“John Carpenter’s Vampires” (1998)

“John Carpenter’s Vampires,” centers on a group of vampire slayers. The leader of the slayers, is the leather jacket clad, cigar smoking, tough minded, Jack Crow. The character is portrayed by Oscar nominee, and Emmy and Golden Globe winner James Woods (Promise). During the day, Crow and his slayers are on the hunt for nests, where the vampires are holed up. The slayers are comprised of hard edged men, who are serious about their work, and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. The group of slayers also comes with a Vatican sanctioned priest, who accompanies them on all of their missions. (As an aside: Actor Mark Boone Junior, who plays Catlin in the movie, should be known to fans of the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.” He played Bobby Munson on the show. In addition, fans of “Sanford and Son,” as well as, “Barney Miller,” should recognize Gregory Sierra, in the role of Father Giovanni).  

In the opening scene, Crow and his slayers destroy a nest of vampires, minus their master. They celebrate with liquor and escorts at The Sun-God Motel. They’re all feeling good as they revel in their victory. Unbeknownst to them, however, the master of the nest, Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), has come to avenge those that they killed. Valek goes about thoroughly destroying each of the slayers. The only survivors of his attack are Crow, his long time sidekick Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and Katrina (Sheryl Lee). She is an escort who Valek bit on the thigh, but did not kill. Crow and Montoya take Katrina and flee. A chase ensues, but the trio manage to lose the seemingly all powerful vampire.

Crow is angered. He believes, the slayers were set up to be killed, especially since Valek used his name. Even though she has been bitten, Katrina hasn’t yet turned into a vampire. Crow and Montoya decide to keep her as bait. Furthermore, since Valek is Katrina’s master, they want to exploit the psychic connection that will inevitably be established between the two of them, in order to more efficiently hunt Valek.    

A short while after the horrific incident at the motel, Crow goes in search of his stateside contact from the Vatican. Cardinal Alba, portrayed by Oscar winner Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg), enlightens him as to who Valek is, an over six hundred year old vampire. In fact, Alba informs Crow, Valek is the first and most powerful vampire that ever existed. Alba wants Crow to build a new team of slayers to go after Valek. In addition, he wants Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee), a Vatican historian, to accompany him. Crow has no patience for either. As Crow will soon learn, there is more to the story than Alba and Father Guiteau are letting on. Can Valek be stopped? That will be determined by the end of the movie.

The film was directed by John Carpenter (Halloween). The screenplay was written by Don Jakoby (The Philadelphia Experiment), based off of the novel “Vampires”  by John Steakley. The novel was published by Roc Books on November 3, 1990. Credit to the special effects and makeup department for doing their best with a budget that was reduced by two thirds, before filming began. Among those who worked on makeup and special effects were Oscar winner Howard Berger (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe); Robert Kurtzman (From Dusk Till Dawn), and BAFTA and four time Emmy winner Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead). The music composed by John Carpenter, helps to heighten the tension, and up the action factor of many a frenetic scene. The film premiered in France on April 15, 1998. Parts action, horror, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 108 minutes.

Trivia buffs take note: John Carpenter’s first choice to play the role of Crow was Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Kurt Russell (Elvis). Russell turned the part down because he had prior commitments. Furthermore, Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead), was Carpenter’s first choice to play Montoya. Film critic Gene Siskel thought highly enough of James Woods’ performance in the movie, that he felt Woods deserved to be nominated for an Oscar. At the time, Siskel stated the reason was because it was such a complete departure from the types of roles Woods had been cast in throughout his career. Prior to filming “Vampires” John Carpenter contemplated retiring from directing. He felt burned out, because at the time, a number of his more recent movies which preceded “Vampires” had been critical and commercial failures. Once he was able to make what he dubbed his horror-western hybrid, it reinvigorated him to give directing another shot.


The vampires in the film are not traditional like Dracula, nor are they quick witted, romantic, or brooding, like various other screen and television incarnations of the undead. Carpenter’s intention, and he succeeded, was to make the vampires in the film come across as feral animals, with an insatiable bloodlust. There is a good deal of action. This is the sort of film where the gore is shown during the kills, not just implied. The filmmakers add their own twist on vampire lore, which explains the reason for the carnage that Valek is unleashing. Overall, an entertaining addition to the vampire cinematic mythos.                                                                                                                                       


About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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5 Responses to “John Carpenter’s Vampires” (1998)

  1. filmmiasma says:

    Oh wow – I saw this in the theater so long ago. I remember really liking it for the most part – I’ll have to go watch this again. Good one!

  2. le0pard13 says:

    Oh, if only Kurt had done this! Love all of their collaborations, and this would have been another gem, no doubt. And maybe, the tandem would have voiced another of legendary commentary tracks* for the home market. If you’ve not heard them doing one, run, don’t walk, to tee one of theirs up. You won’t be disappointed, Jonathan.

    Fine review. Thanks.

    * Only Escape From L.A. from their pairings doesn’t have one

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I agree with you, I am sure if Kurt had been able to do the film, it would’ve another excellent teaming of star and director.

      Thank you for letting me know about the commentary tracks. I haven’t heard any of them, but I am going to change that, thanks to your recommendation. I am sure if you’re recommending them, I won’t be disappointed

      Thank you very much for commenting. .

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