A scene from VAMPIRES, directed by John Carpenter for Columbia Pictures.

Vampires (1998, John Carpenter)

Vampires is a mess.

I mean, there’s some good stuff in it, but it feels like the least interesting parts of the characters’ stories. There’s a little bit of sequel setup–and the never happened sequel seems a lot better–but so does a prequel to the film’s events.

It takes place over a couple days and a lot happens in them. To fill the audience in, Carpenter has a bunch of expository scenes. While they’re not terrible, they’re just James Woods swearing a lot and beating up Tim Guinee. Woods and Carpenter sell the scenes… it’s just unfortunate the scenes are so narratively unnatural.

Carpenter opens with a big vampire battle scene, introduces his characters, then proceeds to kill off most of them. He leaves Woods and Daniel Baldwin. Woods is the lead, so he has to stick around. But Baldwin? He’s not even a sidekick. Almost immediately after the movie’s done with its setup, Baldwin’s off babysitting Sheryl Lee as she turns into a vampire.

The babysitting scenes are really, really boring.

A lot of the problem is Carpenter’s approach to vampires. They’re very bestial, but by dehumanizing them, they don’t make good villains. There’s not a single scary moment in the film and some of the scenes–the vampires digging themselves out of the ground–just look silly.

The performances are okay. Guinee’s good, Baldwin and Lee have really good moments. Maximilian Schell is bad.

Nice cinematography from Gary B. Kibbe. Carpenter’s totally dispassionate, but still professional.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Carpenter; screenplay by Don Jakoby, based on a novel by John Steakley; director of photography, Gary B. Kibbe; edited by Edward A. Warschilka; music by Carpenter; production designer, Thomas A. Walsh; produced by Sandy King; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring James Woods (Jack Crow), Daniel Baldwin (Anthony Montoya), Sheryl Lee (Katrina), Thomas Ian Griffith (Jan Valek), Maximilian Schell (Cardinal Alba), Tim Guinee (Father Adam Guiteau), Mark Boone Junior (Catlin) and Gregory Sierra (Father Giovanni).


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