Plot: Jack Crow (James Woods) and his crew are a wild, colorful bunch, even by vampire hunter standards. While most of the world still thinks vampires are just a folktale, Crow knows better and spends his days stalking the fanged killers. He and his squad have the best weapons, protective armor, and even the blessing of the Vatican, since their results speak for themselves. The latest hunt has been a good one, piling up the vampires, but the leader of the local vampires eluded Crow’s stakes. As he and the others celebrate with alcohol, hookers, and other fun stuff, the leader shows up at last and Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) is quite irritated. He slaughters most of those at the party, but Crow and a couple others manage to survive, including a mysterious woman, Katrina (Sheryl Lee). Now Crow and his right hand man Montoya (Daniel Baldwin) prepare for a showdown with the master vampire, but what secrets does Valek still have to spring on them and how does Katrina figure into the plan?
Entertainment Value: This is a fun one, as John Carpenter delivers a colorful, rough and tumble vampire yarn with a heavy western slant. This approach helps Vampire feel much different than its peers and while not as popular as some of his other movies, an interesting installment on Carpenter’s resume. This is a fresh take on the vampire formula and while the main narrative is familiar, it is the little twists and stylistic choices that help it stand out. James Woods as Jack Crow is not the typical vampire hunter, but he is a bad ass and his crew’s armaments are impressive, so a lot of cool gadgets and combat options are on deck. I also appreciate that the vampires aren’t refined, suave killers, but brutal savages hell bent on violence, so the clashes with Crow’s crew are kinetic and relentless. This all adds up to a welcome change of pace, as vampire films tend to blend together at a certain point and of course, a nice injection of fresh blood never hurts. As you’d expect from Carpenter, the film’s visuals are dynamic and the overall movie is quite stylish, while the cast is deep and talented. Woods has the lead, but we also have Sheryl Lee, Daniel Baldwin, Thomas Ian Griffith, and numerous others that films fans should recognize. In short, vampire cinema fans should have a blast with John Carpenter’s Vampires, but even if you think you’re over the genre, give this fresh spin a chance.
A motel party yields a few topless shots, but they’re fairly brief and part of the background activities, rather than the focus of a scene. Just one brief instance of naked flesh from our lead, as Sheryl Lee is tied to a bed and shows off her bare ass. She looks fantastic and some other alluring scenes in Vampires, but her behind is all the nudity on showcase here. Vampires isn’t scared of the red stuff, with a good amount of violence and most of it involves big gushes of crimson. The slaughter when Valek raids the motel is a lot of fun and includes some splashy slashes, decapitation, and a sequence where he basically cleaves a hunter in twain. Of course, the vampires receive a good amount of trauma as well, with various stabbings, stakings, and other violent bits, all of which have a nice flow of blood on tap. The effects are impressive, from the assorted gore to the vampire makeup work. The dialogue is a lot of fun, with James Woods as a consistent source of one liners and memorable outbursts. He really goes for broke in the role and drums home some super fun lines, but some of his costars rattle off a solid one now and then also. As for craziness, Woods adds a point or two and there are some b movie vibes at times, but overall Vampires keeps a straight face.
Overall Insanity: 2/10