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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

All blood, no teeth: Carpenter's new vampire film bites: Although 'Vampires' supposedly breaks from the norm, the film still winds up cliched and poorly written

Halloween is always the time when the ghouls and ghosts become Hollywood fodder. This year there has been an unusually large stable of horror flicks that have hit the movie theaters. Chuckie, the doll that wreaked havoc in the 80s, is back, and even Michael Myers of "Halloween" fame has made another appearance on the silver screen to attempt to frighten America one more time.

So its not surprising that the king of horror flicks, John Carpenter, would have another movie of screaming terror on the menu for Halloween. This time, Carpenter is delving into a genre of horror that is a favorite for many horror fans and directors -- vampires.

Vampires have captivated literature and movies for decades; so it's not surprising that Carpenter is taking a swing at the vampire tale. Unlike the rich, hedonistic tones of recent flicks like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "Interview with a Vampire," Carpenter attempts to break new frontiers for this genre with his new film, simply titled "Vampires." He fails miserably.

Carpenter is the master of horror, and in this adaptation of a screenplay by Don Jakoby, he attempts to create a world of vampires. According to the lead character, Jack Crow (James Woods), vampires don't turn into bats or flinch from holy water or perish from cloves of garlic.

These new kids on the block are supposed to be lean, mean killing machines that only respond to wooden stakes and the light of day. How is that for a twist? You might find more surprises by doing a Rubik's cube at home.

Given that these are not your supposedly run-of-the-mill group of vampires, Carpenter brings in Jack, who is a vampire hunter with a chip on his shoulder. It turns out that Jack has a family tree that swings between the world of the living and the dead, a fact that is supposed to play heavily into the movie.

Unfortunately for Jack, his father was of the undead and his mom of the living -- an unlucky combination that leaves poor Jack an orphan.

Fortunately for the world, he ends up in a Catholic orphanage where his burgeoning skills as a vampire hunter are noted by the Church.

On orders directly from the Vatican, Jack Crow and his compadres cruise the world in search of the undead.

Joining James Wood in this horror romp is Daniel Baldwin, of the Baldwin brothers fame, Sheryl Lee as Katrina "the hooker with a penchant for blood," Maximilian Schell as a sanctimonious cardinal and Tim Guinee as a young hapless priest.

This movie could have had me on the edge of my seat cringing in fear. After all, I once spent an entire viewing of "Arachnophobia" hiding behind my hat.

"Vampires" is a movie that doesn't take any risks.

It doesn't have any of the slick uses of cinematography that the first "Halloween" does, nor does it have the witty dialogue of a modern horror classic like "Scream."

Witty highlights heard from the actors include "Let's kick some vampire butt!" by Baldwin or "I was captain of my soccer team!" by the young priest, when asked if he thinks he could kill.

With "Vampires," what you see is what you get -- which isn't much. Using a classic ploy, Baldwin's love interest, Katrina, is bound to the master vampire Valek through the bite he left on her. Katrina seems to be nothing more than a whipping girl in this flick.

As the film progresses, Jack and his diminished gang of hunters race against Valek and his band of the undead to find a sacred cross that can allow the vampires live in the daylight. You can guess who finds it first.

Thrown into the mix is Crow's silly belief he has been set up by the Vatican after a failed raid for vampires in a Southwestern house. This is supposed to create an aura of paranoia, but simply falls flat.

While Wood is an enjoyable action figure to watch waging battle against the blood thirsty vamps, the weak and stagnant dialogue between characters leaves viewers disappointed and wondering what they spent their money on.

The movie has cheap effects that a kid could come up with in the backyard. Add to that a weak plot that is based on the misjudged notion that slapping around a priest and a whore creates a quality flick.

This film is so bad, I couldn't help but laugh at the really stagnant and cliche dialogue, and neither could the rest of the audience.

The violence in the movie is irrelevant, like a really bad Penn and Teller show.

If you're looking for a horror movie that is going to chill your spine and have you say your prayers at night, "Vampires" isn't your best bet.

Carpenter has made some masterpieces in his time, but this will not be joining the ranks of them.

If anything, see "Vampires" with a twisted sense of humor, and you might just find yourself laughing at the dubious dialogue and story line.

"Blade," this year's other vampire flick, is a better choice.