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The 100




Vampire$
(1998)
Reviewed by Russell Tharp
Rating: 7 Beans

gh. There you have it. That's my review. Ugh.

You know, I read the book "Vampire$" by John Steakly on which this movie was based, and it rocked. It is probably my second-favorite modern vampire novel, after "The Light at the End" by John Skipp and Craig Spector. I highly recommend both books to fans of the genre (unless you're already an Anne Rice fan, in which case you will probably hate these books passionately). In fact, I recommend that you read them rather than go out and see this movie. Of course, other activities I recommend rather than seeing this movie include washing your car, cleaning your shower tiles, sorting your recyclables, or sticking a knitting needle in your eye.


Jack Crow (James Woods) is the rather diminutive leader of a professional group of mercenaries, paid by the Vatican to track and kill vampires. After clearing a nest of "goons" in the New Mexico desert, Team Crow realizes that they were unable to find the "master" vampire. That evening, while they're celebrating with tons of beer and plenty of naked hookers--all provided by the local police--the master finds them and kills them all except for Crow and Montoya (the chubbiest Baldwin, Daniel). As Crow and Montoya are running for their lives from the motel, they discover the dazed and confused Davette (Sheryl Lee) wandering the parking lot. It seems she's been bitten by the master vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), but she hasn't "turned" yet. Crow grabs her and takes her along with a brief bit of exposition about how she has a psychic link to Valek that Crow can use to find him. She spends the remainder of the movie either tied nude to a bed and getting slapped around, or tied clothed to a Jeep and getting slapped around while Woods and Baldwin wander through a lethargic plot involving Griffith's quest for a "black cross" that will allow him to walk around in the sunshine without exploding like a defective bottle rocket.

No one gets slapped around more than we, the audience. Crow is portrayed as a sadistic bastard, a part Woods could play in his sleep--and does. When he's not slamming a barbed metal spear into a vampire's chest and screaming, "DIE, GODDAMMIT!" he's alternately slapping around Lee's hooker or a young priest played by Tim Guinee. Guinee as the priest also endures jokes about homosexuality, is asked if killing vampires gives him "wood," and is tortured by Crow with a hunting knife in one of the more unpleasant movie scenes I've seen this year. Griffith, as Valek, is also a sadistic bastard, but one almost expects that from a vampire. Valek provides the movie with some gore, but in all honesty not much more than the season premiere of the X-Files, so not even gorehounds will be satisfied.

John Carpenter has evidently forgotten everything he once knew about pacing and building suspense in a horror movie. In "Halloween" and "The Thing" we see what he used to know. Here, we see the characters spending long periods doing absolutely nothing, punctuated with brief moments of intense cruelty by either the hero or the villain, then back to standing around watching grass grow for another 15 or 20 minutes. It's all pretty sad, really.

"Vampires" had trouble getting U.S. distribution, although it was released in Europe over a year ago. Now I see why. It's American box-office take dropped by almost two-thirds in it's second week of release--a sure sign of bad word-of-mouth. This movie might very well sound the death-knell for Carpenter's career as a director. And that might not be such a bad thing, after all.






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