directed by John Carpenter
(Columbia, 1998)

John Steakley's 1992 novel Vampire$ (read the review) took a fresh, hard-edged look at vampire mythology. John Carpenter's 1998 movie Vampires manages to strip away most of what made the book exciting, leaving only tiresome violence and gore.

Carpenter and screenwriter Don Jakoby kept only enough of the book to use the title and a few character names, I suppose. Several of the most interesting characters were deleted entirely; others are dramatically rewritten to suit a different mold. In the process, the emotional connections are lost, the sense of teamwork, strategy and mission are discarded. The soulless film that remains is another nail in the coffin of the vampire genre.

The movie stars James Woods as gritty team leader Jack Crow. Daniel Baldwin is his right-hand, Montoya, while Tim Guinee rounds out the shattered team as novice slayer and bookish priest Adam Guiteau. Their nemesis is 600-year-old vampire master Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith). Sheryl Lee is the hooker/vampire Katrina.

The limited special effects -- primarily the immolation of vampires dragged kicking into the sun -- are sub-par. Costuming assumes that most underling vampires trade their funeral garb for dusty beige uniforms. And the action becomes surprisingly dull, limited to vampires decapitating victims (they rarely seem to just bite anyone any more) and heroes harpooning vampires and dragging them outside for a tan. The first time it was cool; by the 10th it was tiresome. And they still weren't done.

If you enjoy a basic vampire bloodfest, this one will satisfy. If you want any kind of depth, character development or plot, read the book.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 15 February 2003

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