Opening on an explosive note, packing no shortage of style & swag, and reveling in endless gore & violence throughout its runtime, John Carpenter’s Vampires is a surprisingly well-made picture that combines the elements of western & horror genre into one stylish, savage & action-packed vampiric entertainer.
Vampires tells the story of a vampire hunter whose entire crew is slaughtered by a master vampire for clearing out one of his lairs. Recovering from the massacre & seeking retribution, he decides to go after the centuries-old being and must stop him from acquiring an ancient Catholic relic that would grant him the ability to walk in sunlight.
Directed by John Carpenter (Escape from New York & They Live), the film is crafted in the style of a western and packs plenty of gunslinging action. While the film takes liberty with the Wild West aura & vampire folklore, the essence of both is left undisturbed. The premise is actually an interesting one and Carpenter does a good enough job behind the camera to make it all work to a favorable extent.
But one downside to a narrative like this is that it could only soar to a certain height and not any further. Fortunately, Carpenter is well-aware of that and works within those limitations to make his fable as interesting as possible. There is just enough bloodshed in the final print to appease both western & horror aficionados, and the old-school treatment makes it even more appealing.
As far as performances go, James Woods takes the mantle of vampire slayer and is terrific in the role. Daniel Baldwin also chips in with a measured input. Sheryl Lee is at times silly & over-the-top but she delivers what’s expected of her. Thomas Ian Griffith plays the ancient vampire, the first of his kind, and does well with what he’s given. Lastly, Carpenter’s score is fitting, fascinating & in tune with the unfolding events.
On an overall scale, Vampires may not be the best vampire film ever made nor is it a western classic by any means but it is definitely fun & refreshing. Possibly the last good feature from John Carpenter and a definite improvement over his previous directorial effort, Vampires splatters the screen with blood & body parts when it is firing on all cylinders but there are stretches of emptiness in between that harm its narrative flow from time to time. Still, worth a shot.