Vampires (1998) – Movie Review
Written by: John Carpenter, Don Jakoby & Dan Mazur, based on the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley
Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Maximilian Schell, Thomas Ian Griffith
My Advice: Wait for Cable.
Two films that actually have vampires in them instead of “hemocytes” (I’m not bitter) came to theaters this year. This, the second of them, really threw me for a loop. James Woods plays a master vampire slayer who has possibly met his match in Valek (Griffith), the numero uno master vampire who kicks ass like nobody’s business. Valek apparently wants to find a religious relic that will help him and his vampire hordes become unstoppable.
In the film’s favor, we do have a good performance from Woods (along with some killer lines pointed toward the state of vampires in cinema) and a fairly good phoned-in walkthrough from Baldwin. I’m not exactly sure why Schell took this role, and neither is he. The two acting jobs worth mentioning are the two that had the least potential. Sheryl Lee is very good at being feral–thank you. Griffith makes a menacing master vamp, but isn’t given much to do other than tear people in half and get shot. To his credit, he does this well.
Now, I’ve not read the original Steakley novel, so I can’t speak to the film as an adaptation. I can speak to this: me and my fellow horror afficionados around the SDI would make for better slayers than Woods and company. It’s not Woods’ fault–it’s the screenplay’s (although his screaming “DIE!” over and over again each time he goes up against a vamp is enough to make Tony Todd’s performance in the 1990 Night of the Living Dead
look subtle). Just to give you a taste–you’ve all seen in the trailer how they go into a nest and how every nest has a master. Would you clean out a nest and not sweep the surrounding area? Here’s a tip, Hollywood: don’t set up someone to be the best there is at what they do and then have any guy who’s watched a couple of Romero
flicks be able to do better. The mistakes these guys make show them to be rank amateurs. I’d rather have Peter Vincent on my side than Jack Crow and company. I guess I could blame it on who’s sponsoring these guys as slayers, but that’s a whole different rant. And guess what? It just gets worse from there, not even taking into account the highly predictable so-called plot turns that you’ve seen in so many horror movies before. Sigh. It’s only some of the dialogue that gets this thing even in the realm of worth watching on cable. The first of what I fear will be many pieces of evidence that the disappointments aren’t over when summer is.