Intriguing and well-staged action/horror pic.There aren't a lot of directors whose work I'm consistently entertained by, who produce material that, even when I'm underwhelmed by many aspects of the whole, always throw some gold nuggets into the brass.
John Carpenter is one of those guys. Yes, even in the disappointing "Escape From L.A."
And he's back doing what he should be doing with "John Carpenter's Vampires," a rollicking Western-tinged horror/adventure about Vatican-sponsored Vampire hunters led by James Woods in a role perfectly suited to his slow-burn mania.
The story isn't very important, but it's stronger than you usually get in this kind of movie, though some of the "revelations" are damn easy to choreograph. Keep in kind that this IS a horror flick, and weak stomachs should not apply, though the gore scenes are well-done for fans of that sort of thing Also disheartening to some might be the misogynistic attitude of the principal characters. There's only so much violence to women you can chalk up to these vampire-hunters being anti-social badasses.
Jack Crow (Woods) is hunting a master vampire (Thomas Ian Griffith doing good work) who mysteriously eludes him. A slaughter later, Crow is left only with his right-hand man (an underwhelming Daniel Baldwin) and Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a prostitute bitten by the vampire, Valek. After taking on a young priest (the sympathetic Tim Guinee), Crow seeks Valek through his psychic link with Katrina, who is slowly transforming into a vamp.
I just have to take a moment to single out Sheryl Lee, one of the finest young actresses working today, who takes a thankless role and adds real humanity to it. Lee has made of habit of imbueing difficult roles with vibrancy and energy, and deserves some projects that really allow her to let loose. Off the soapbox.
Carpenter has seemed out-of-sorts with his own skills for the past few years, but all the focus is back in this pic. I'm personally a big fan of his deliberate (some might say slow, but they'd be wrong) pacing, which wrings more tension out of a set piece than raping it with an AVID. At a panel I attended where he spoke, he said he's currently on vacation. Come back quick, John. We need more like you.It doesn't suck. That's a compliment, even for a vampire flick.