Worth A Look: 29.66%
Pretty Bad: 21.19%
Total Crap: 19.49%
10 reviews, 58 user ratings
by Ryan Arthur
A disappointment, to say the least.I was so looking forward to this film, and believe me, that's saying a lot.
"How do you like your stake?"
Scream brought horror movies back to the mainstream. Regardless of how you feel about that film, it was beneficial to the genre as a whole.
I've never been a horror buff. It's never been my cup of tea, really. I liked Scream, and that's about it. I'm more into the psychological thriller types - the Silence Of The Lambs kind - than I am the out-and-out gore. I thought I Know What You Did Last Summer blew ass and moved the genre back a step.
Despite my indifference to horror, I'm something of a John Carpenter fan. He's been kind of spotty (Memoirs Of An Invisible Man? Escape From LA), but mostly he's good at what he does. I liked They Live and Big Trouble In Little China, for crying out loud, two of the cheesiest cheese films out there. But they were cool. Which is why I was looking forward to this film.
And something just wasn't quite right.
Here's the plot: a group of Vatican sanctioned vampire hunters searches the southwest for nests, busting in and killing bloodsuckers. The hunters are led by Jack Crow (James Woods, going full on badass), whose parents were bitten by vampires when he was younger. One night, after having his nest cleaned out, a master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) storms the hunters' hotel and lays waste, killing everyone except for Crow, his partner Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), and a hooker named Katrina (Sheryl Lee), whom he bites anyway. Crow says they were set up, and he plans to go out and kill the master, using the soon-to-turn into a vampire Katrina as bait. Since she's been bitten, she'll have a psychic link with the big guy. Crow's superior (Maximilian Schell) sends a young priest (Tim Guinee) to keep an eye on Crow and help out. Meanwhile, Valek's looking for a "black cross" which will help him become the first vampire to be able to walk in daylight.
What could've been good - could've been great - falls into predictability and would-be surprises that either don't make sense or have no shock value.
We're treated to some tricky vampire fighting techniques. Early on, a character gets bitten. The actual transformation to a vampire doesn't take place until after 48 hours after the bite. The character cauterizes the wound (apparently) using a lighter. Later in the film, the character's bitten again, and again cauterizes the wound (it's a different spot), but announces he's going to change anyway.
There's the matter of the doublecross. When only Crow, Montoya, their superior and a priest survive, you know one of them did it, and when one of those characters is played by a well-known actor playing the heavy, then you know for certain. There's no surprise there. The moment you see the doublecrosser on screen, you just know, and you're waiting for the film's climax for the character to show up again (which does happen).
There's also the prerequisite barely there effects (anyone remember that lame computer generated wave from Escape From LA?). With a $20 million dollar budget, I expected more than cutaway shots of mannequins catching fire or crashing to the ground while strapped to a cross, but that was what I got.
I'll also mention the film having a really nasty misogynistic streak to it, too (Sheryl Lee bears the brunt of it), which kinda bugged me.
Thankfully, the obvious lame one-liners were kept to a minimum, but the ones that were there all came from the Baldwin, who annoyed the hell out of me. But that could've been just because he's a Baldwin.
Despite the negatives, I didn't hate this film. James Woods was one of the better dark heroes of the last few years (and this is probably his best performance in a long, long time), and Thomas Ian Griffith pretty much ruled as Valek. I even liked Guinee as the young priest. The score (composed by Carpenter, as is the case with most of his movies) was outstanding.
It's just not enough, though.It could've been worse, but it could've been sooo much better.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=358&reviewer=7
originally posted: 11/03/98 02:09:53