Tuesday, August 7, 2012

REVIEW: Vampires

Director: John Carpenter
Year 1998

Vampires is an extremely satisfying horror film that gives us gore, violence, vicious vamps, and a protagonist who is the very definition of badass. Born from the creative mind of John Carpenter and crafted in that iconic style that the director is known for, the movie oozes coolness from every inch of its frame. With its penchant for vulgarity and hyper stylized brutality, Carpenter introduces a new spin on the vampire genre which gives a plethora of twists and turns to the tried and true lore of these fantastically creepy creatures, while at the same time remaining true to the overall trademarks that have allowed these legendary movie monsters to survive throughout the years. Saddle up padre! It’s time to hunt some vamps!

The film follows a vampire hunter by the name of Jack Crow, who after his entire team is slaughtered, sets out on a suicide mission to destroy the master vampire Valek, the one who started it all. Accompanied by one surviving member of his team, an infected prostitute, and a wet behind the ears priest, Crow must race against time to retrieve an ancient relic called the Cross of Berseires, an item that if possessed by Valek will grant him with unstoppable power. With the odds stacked against them and an army of vampires gunning for their jugulars, Jack Crow and company embark on a blood-filled journey with one goal in mind, to kill every last godless son of a bitch before nightfall comes. Get ready because the blood confrontation of the ages is about to begin.

James Woods plays the iconic role of Jack Crow, the highly capable vampire killer with the mouth of a sailor. Woods is tremendously remarkable in the role, making for one of the most memorable and entertaining characters in recent horror history. His portrayal of the jaded hero is enjoyable to say the least, and his rough and rude disposition is an essential core element in why this movie is so much damn fun to watch play out. I’ve always been a fan of Woods’ large body of work, but in Vampires he is absolutely fabulous and exceptionally badass. Unlike Carpenter’s other legendary imagined characters who each had badass qualities to them but expressed them in a more cool and calm manner, Woods’ performance with Jack Crow is something of a manic wonder as it showcases Jack as a cold-hearted and bloodthirsty lunatic bent on destroying every last vampire on earth. He’s as harsh to his friends as he is to his enemies and that makes him a rather engaging anti-hero, one that is deadly serious and stuck on a path for revenge, all the while being a hot-headed asshole. On top of this overbearing hatred for the vampire species, Woods also allows a witty and twisted sense of humor to resonate within his performance. He’s got charisma to last and his presence in this film is something of a revelation.
The rest of the cast, though overshadowed by Woods’ rabid persistence, do a commendable job with their respective roles. Daniel Baldwin takes on the role of Anthony Montoya, the surviving member of Crow’s team and a wingman of sorts to his leadership role. While not the best actor in the world, Baldwin gives a tremendously sympathetic performance that brings a good amount of heart and depth to the film. Tim Guinee makes a surprise turn as Father Adam Guiteau, a timid and passive priest that transforms into a badass servant of god when put to the test. Tim may come into the film with a low-key performance, but as the movie comes closer to the closing credits he becomes something of a hypnotic force as he reemerges as a vampire hunter worthy to be named equal to Jack Crow. I found the growth of his character to be rather entertaining and I love how Guinee just fills the character out and brings him to life. Last but not least is Sheryl Lee who plays the role of Katrina the infected prostitute. She does a decent job with the lady of the night character, but she doesn’t really become intriguing until she is bitten by Valek and begins slowly transforming into a monster. Her seizure like movements during the second half of the movie can be quite unsettling and even annoying, aside from a few jiggly bits that are always appreciated, but the ultimate effect makes it perfectly clear that she is painfully transforming into something else entirely.

When it comes to intimidating vampires, you can’t get much better than Thomas Ian Griffith’s portrayal of Valek. Looking like Trent Reznor on crack, Griffith infuses his character with a formidable look that blends both the romanticized interpretations from vampire lore and combines that with the savage nature that these beasts convey within the film that Carpenter has created. The make-up effects and overall design of his character is subtle yet effective, and the rest of the vampire cast is as equally intimidating. Draped in black, with steely glares and blood drenched lips, the vampires in this film are quite interesting and visually stunning. This also goes hand in hand with the wonderful effects work that showcases the brutal way in which these creatures deal out death. Just to give you an idea on the type of grotesque things that we’re privy to seeing in this film, I’ll name a few key gore moments that really stood out after viewing. There is an amazingly produced torso splitting that showcases one of the vampire hunters getting sliced in two, a plethora of decapitations, a slew of impalements featuring penetrated skulls and staked hearts, and a handful of moments where we get to see the nasty effects that the sun has on these creatures of the night. Needless to say the film has its fair share of effects work cut out for it and each case is respectably pulled off to impact the splendor of the moment and add that essential sense of awesomeness.

What I loved most about this film though, is that at its heart it is a John Carpenter movie through and through. From the well crafted characters, to the exceptionally atmospheric world, to the outstanding and masterfully composed original score, this film just oozes that haunting Carpenter charm. Crafting itself in the same vein as Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 genre mash-up From Dusk Till Dawn and applying Carpenter’s sensibilities into the entire production, the film transforms into a pleasant hybrid that both pays homage to the modern horror efforts of the time while still maintaining that iconic visual sense that Carpenter is heralded for. There is just a badass quality to the way the film is presented and you can’t help but be swept up in the cool nature of it all. It’s vile, abrasive, unapologetic, and downright nasty and that’s just the way I like my horror flicks.

John Carpenter’s Vampires is a trip down badass lane. There is a tremendous sense of energy to the production, brought on mostly by James Woods’ wonderful portrayal of the heartless and mean-spirited Jack Crow, the go to guy when you need someone to take down a few blood sucking freaks. Woods and his manic performance is one for the ages, and his counterparts Daniel Baldwin, Tim Guinee, and Sheryl Lee do a great job in fleshing out the feel of the cast and balancing out the spirited performance of Mr. Woods. Thomas Ian Griffith’s performance is also another standout of the film, providing a perfect villain for Jack Crow to battle with during the climax of the movie.
With a beautiful color palette and an atmospheric musical score, the film is often at times breathtaking, but most importantly the movie is magnificently and fully realized as both a genuine believable story and a fictional work of art. The entertainment value that comes with the large amounts of gore, the excessive violence, and the bone-chilling creature effects, are through the roof outstanding and the dialogue between the characters are deliciously crass and without a doubt a highlight of the production. Saturated in a rustic, grunge induced stooper, the film world that Carpenter has set up is steep in dirt and grime, which makes the realm that this movie inhabits that much more visceral and raw. If you’re looking for a kick ass vampire film to satisfy your horror appetite or you’re just wondering what a John Carpenter vampire movie would look like, give this one a go. I promise you won’t be disappointed. This flick is…..


This dude must have a splitting headache. Yuk Yuk.

Hang in there darling.

Oh what a feeling.... when you're dancing on the ceiling.

Holy shit that's brutal!

Please hammer don't hurt em.

Now that was one hell of a party!

Stop sleeping in the earth.... DIRTBAGS!

Be very quiet.... Daniel Baldwin is hunting a sexy ass.

Get that cross out of my face shithead!

It's one of those good old fashioned vampire barbecues.

This movie is a real SCORCHER!

Looking cool padre.

Messy baby.

James Woods' nuts roasting on an open fire.

Trent Reznor is PISSED!

James Woods really likes to show off his cross.

Who's gonna clean this shit up?

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