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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » John Carpenter's Vampires (Superbit Collection)
John Carpenter's Vampires (Superbit Collection)
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // August 5, 2003
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted July 31, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

This is not your conventional vampire movie. And it becomes evident in the opening scene as James Woods and his "slayer" posse tear up an abandoned New Mexico shack that's home to several unsuspecting vampires. Sure there's tons of suspense, gore, decapitation, guns, stabbing, screaming, and bad dialogue, but it's presented in a Quentin Tarantino sort of way. Director John Carpenter keeps the plot simple, and the action drawn out, in this campy horror vampire free-for-all.

As vampire movies go, I did feel John Carpenter's Vampires was a refreshing change from the usual dark and depressing blood fests we tend to see nowadays. Woods played the part of the "master slayer" excellently with a tough, yet humorous candor, and Daniel Baldwin does a fine job as well, despite getting some lousy lines.

Explaining the plot takes little time. The original Grand Master vampire is searching for the hidden legendary Catholic cross that can give him and his kind the ability to walk in daylight. Woods, along with his partner Baldwin, must find him and kill him before the vampires can become day walkers. And that's pretty much it. Nothing too complicated, but it gives Carpenter enough material to stage some pretty nasty vampire fights. And it's in the fights where the movie really gets good. This is an action movie as much as it is a horror flick, and Carpenter spins his Directorial magic with some heart pounding combat. It doesn't hurt that the musical accompaniment joins so perfectly with the flow of the movie either.

John Carpenter's Vampires is an entertaining movie that doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It's supposed to be brainless and action packed, and that's exactly what it is. And although I've never been a huge fan of vampire movies, I was able to get into this one very quickly with the steady level of action, comedy, and suspense. It's a guy film, through and through, so if that's what you're in the mood for, you'll love it.

Now as this is a superbit title, what can you expect? Well, the video transfer has its faults and can't even touch the clarity of Starship Troopers - Superbit, that I reviewed recently, but it does appear to be a very slight improvement over the original DVD release. Although, unless you're very dissatisfied with your old version, I would probably recommend passing on the superbit version, as the improvement in video doesn't jump out at you right away.


The DVD

Video:
John Capenter's Vampires is presented in roughly 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was extremely worried when the movie first started because the opening scene looked horribly grainy and fuzzy. But as the movie continued, things started to clean up a bit, although not as much as I would have liked. There was a fair amount of edge enhancement visible, as well as various film scratches and blemishes. And like the beginning, there were many scenes to follow that looked horribly grainy, and out of focus. Colors looked accurate, yet weren't overly vivid, and black levels didn't look rock solid dark, but overall the transfer is above average, just not what I have come to expect from a superbit release.

Audio:
As with all superbit titles, we get our choice of a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio tracks. And as the movie soundtrack isn't overly active, both end up sounding almost identical. Although the highs sounded a little crisper on the DTS audio track. The best part about the soundtrack is the music. And it never fails to sound great, or get you in the mood to kick some vampire butt, but the rest of the audio track is pretty subdued, as there isn't much going on in the rear surrounds. Since this is an action movie, I was expecting a little more enveloping experience that what was given. So the audio wasn't bad, but didn't' knock my socks off either.

Extras:
Superbit DVD's utilize all disc space for the sole purpose of video and audio excellence at the cost of losing space normally reserved for extra features. This ensures the highest possible quality for picture and sound currently available on the DVD format.


Final Thoughts:
John Carpenter's Vampires is a man's movie, that doesn't take a lot of thinking to fully enjoy. It's violent, corny, and full of mild offbeat humor, so if you like these kinds of movies, you'll absolutely love this film. It falls short in the video department, but it still looks decent. So let's have three cheers for brainless gore! Recommended

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