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Home > John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998): A Review

John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998): A Review

John Carpenter's Vampires

A Western Take on the Vampire Story

            John Carpenter is a household name within the horror genre of cinema, releasing the Halloween (1978) series that would later influence filmmakers through their tones and styles. Even more so does the horror genre pay homage to Carpenter to the eerie, unsettling high pitched musical scores that have been known to leave audiences on the edges of their seats. However, despite this success that lasted around 30 years, John Carpenter’s later work in cinema was not as horrifying to the audiences as those previous films like The Thing (1982) and lacked deeper character development that many fans found intriguing in other films. Sadly is the case for the vampire film made by John Carpenter appropriately titled Vampires, which was released in 1998. The overdone performances from the cast to the aged prosthetic makeup at times looking ridiculous are unredeemable by the vampire lore making this film one of the worst John Carpenter films released.

            Unlike many vampire horror stories, the film Vampires does not take on the edgy vampire role very well. While the characters try to portray this isolation and alienation from society, the actors often try too hard throughout the film, making the audience reject these emotions. The setting of the story probably does not help this “outsider” perspective as it takes place in the Southwest, a place where everyone is an outsider due to distance. The story follows a group of vampire hunters that reside in the Southwest region of the United States. The leader of this group, Jack Crow played by James Woods, is the Vatican’s number one vampire hunter, and he definitely acts like it. However, his rage and obsession through Woods’ facial expressions seem a bit intense at times throughout the film. Crow lives by a strict set of moral regulations all surrounding the art of vampire hunting, from where they should happen to when, he controls everything. Crow does not just hunt for any vampire either, he hunts for the deadliest, most bloodthirsty monsters he can find. One day, the vampire hunters hear of an alleged vampire in search of an ancient Christian relic, said to grant him the ability to wake freely in the daylight. For Crow, this cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances due to the fact that Valek will viciously murder anyone in his path. The story continues with Valek biting a few people around town to psychically link them for his future attack.

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The set of the film is smooth, with the story being told directly to the audience and allowing them to prepare for the actions about to occur on screen, however, the overtones of rebellion and rejection of authority overtake the main themes of vampirism in the film. The attitude of the characters portray this quite clearly with some of the characters even yelling profanities at authority figures throughout the film. However, unlike other John Carpenter films where this attitude works, like the film They Live, Jack Crow rejects authority in all the wrong ways. He is sexist towards female characters throughout the story, frequently slapping Katrina, clearly homophobic towards more feminine male characters, and has a massive disdain for everyone that is not him.

            Despite these negative aspects of the film, it is packed with action and does not leave the audience feeling bored at any time throughout it. While the effects are aged to modern standards of effects, they are still terrific and horrifying. The musical score composed by Carpenter himself is edgy and fitting of the western vibes of the film, leaving the viewers on edge. However, these qualities do not redeem the aged feeling of the film that seems much older than it really is, being released much later in Carpenter’s cinema career. It does make a great addition to a fantasy horror fan collection but will most likely leave psychological horror fans disappointed.

John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) official trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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