Tuesday, October 5, 2010

31 Days Of Horror: Day 5: Vampires

I’d written off Vampires without seeing it. It’s no secret that post They Live Carpenter is spotty, if you want to be polite about it (Cigarette Burns, and hopefully The Ward, excluded). Vampire’s promised to be no exception.

Well, I’m glad I did see it. Vampire’s isn’t great, but it’s not the full born travesty that Ghosts On Mars and Children Of The Damned is either. It’s fun enough. If I had to compare it to one film in Carpenter’s oeuvre, it’d be Prince Of Darkness. It’s a film that tries for some interesting stuff, but has a lot more to offer in potential then in practice. A film that is perhaps half of what it should be. But at least it has a kick ass John Carpenter score to its credit.

James Woods stars as the leader of a crew of Fearless Vampire Killers, hired by the Vatican who ends up on the business end of a very pissed off Original vampire. These being pre Twilight Vampire’s, they enjoy ripping the throats out of people and drinking their still steaming blood, rather then sparkling and serving as abstinence metaphors. In short order Wood’s finds himself on the receiving end of a Vampiric Beat down stick, with an unreliable ally in his Vatican Bosses, and what little remains on his of his old team quickly turning equally unreliable.

In true Carpenter fashion only his righteous badassedness can save him.

The film begins promisingly enough, with a team of vampire hunters methodically taking apart a nest of vamps, in a tense well put together set piece. It’s followed immediately by a full on retaliatory massacre by the head vamp, which features some tremendous pre CGI gore effects.

That’s when the movie just kind of stops.

We get about a half hour of skullduggery and hugger mugger. Followed by Mythology and subplots that are just powerfully uncompelling. Things do pick up a bit at the end. Including a pretty decent set piece in which our remaining vampire hunters attempt to lure the pack out of their stronghold.

James Woods brings the full brunt of his skeevy charm to the role of Jack Crow, vampire hunter extraordinaire. But he’s dragged down by his partner, played by one of the lesser Baldwins, who’s what we refer to as a drag on the ticket. And Sheryl Lee who spends the majority of her time looking utterly befuddled. Together, they participate in one of the least engaging perfunctory romances in recent memory. They stop the film dead whenever they appear onscreen. Which is with unfortunate regularity. Things aren't helped by a villain who is closer to the Big Daddy Martian Zombie end of the spectrum then Lo Pan.

Unfortunately they’re responsible for most of the film’s boring ass middle section. And while things do pick up for a good final set piece, the final part of the finale is one of the most egregious anticlimaxes this side of Desperado.

On the whole Vampires isn’t a disaster, just kind of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong it definitely has its moments. But it’s even more frustrating because of the flashes of brilliance it shows.


Elwood Jones said...

This film was kind of the signs that perhaps Carpenter, has begun to lose his way, as it took his Masters of Horror episode, to truly return his mojo.

Still what is James Woods obsession, with asking about "if they have wood" or not. It's not a funny joke first time, let alone the numorous other times he uses it.

J.D. said...

For me this film is saved by James Woods' performance alone. But I do agree the film drags in the middle as JC tries to develop some kind of relationship between Katrina and Montoya -- too bad Sheryl Lee and Daniel Baldwin have ZERO chemistry. And the end bit where Crow and co. mop up the remaining vamps feels truncated like JC ran out of money and went with dissolve montage instead.

Still, for good ol' trashy fun, I do enjoy this film and the good stuff outweighs the bad.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Elwood: I know, it's certainly no "All in the reflexes."

@ JD: I agree. And I think Wood's solves the "Not Kurt Russell" problem that They Live had. He has such a strange Skeevy energy he just makes it work.

Neil Fulwood said...

The cheat in the Montoya/Katrina relationship - she's changed fully into a vampire by the time she shows up for Valek's reverse-exorcism ceremony and yet she fails to burn up in sunlight and leaves with the already-turning Montoya in the truck with the sun full up - and therefore annoying, but those freakin' dissolves in the big vampire killing sequence ... easily the worst part of the film.

Bryce Wilson said...

I know, it would have been better if Carpenter had walked onscreen with a cardboard sign that read "We ran out of money" and gave a shrug.