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John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998)

Dale and I watched John Carpenter’s Vampires with JP and JK last night. Wow. What to say, what to say?

The movie is #55 on the Top 70 list and any doubt I may have had about whether the list is organized by popularity versus quality have been banished. The movie is completely campy. And not in a good way. John Crow is a vampire slayer who works for the Catholic Church and leads a team of rather unremarkable men, but that’s ok because they are dispatched rather quickly. Crow and his partner, Montoya, have worked out a system whereby Crow and his team shoot vampires with arrows attached to cables and Montoya tows them out into the sun. They seem to have a priest on retainer to sign a blessing over the charred remains.

The film opens with Crow and his team clearing out a nest of vampires in a dusty house somewhere in Santa Fe. Unfortunately, they do not find the master vampire of the nest, a nagging detail that continues to occupy Crow as he and his team celebrate the success of their mission at a seedy hotel with equally seedy women. Thus we know that 1) the master vampire will come find the team and seek revenge, 2)the master vampire will probably strike while the men are all drunk and/or occupied with the hookers, and 3)only John and his partner will survive and they will vow vengeance for the slaughter of their men. And wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! One of the women, Katrina, is bitten by Valek (our ancient master vampire — he wears a black velvet trench coat. In Santa Fe. That’s how we know he’s hard core) and Crow and Montoya take her with them because she will be able to lead them to Valek. She’s also the hooker with the heart of gold so movie logic requires them to save her.

The movie goes on to use just about every vampire cliche in the book. Including the cliche of the hero saying, “All those things you’ve seen about vampires in movies? Forget ‘em!” Among these cliches are: a conspiracy between Valek and the Catholic Church, Montoya falls in love with Katrina despite his initial insistence that they stake her right away (she’s a person too, after all), a young and overly earnest priest is sent to accompany Crow, said priest eventually becomes disillusioned and jaded, Crow and Montoya display their love and deep trust for each other in various manly ways [I will hunt you down and I will kill you with my bare hands. And the girl too. (fierce hug)], Valek is actually searching for some ancient religious artifact that will allow him to walk around in the daylight thus hanging the future of the entire world in the balance, the priest is told to stay put and doesn’t, thus causing all kinds of catastrophes for our hero, etc.

James Wood is the tough-as-nails John Crow. He frequently strikes poses to make sure everyone remembers that he is tough. He also dresses like Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2. Daniel Baldwin is Montoya and he is, well, Daniel Baldwin. Sheryl Lee is Katrina but she did a better job as Laura Palmer (a body…. dead…. wrapped in plastic) in Twin Peaks. We get lots of nice shots of Crows team walking in slow motion out of the horizon:

Valek’s team of vampires does that too, although how they are able to walk around in the sunlight is anyone’s guess:

Also, the vampires all dress really cool and Crow and his team are pretty much slobs.

The sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires stars John Bon Jovi as the hero getting the team back together because of a new threat to all of humanity. It’s not on the Top 70 list, I don’t think, but I’ll watch it any way. It just better have Wanted: Dead or Alive or Blaze of Glory in the soundtrack or I will be most upset.