John Carpenter’s Vampires

The putative setting is New Mexico, but this is basically Kentucky-style ethnic cleansing that harks back to mountain feuds like the McCoys versus the Hatfields. Strictly 90s are the nonstop gore and the unpleasantness of all the characters. Adapted by Don Jakoby from John Steakley’s novel Vampire$, this dull splatterfest (1998) follows an exceptionally mean and single-minded vampire slayer (James Woods) who heads a team of Vatican mercenaries bent on finding and destroying a 600-year-old vampire priest (Thomas Ian Griffith) and not caring much who gets mauled in the process. Apart from the bitter glee of the anti-Catholic asides and the obligatory nods to Howard Hawks, the nastiness of the good guys is so unrelentingit extends even to Daniel Baldwin, who plays Smiley Burnette to Woods’s Gene Autrythat I was rooting for the vampires, albeit without much enthusiasm. It’s hard to be on anyone’s side when the genocidal fervor is so dogged and dehumanizing that characterization scarcely exists and the closest thing to wit is an epithet directed at a woman stabbed in the heart: How d’ya like your stake, bitch? (JR)

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