'Vampires': bites, blood, bodies

October 30, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

"John Carpenter's Vampires" is more about attitude than it is about horror. And man, does it have attitude!

It also has some powerful visuals (director Carpenter hasn't let his imagination run this unchecked since "The Thing") and a wickedly over-the-top performance from James Woods -- pluses that go a long way toward compensating for a silly script so crammed with macho posturing that even Sam Peckinpah might have found it all a bit much. The world as envisioned by Carpenter and writer Don Jakoby consists of warriors and whores and people waiting to be killed.

Woods is modern-day vampire-hunter Jack Crow. After one particularly gory battle, he and his partner, Montoya (a leaden Daniel Baldwin), are left to fend for themselves. They're aided only by a hooker who's about to turn into a vampire herself (Sheryl Lee, who spends good chunks of the film either bound, naked or dripping blood from her incisors) and a priest who knows the truth about vampires and their connection to the church.

Turns out the original guy with the fatal overbite was a fallen priest named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith, quite the sight in a floor-length black topcoat), and he's hot on the trail of a holy relic that will allow him and his minions to survive sunlight. It's up to Crow and his gang to stop him.

Jakoby's script rarely bothers with dialogue when a profanity or 50 will do, and the film is lurid to a fault, littered with charred corpses, severed heads and bodies split down the middle. Still, Carpenter's vision is so energizing, and Woods' performance so gloriously unrestrained, the film is impossible to resist. Even if it is just as impossible to embrace.

'John Carpenter's Vampires'

Starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin and Sheryl Lee

Directed by John Carpenter

Released by Columbia

Rating: R (strong vampire violence and gore, language and sexuality)

Running time: 110 minutes

Sun score: ** 1/2

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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