Vampires (John Carpenter, 1998, USA)

Vampires was John Carpenter's second film before his period of retirement from the film industry. The film opened at #1 in 1998, and while it underperformed at the US box office, it did manage to overperform in Japan in some international markets. The film ultimately ended up becoming Carpenter's most successful film of the 1990s. Riding on the wave of From Dusk Til DawnVampires is a gritty vampire action film that feels more like something from the 1970s than the 1990s. While it is not among Carpenter's best films, it still shows many of the director's signature traits and is an enjoyable schlockfest. 

The film stars James Woods as Jack Crow, the leader of a team of vampire hunters. While the team is supposed to be the best in the world at their jobs, they seem largely incompetent starting from the film's opening. The film's opening raid on an abandoned house in New Mexico is one of the better aspects of the film, although the vampire hunters' weapons look somewhat cheap. Eventually, Crow becomes involved in a plan to prevent a cross from being taken by Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), the oldest and evillest of all vampires. 

Anchored by a supporting cast that includes Sheryl Lee from Twin Peaks and Daniel Baldwin, Woods plays Crow as a big a**hole. While the overall look of the film is somewhat cheap in comparison to many of Carpenters' other works, it is lent the signature Carpenter style, including a great soundtrack by the director himself. More than many of his other films, Vampires feels like a true Western. As is well known, Carpenter did not seek to become a director of horror films, and idolized director Howard Hawks. Overall, Vampires is a flawed but fun entry in the canon of John Carpenter.



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