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VAMPIRES ($25) may not be director John Carpenter’s best film, but it is a worthwhile movie that his legions of fans are certain to want to see. Stylistically, VAMPIRES has more in common with a violent Sam Peckinpah western than it does with a typical vampire movie. VAMPIRES also contains some of the trappings of Sergio Leone, as well as being reminiscent of John Carpenter’s own ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. The plot of VAMPIRES concerns a Vatican funded group of vampire hunters who are on the trail of a master vampire in the American southwest. James Woods portrays Jack Crow, the leader of Team Crow and the man responsible for flushing out a nest of vampires.

While celebrating their latest victory, the master vampire wipes out most of Team Crow, leaving only Jack Crow and his second in command alive. Daniel Baldwin plays Montoya, the only other survivor of the massacre. Sheryl Lee is Katrina, a prostitute who survives being bitten by the master vampire. While she remains alive, Jack Crow intends to use Katrina’s psychic link to the master vampire as a compass to find and eliminate him. Thomas Ian Griffith is a formidable presence, as the master vampire Valek who is looking for a sacred relic that will allow him to exist in the daylight. The cast of VAMPIRES also includes Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee and Gregory Sierra.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made VAMPIRES available on DVD in both wide screen and full screen presentations on opposite sides of the disc. Since John Carpenter is a master of utilizing the full 2.35:1 Panavision frame, watching one of his films cropped would make for real horror. Therefore, stick with the beautiful wide screen presentation that includes the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 aspect ratio televisions. Gary B. Kibbe’s cinematography magnificently captures the dusty southwestern landscapes, giving the film that western look. The transfer is crisp and finely detailed. Even the dark sequences have startling clarity. Color reproduction is equally impressive, without a trace of chroma noise in the strongly saturated hues. Superior DVD authoring concealed almost all traces of digital compression artifacts. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is a killer. Bass reproduction is very strong, while the track offers clean precise dialogue. The soundstage is wide open and sound effects have precise placement, thanks to the discrete nature of Dolby Digital. Additionally, John Carpenter’s musical score is well mixed into the soundtrack. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack, plus a French language track. English and French subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD.

The simple interactive menus offer access to the standard scene and language selection features. Additionally, through the menus one will find a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary featuring John Carpenter. Carpenter’s talk for VAMPIRES is a bit dry, but his fans will want to listen to it.

VAMPIRES isn’t John Carpenter’s best film, but his fans are certain to want to own a copy of this great looking and sounding DVD.





DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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