Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Loudmouth Vampire Hunters in New Mexico, or Thoughts on John Carpenter’s Vampires

John Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite directors, along with Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Pre-Planet of the Apes (2001) Tim Burton, and Quentin Tarantino.  Current favorites lean towards Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Wes Anderson and maybe Sofia Coppola but nine times out of ten I’d rather watch an old John Carpenter movie than some overblown CGI-laden remake.
I’ve been a fan of James Woods since Videodrome (1983).  In John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) he plays Jack Crow, a two-fisted hard drinking profanity spewing vampire slayer.  Not a particularly likeable character and one of Carpenter’s weakest films, but we can’t have a Cowboy Vampire Week without discussing this movie, which also features a western guitar-heavy surprisingly non-synthesizer soundtrack by the director.  John Carpenter set out to make a contemporary western with horror elements and ended up with this glorious mess; modern cowboys riding into town fighting vampires instead of Indians in the endless highways and wide-open spaces of New Mexico.
Along with Daniel Baldwin as Alex Montoya (yeah, I don’t understand and don’t ask), James Woods takes turns chewing up scenery and shouting over each other’s lines.  They belong to an ancient order of vampire hunters sanctioned and financed by the Vatican, complete with the requisite gun fetish montage and chainmail turtlenecks.
The effects are analog and old school, which is surprising for a movie that came out the same year as The Matrix, but the lead vampire does wear long 90’s duster straight out of Neo’s wardrobe.  Journeyman character actor Mark Boone Junior from Sons of Anarchy, Memento and Batman Begins (2005) appears as one of the vampire slayers, along with Austrian acting legend Maximilian Schell as an Italian Cardinal (again, don’t ask, I told you this movie was a glorious mess).
Sheryl Lee from Twin Peaks plays Katrina, a victim with a telepathic connection to the master vampire.  There is an uncomfortable and dated misogynistic element to her treatment onscreen that seems uncharacteristic of John Carpenter.  I blame the script, but he makes up for it in his next movie, Ghosts of Mars (2001), which featured a matriarchal Mars government.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.