This is a late in life memory movie, but not by much where the actual memory is concerned. This flick clocks in roughly a year and a half, maybe, two years, after my near fatal car accident in October of ’96, which is the primary landmark I associate with it. I never saw it at the theater, but on DVD for the first time, and the memory of it overlaps with the memory of also seeing Deep Rising (1998) around the same time, maybe even weeks apart. Watching one always reminds me of the other, and I tend to put on the other afterwards.
I’ve been a John Carpenter fan since childhood and this particular film of his became more noteworthy than usual when I first heard he was doing a vampire movie with James Woods. In the early stages I briefly wondered if Woods was playing a vampire, but as it eventually became known he was the hero and it was inspired by John Steakley’s Vampire$ novel. I’ve never read the book but have heard this movie deviates heavily from it. Carpenter’s version is essentially a modern-day western, with a very memorable score, which is par for the course for any Carpenter film.
Our leads are the aforementioned Woods as Jack Crow and Daniel Baldwin as his comrade in arms, Anthony Montoya; both are vampire hunters working for and funded by the Vatican, with Sheryl Lee as lowly hooker, Katrina, who’s been bitten by master vamp Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), the first recorded account of a vampire. His existence dates back to the 13th century where he was once a fallen priest.
In the opening we get to see how Crow’s team works as they exterminate a nest of bloodsuckers in a New Mexican farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. Apparently a priest is commonly added to the team, and Crow’s current one is Father Giovanni (Gregory Sierra), he blesses the undead as they’re hauled out of the house and into the sun to explode. Other notable team members seen in small parts are Mark Boone Junior as Catlin, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (that Miami Vice episode and Shang Ysung From Mortal Kombat) as David Deyo, Henry Kingi as Anthony (I remember this dude as a gang member in Predator 2) and Thomas Rosales, jr as Ortega (Also a gang member from Predator 2 but I’ve seen this guy in a bunch movies throughout my life).
With specialized crossbow in hand, a cable hooked from arrow to winch on Montoya’s jeep, Crow takes his team into this house, nails the vamps with an arrow and has Montoya yank them into the sunlight with the winch. Outside of that loads of bullets are expended and anything with a blade and a stake are used to nail these animalist suckheads into submission. It’s a dirty and bloody job but someone’s gotta do it. This particular job, however, doesn’t go as planned. The extermination at the farmhouse does, to an extent, typically a Master Vampire is found among the “slave vamps,” but there wasn’t one this time because he was hiding outside under the dirt. And to make matters infinitely worse for Crow and his gang this Master Vamp was Valek. He was tipped off to Crow’s team and took precautions. Yup, that’s right and there’s also a rat among them.
Later at the SunGod Motel, as Crow and his team are cavorting with local hookers and basically have their guard down, Valek shows up and massacres everyone of them except Crow, Montoya and hooker Katrina who he was planning to shag later on. Thank God Crow had the presence of mind to realize the now bitten Katrina could be used a tool to track Valek, for once vampirized victims acquire a telepathic link to the master as they slowly turn.
Crow and Montoya are of a particular ruthless breed. They’re not the kind of guys you’d want to hang out with and it’s obvious they’ve got women issues to boot. With Jack we get a brief history of how he got to who he is when as a kid his father was turned into a vamp and one night murdered his mother. He was forced to ice his father later on, and his outlook on vampires, and life in general is pessimistic, at best. Montoya we get no history at all, we just know he’s Jack’s best friend, and is pretty much cut from the same cloth. Katrina is nothing more than a tool to them and is treated as such, which is until she tries to escape and accidentally bites Montoya on the arm and inadvertently infects him. A bond now slowly grows between them, which is definitely uncharacteristic for the slayer. Jack senses this when he meets up with them later and there in lies our “triangle.”
Not only are these two guys seeking vengeance now, but it’s revealed by Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee), the new priest added to the group by Cardinal Alba (Maximilian Schell), Valek is searching for a fabled “Black Cross” that will help him walk in the daylight when used in a reverse exorcism ceremony. Father Guiteau’s inclusion in their “group” is basically trial-by-fire, and given the personality parameters given above for Jack, Guiteau’s by the book attitude is met with “defiance” that involves a mild ass kicking out on the desert, a bludgeoning by a telephone, a slashed palm and a faux murder attempt to try and get him to spill the secrets Alba has forbidden him to tell, and that’s basically because Alba is our rat. Alba tipped off Valek and has now become a fallen priest who thinks he’ll get some kind of power upgrade by helping Valek with this reverse exorcism.
After finally acquiring this Black Cross Valek holes up in this small town now vampirized, Jack is caught and is scheduled to be burned at the stake during this ritual, and Montoya is feasted up by the now fully turned Katrina, but these two aren’t down and out yet. The highlight of this final act is watching Crow take on Valek—and win! And win viciously! But he’s not without some amount of compassion for his turning friend. He allows he and Katrina to escape, but with the warning they’ve got two days to get as far away as possible before he hunts them down. Left standing is Crow and Guiteau, who have now come to an understanding, perhaps even a friendship, among this world of vampires.
I know Carpenter isn’t a big fan of sequels, but this was one time I wish he had done a proper follow-up with Woods, Guinee, Lee and Baldwin, and there was certainly enough for a second chapter, which could have easily focused on the death hunt for Montoya and Katrina. There in fact was a sequel made, with none of the actors from the first flick, but the less I speak of it the better we’ll all be. Unfortunately so much time as gone by from the first one it’s now ripe for remake, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if one day one was announced.
As I mentioned before Vampires was previously released on DVD way back in 1998 by Sony, then re-released in 2003 and since then as been added to several double features and sets in the interim. It even went Superbit. Boutique distributor, Twilight Time, has finally been allowed to acquire it and release it on blu-ray, which happened back on October 27th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only.
This is the best I have ever seen this movie! I could see the pores in Wood’s face in a close-up in the beginning and with this new remastering the scenic cinematography is even more sumptuous! If you’re currently asking yourself why should I go blu, find someone with a player to put this on for you and you’ll have your answer.
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary with writer-director John Carpenter (ported over from the ’98 DVD)
- Isolated Score Track
- The Making of John Carpenter’s Vampires (6;10)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
I never bought the re-release but I remember the first edition stated there was supposed to be a photo gallery included. There wasn’t, but there was an insert with a lot of photos, so I assumed that was the “photo gallery.” The making of included is new for this release, and new as in the old DVD releases didn’t have it. It’s a making of from the late 90s that’s not too bad.
Limited to only 5,000 units, if you want one get it now! Once they’re gone, they’re gone! You can buy Twilight Times titles at two places only: Screen Archives Entertainment or Twilight Times’ own site.