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Talk about an opening. The first few minutes of John Carpenter's Vampires--in which James Woods's vampire killer leads a dawn raid on a New Mexico "goon nest" of bloodsuckers--not only suggests a horror movie that will not pull any punches, it even evokes some of the more disturbing dream-memories of American Westerns. Muscular and uncompromised, the sequence suggests a new Carpenter classic unraveling before one's eyes. Well, dream on. Things don't quite work out that way, but this is still a film to reckon with. There are a few serious (and surprising) misjudgments on the director's part, particularly a mishandling of Sheryl Lee's role as a prostitute poisoned by the bite of a "master vampire" (who pretty much wiped out Woods's team of goon terminators). But aside from some weaknesses, the action is jolting, the suggested complicity of the Catholic Church in destroying monsters is provocative, and the traces of Howard Hawks's continuing influence on Carpenter's storytelling are in evidence.

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CO03064 Vampires DVD (1998/James Woods) $14.95 $13.49