I had heard such bad things about John Carpenter’s Vampires that I didn’t even see it when it was released theatrically in 1998. In fact, it was only yesterday that I saw it for the very first time. What’s 25 years to see a film though?!
Is it a bad movie by Carpenter’s standards or, indeed, by anyone’s standards? Neither. In fact, it’s a pretty solid movie. Whoever was calling it an unmitigated disaster back when it was released was way off beam.
A gang led by James Woods hunts vampires. The gang comes to the attention of the most powerful vampire Jan Valek who is trying to gain access to a centuries-old crucifix that would make him even more powerful.
I love the fact that Valek decimates most of Wood’s gang very early on in the film. I also loved the character arcs and dialogue between Daniel Baldwin’s Tony Montoya and Sheryl Lee’s Katrina who was bitten during the confrontation in which most of the gang was killed. And the special effects have aged very well indeed.
There are sequences that feel like they are more suited to a straight-to-video movie, but this was probably due to budget restrictions rather than Carpenter.
Vampires is a million miles away from Carpenter’s recognised masterpieces such as Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing and The Fog. But maybe that’s the problem. When a filmmaker who has made films that are recognised as pioneering examples of a genre makes a film that doesn’t meet the high standards of their previous work then the critics and ‘fans’ will take sadistic glee in falsely reporting that a film is an utter disaster rather than a pretty good film. That’s a shame. But time has been very kind to Vampires indeed.
3 stars out of 5