The Defiled Bunch: John Carpenter’s Vampires
Vampires have been done to death on the screen, even as late as 1997, when action-horrormeister John Carpenter turned his attention to the realm of the undead. Unlike today’s metrosexual, dreamily hunky and runway model-stunning bloodsuckers whose TV and big-screen exploits are elaborate tentpole affairs, his would be the diseased, desiccated subhuman vermin of old. He didn’t have a huge budget for special effects, so he decided to make a “Western” that would focus on the vampire slayers, professionals at their trade like the lawmen, mercenaries or bounty hunters of Howard Hawks or Sam Peckinpah movies. Thus John Carpenter’s Vampires is succinctly and perfectly described as The Wild Bunch meets Nosferatu. The dirty business of vampire elimination is carried out by the Vatican-sanctioned version of a sleazily elite SWAT-like A-team headed by hard-bitten veteran Jack Crow, ebulliently played by James Woods. The bounty that these hunters seek to secure is a long-hidden relic that in the wrong hands, i.e., those of Lord of the Vampires Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), could allow the nocturnal creatures to function in daylight, thereby dooming humanity. No Western ever had higher stakes, and few horror epics have been so long awaited to sink their 1080p fangs into the collections of genre aficionados than this one. Derived from a recent Sony Pictures 4K restoration and featuring the director (and score composer) on an audio commentary, John Carpenter’s Vampires comes to hi-def Blu-ray from Twilight Time on October 13; pre-orders open on September 30.