillian Schell as a Catholic Cardinal.
As mentioned, its been a while since I first saw Vampires, and it was a lot better than I remembered it to be. The bloodsuckers are traditional, which means they’re genuine monsters with nothing romantic about them. There’s significant gore throughout the film, courtesy of a team that includes The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero. It all looks bloody great, especially when they take down Crowe’s team. The score, composed by Carpenter and performed by legendary musicians including Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, and Skunk Baxter, is another solid entry in his oeuvre.
Forgetting the tone James Woods has taken on over the last few years in his social media presence, the actor is extremely compelling in the lead role. Jack Crowe is written as a badass and Woods is absolutely believable in the setting, dynamic and engaging. Woods has always been a great actor, and he’s clearly having a ball on screen. Meanwhile, Sheryl Lee does a lot with a fairly underwritten character, even delivering one of trademark screams (she should look into trademarking that thing).
Where the film is dated is the misogynist tone of the script. John Carpenter’s Vampires is clearly a product of its times; there are lots of “bitches” thrown around, and it just doesn’t feel right in 2019. Does it kill the movie’s rewatchability? No, but it does stand out these days.
For fans of the film and John Carpenter, this Scream Factory Blu-ray comes loaded with new interviews with Carpenter, Woods, and many of the principals involved. It’s fascinating stuff, especially Woods’ interview. He tells some great, insightful stories about the creation of Vampires. In this instance, his verbose nature is a benefit to fans, and it’s clear he enjoyed his experience working on the film.
With its Western vibe, John Carpenter’s Vampires is a unique entry in the director’s canon, and worth revisiting in its latest iteration.
You can order John Carpenter’s Vampires here.