Sunday, October 18, 2009

Suck It! Day 18 - John Carpenter's Vampires

I know I skipped 17, but I'll get back to it. I wasn't quite prepared for what I had planned. This week I'm going to be looking at vampire films that focus on hunters and slayers. Starting with a slice of horror-master John Carpenter (best known for his masterpieces Halloween and The Thing).


So, the rough story is that Jack (James Woods) is the leader of a group of Vatican-sponsored vampire slayers. They find a nest of vampires in New Mexico and do their stake-and-bake routine, meaning that they stake the vamps, and then for good measure hook them to a wire and drag them out into the sunlight to burn to a crisp. And burn they do. None of this sparkle nonsense, they light up like gasoline on a bonfire. It's kind of beautiful. Until a super-duper master vamp (master vamps are kind of like Buffy's uber-vamps) shows up and makes with the blood and guts, killing the entire group of slayers (save two who are elsewhere), the priest who is part of their team (remember they're sponsored by the church), and everyone else hanging out with them at this hotel they've sort of commandeered.

Jack, along with the lone survivor of his team, Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and a hooker named Katrina that survived (Sheryl Lee) hit the road to try and find the master vamp, named Valek. (Valek, by the way, is played by Thomas Ian Griffith, who was the be-ponytailed villain in Karate Kid III.) Jack has learned that Valek is the first known case of vampirism and that he was accidentally made a vampire by the church in a botched exorcism. He's looking for something called the Black Cross, which will make him impervious to sunlight, in other words unstoppable.

The plot of this film is less interesting to me than its concept of vampires. The regular ones are essentially vermin, no personality or charisma, more like traditional zombies. They don't even have super strength, and crosses and garlic have no effect. Then there's this higher level of vampires, the masters, who are strong and who also have a psychic connection with the humans they bite. Then there's Valek, who's more than a master; he's the centuries-old forefather of all vampires, and his strength is unreal. He sticks his hand in a guys belly and rips up, splitting the guy right in half up the middle.

I also like the notion of the slayers, not as these special chosen people, nobly carrying out their duty, but hard-living sumbitches who suit the wild west feel of the movie rather well. I also like that the movie ends before it's really over. I mean, the Big Bad has been destroyed, but there's still a lot of slaying to do.

This is not one of the better films of all time, but it is a rather interesting take on the vampire lore and the notion of vampire slayers. Check out the trailer below.

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