John Carpenter’s Vampires is a western masked as a horror film. It’s got sparse dialogue spit out by bitter men and abused women. If Walter Hill had ever made a film in the Vampire sub-genre I’m sure it would resemble Carpenter’s flick. Sparse is an appropriate description for the entire film. It’s writing, budget, sound design, and locations could all fall under that very definition. But all of this works in Carpenter’s favor as a filmmaker. His inability to rely on visual fireworks or spectacular effects forces the master craftsman to use the cinematic tool at his disposable in terms of framing shots and using silence effectively.
Working on behalf of the Vatican, vampire slayer Jack Crow (James Woods) and his team of exterminators wage war against hordes of bloodsucking vampires. Crow and his battle-hardened crew of vampire killers roam the New Mexico desert looking for undead lairs when they come face to face with Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), a vampire kingpin possessed of incredible powers. Now, they must stop the 600-year-old master before he finds an ancient talisman that will allow the nightwalker to hunt in daylight.
Vampires might not be the shock-fest some may expect from the director who brought audiences Halloween. But it’s a tough, moody, gory horror film full of monsters human and otherwise. James Woods makes for a compelling action-hero and his relishing of the role is evident in the intensity he brings to the picture which helps establish an appropriately moody tone.
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee