The hero of John Carpenter's Vampires is Jack Crow (James Woods), a "slayer", raised by the Catholic church, who leads a team of mercenaries to find and destroy vampiric infestations throughout the world. His current stomping grounds are in New Mexico, which also happens to be the current home of one Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), a master vampire who may be the very first one.
The only link Crow, and his chief sidekick Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), have to find Valek is a prostitute named Katrina (Sheryl Lee). Katrina was bitten by Valek, and has a telepathic link to her new master. The trouble is, in just a few days, Katrina will become a vampire herself.
So, Crow and Montoya, teaming with a novice Vatican scholar, Father Giovanni (Gregory Sierra), have little time to track down their most powerful foe ever. Meanwhile, Valek has plans of his own, both for Jack Crow, and his own personal quest for invulnerability.
Unlike in Blade, where vampires were easier to kill than ants with a magnifying glass...the pests in John Carpenter's Vampires are stubborn little suckers. There's probably one too many scenes of a human repeatedly pounding a stake into a vampire's chest, shouting "Die! Die! Die!", but at least there's a sense of accomplishment.
Carpenter is able to whip up a few good scares and a couple suspenseful sequences (most of which involve entering sleeping vampire nests). But, most of the time, there's a sense of overkill. By the time the film's implausible climax rolls around, you've definitely had your fill of flashing teeth, wooden stakes, and vampires bursting into flames.
The characters in John Carpenter's Vampires are predictably shallow. Still, James Woods is cast as the right type as the tough talking, tough acting hero. Daniel Baldwin isn't as lucky, stuck as the stupidly foolish sidekick. At least Sheryl Lee gets to show a little range, displaying the gamut of emotions from ecstasy to rage to terror and back again.
The plot of the film holds little mystery. (If you can't figure out all the crucial plot questions by the end of the first reel, you haven't seen many movies.) Still, it gets you from site A to site B with a minimum of fuss. And, since the strength of this movie is in its "hunting" scenes, the less between them, the better.
For sheer entertainment, Blade still holds a considerable edge over John Carpenter's Vampires. However, if you're just looking for a few good thrills, this one is certainly better than many recent horror films out there.
[R - Strong vampire violence and gore, language and sexuality] (Sony)