Blu-ray: Vampires (1998)
Scattered across the world, vampires exist in small groups hidden away in the dark recesses of abandoned buildings, killing their prey at night while the human population are unaware of their presence. A ragtag group of vampire slayers led by Jack Crow (James Woods) are guided by Catholic priests who have made it their mission to hunt and kill all vampires, all the while spurred on by the threat of the ‘original vampire’ Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) finding the ‘black crucifix’ which will give him the ability to walk in daylight. Can Valek be stopped before his powers become greater than ever could be imaginable?
Once again John Carpenter makes a movie that is thematically a Western, while at the same time adding his own unique twist to the story. Being the last of his movies to be made in the 20th century and with only 2 more features to be made in later years, Vampires has often been derided as a movie made ‘on his decline’. I however disagree…despite Jack Crow’s strange obsession with a series of male characters ‘getting wood’ in various situations!
Barely making back its $20M budget when released theatrically on October 30th 1998, Vampires found a more appreciative audience when released on VHS and DVD…as has been the case with quite a few Carpenter movies. While not reaching the vampiric heights such as Near Dark or The Lost Boys, Vampires possess a certain charm that rewards repeat viewing.
Despite the aforementioned obsession that Jack Crow has with various forms of timber, James Woods gives a solid performance as a man who is focused on kicking vampire ass and will run roughshod over anyone or anything that gets in his way, including his partner Anthony Montoya, played by Daniel Baldwin. Baldwin makes the most of his limited screen time (most of what he has to do requires either waiting in a room or a vehicle while Woods is busy with the action) and I genuinely felt for his character at the end of the movie and the position that he found himself in.
Caught in the middle of Crow and Montoya is Kristina (Sheryl Lee), a lady of loose morals who gets far more than she bargained for when a vampire decides to have some oral pleasure with her. Kept in tow by Crow who uses her psychic link with Valek to ‘see’ through his eyes, her pain and slow transformation have an emotional effect on Montoya who can’t help but have feelings for her.
Some of the more traditional vampire tropes are cast aside whereby garlic and crucifixes have no impact, but of course sunlight can still give the worst sunburn imaginable. Decapitation is always an option too, even AFTER the bodies have been reduced to nothing but seared remains.
While not Carpenter’s best, Vampires is a welcome addition to anyones bloodsuckers collection, especially so in this release from Powerhouse Films where the Blu-ray image perfectly captures the glowing orange sunsets and desert vistas. Accompanied by a fantastic selection of special features, Powerhouse Films ‘Indicator’ series once again proves to be a badge of high quality.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• 5.1 surround sound track
• Alternative stereo audio
• Audio commentary with director John Carpenter
• The Guardian Interview with John Carpenter – Part One, 1962-1983 (1994, 38 mins): the director discusses his career with Nigel Floyd at the National Film Theatre, London
• Behind the scenes (1999, 6 mins): original ‘making of’ documentary
• Cast & Crew Interviews (1999, 9 mins)
• B-roll footage (1999, 9 mins)
• Isolated score: experience John Carpenter’s original soundtrack music
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 20-page booklet with a new essay by Kim Newman, and a 2015 interview with John Carpenter about Vampires
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 7,000 copies
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.