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Vampires
cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Maximilian Schell

director: John Carpenter

103 minutes (18) 1998
Columbia Tristar DVD retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
James Woods gets a rare chance to play action hero here, as a slayer employed by the Vatican to exterminate vampires across America. The southwest setting for this horror thriller recalls Near Dark and From Dusk Till Dawn, but despite the best efforts of all concerned, this comes in third place - way behind the genre entries cited above. I wouldn't dismiss the film outright, though (as some critics have done), because it really does have a number of great scenes. The opening raid on a ramshackle vampire nest cleverly mimics the elegiac tracking shots and jarring crosscuts of the classic spaghetti horse operas, while the king vampire's superhuman powers, and a spirited performance by Sheryl Lee (as a prostitute victim, psychically tuned in to her bloodsucking master), provide requisite chills and sex appeal for anyone unversed in the offbeat range of filmic traditions which Carpenter plunders here.
   Like the evil threat to modern society of TV's Ultravoilet, the vampires of this film explode most satisfyingly when dragged kicking and screaming into sunlight, and as few (if any) of the other familiar methods of despatch are reliable, there's a whole lot of burning going on. As with many of this director's supernatural horror outings, confrontations with the movie's monsters typically result in the unlikely or - as in this case - outlaw heroes getting just as blood-drenched as their mortal enemies. Do see this, by all means, just don't expect too much from it.
   DVD extras: well above average! A choice of English or Spanish soundtracks, subtitles in nine languages, US trailer, filmographies, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a wry commentary by the director.

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