SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
When it comes to John Carpenter, most folks are pretty much on the same page when it comes to his successes (Halloween, The Thing), and his failures (Village of the Damned, Ghosts of Mars). But with Vampires, the fanbase seems pretty divided; some consider it to be a return to form, others find it wholly disappointing. Hell, a buddy and I agree on every one of his movies except that one (I’m in the “disappointing” camp). Weird.
Anyway, since I didn’t care for the original, I had little interest in the direct to video followup: Vampires: Los Muertos, but when it popped up on HD cable, I figured I would take a look. And surprisingly enough, it’s not bad at all. I’d even put a notch higher than the original, if only for lowered expectations.
My biggest problem with the original was that it presented this team of badass vampire hunters... and then killed them all in the first 10 minutes. In theory, that’s fine, because you know that the bad guy is REALLY bad. But it also deflates suspense, because you know James Woods won’t die, so your only options are his partner (who got bit, so you know he’ll be around until the end to provide half-assed “emotional” plot elements), and the priest who comes for the ride. But that’s not the case here, Bon Jovi has a fellow hunter, a kid, a woman, a priest (and later another priest)... they’re all fair game.
Another problem I had was Carpenter’s laziness (or cheapness) when it came to vampire action. A lot of the setpieces, even the goddman finale, were seemingly never filmed; you see the beginning of an attack, and then it fades to later once the vampire is dead. What the fuck kind of bullshit is that? When their work was actually on screen, KNB had provided some of the best gags in their career, yet we barely ever got to see them. Again, this is improved in the sequel. The effects might not be AS good, but at least they are onscreen. There is only one ‘fade out’ bit in the entire movie, and it’s just when they are killing some sleeping vampires anyway.
Now, obviously Bon Jovi isn’t as badass as James Woods (to be fair, Woods’ “Living on a Prayer” probably fucking sucks too), but he’s OK enough as an actor to keep the movie watchable, and his “team” play nicely off one another. The only exception is Natasha Wagner as the woman who joins up with them. She’s usually OK as an actress, and she’s cute as hell, but her delivery here is awful. Everything comes off as a whiny complaint, even exposition (luckily, the dialogue in this movie isn’t 95% exposition like it was in the original). It got on my nerves after 10 minutes; by the end of the movie I wanted to smack her. They also tease a lesbian tryst with the head female vampire, but do not deliver. Weak.
One actor who DOESN’T appear is Tim Guinee, who played “Padre” in the first film (and delivered the best bad line in all of movie history: “He’ll be unstoppable... unless we stop him.”). The cable TV info thingie said he was in it, so I was pretty pissed to discover that it wasn’t the case. He is mentioned (his grave is shown but unless I missed it they don’t explain how he died or where Jack Crow went), but that’s not even remotely worth a cast listing on a TV guide onscreen prompt. I like Guinee, I wish he was in more stuff. And by more I mean any (last thing I remember him in was that canceled TV show called Strange World, though IMDb has him in Iron Man. Damned if I recognized him).
Sadly, no line of dialogue in this film comes close to the awesomeness of the “unstoppable” one, but there is a scene that comes pretty close. Bon Jovi spies a vamp getting off a bus, and he approaches him. In front of like 20 people, he and another vampire hunter shoot the guy and then cut his head off, then toss the corpse into the dumpster. The most vocal crowd response is “What’s going on?” I know whenever I see a rock star behead a guy and then toss the body into the nearest receptacle, I’m much more alarmed. I guess this kind of thing happens a lot in New Mexico. I should move there.
Anyway, there’s a third one, but Carpenter had no involvement (he exec produced this one), nor did Tommy Lee Wallace return. Speaking of Wallace – this guy is like the king of the underrated sequel (he also did Halloween III, which I love, and Fright Night 2, which I haven’t seen yet but I understand is actually quite good). I wish he had a bigger directorial career, but if nothing else, I know now not to under-estimate the guy. He managed to more or less upstage Carpenter, and that’s pretty impressive in my book.
I really should write that book. The amount of things I promise that are in it is getting pretty out of hand.
What say you?