Carpenter followed up Escape From L.A. with a foray into traditional monsters with Vampires. James Woods plays the Vatican’s lead Slayer Jack Crow. Crow leads an elite team of vampire hunters. They are a rough bunch who believe God exists…but they think He is a bastard. Crow believes in his work, but is tired of the Church. After a productive day of vampire hunting, the group celebrates with hard drinking and prostitutes. But they are surprised by the Master Vampire. He slaughters the Slayers, leaving only Jack and Anthony (Daniel Baldwin). Crow and Anthony discover a young woman named Katrina was bitten by the Master before he went on the Killing spree. They decide to use her to track the Master.
The two are saddled with a Priest to represent the Vatican’s interests. This actually helps, as it gives Crow a chance to explain how things work in the world of Carpenter’s Vampires. Crosses, Holy Water don’t work. Just a stake through the heart and sunlight. This is not like Blade (which came out the same year) where the vampires are a natural occurrence. The Vampires here are decidedly supernatural. The end result of an exorcism gone wrong, the Master now seeks the Black Cross, which will help him become more powerful and survive stuff like sunlight.
Probably one of the more interesting things about the film is the Vatican connection. Unlike Prince of Darkness, which had an “Everything you know is wrong” approach, it is the Vatican has kept the existence of vampires a secret. Woods is perfectly good as the cranky and revenge driven Crow. As blue caller Slayer Anthony Montoya, Baldwin has a likeable charm. Tim Guinee’s Father Adam is likable as an enthusiastic wannabe Slayer.
In all of this, the part that does not work is the design for the Master. He is not going t stand out in a lineup. He is kind of dull, both in character and appearance.
Honestly, Vampires feels like the beginning of a decline for Carpenter.