John Carpenter's Vampires (Collector's Edition)Overview -
James Woods stabs some bloodsuckers and cracks wise in John Carpenter's Vampires. Featuring a terrific cast, great practical effects, and awesome energy - 20 years later this film has plenty of bite and chalks up some great entertainment value. Scream Factory maintains the same great A/V presentation as the 2015 Blu-ray release but gives this new disc some extra sharp teeth with a terrific assortment of new and archival bonus features. If you already had the previous release it may not be 100% worth the upgrade, but if you missed the last disc before it sold out or just really need to have every Carpenter flick, this new Collector's Edition comes Recommended.
"Forget everything you've ever heard about vampires," warns Jack Crow (James Woods), the leader of Team Crow, a relentless group of mercenary vampire slayers. When Master Vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) decimates Jack's entire team, Crow and the sole team survivor, Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), set out in pursuit. Breaking all the rules, Crow and Montoya take one of Valek's victims hostage – a beautiful but unlucky prostitute (Sheryl Lee). She is the sole psychic link to Valek and they use her to track down the leader of the undead. As Valek nears the climax of his 600-year search for the Berziers Cross, Jack and the new Team Crow do everything possible to prevent him from possessing the only thing that can grant him and all the vampires the omnipotent power to walk the world in daylight.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
"And they don't sleep in coffins lined in taffeta. You wanna kill one, you drive a wooden stake right through his ****in' heart. Sunlight turns 'em into crispy critters."
Man, 1998 seems so long ago now and yet I remember going to see John Carpenter's Vampires with my Dad opening night like it was yesterday. The theater we'd hit for the "BIG" movies that had the nice seats and big screens was being renovated at that time. Not even hot fresh delicious buttery popcorn could cover up the smell of epoxy glue and new carpet. The place reeked. We almost missed the start of the movie because my damn shoes got glued to the floor! I had to take them off, rip them off the tile, and then walk into the cold theater in my socks. Bad smell and glue-covered shoes weren't enough to stop us from enjoying the hell out of this movie! My Dad and I still find the time to pull this one out every few years or so and love every viewing. With this new release - we've got another excuse to watch John Carpenter play with a western and James Woods play a smartass anti-hero.
For a longer review of John Carpenter's Vampires - read my review of the 2015 Twilight Time Release.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Scream Factory gives John Carpenter's Vampires its second spin on Blu-ray in a single-disc Collector's Edition release. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case with identical slipcover art and reversible internal art reflecting the original poster artwork. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
This 2019 release of John Carpenter's Vampires rolls the same strong 2.39:1 1080p transfer from the Twilight Time 2015 release. This is still a great-looking transfer and far better than the original problematic French release from 2010. I don't know the scan resolution, regardless there is a healthy grain presence giving the image a nice film-like appearance. Details still look their best in middle and close up shots with wide shots looking a bit on the softer side of the spectrum. That red/amber western Gary Kibbe cinematography is still beautiful stuff allowing for black levels and shadows to have a nice deep inky presence with nice depth.
Could this transfer have been upgraded with a new 4K scan? Yeah probably, I'd love to see this movie in full native 4K UHD with HDR10 or Dolby Vision for all of those desert sequences -- we probably will at some point. Either way, this is still damn good and it's nice to see the film in great shape without any signs of grit or speckling with appropriate black levels.
Like the 2015 release, Scream Factory recycles the same two audio mixes. Depending on your setup you get to rock out to a pretty damn good DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix and a rumbling rolling DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. When I first reviewed these tracks I was over the moon for them. Today I don't see any reason to drastically change my score. Of the two, the 5.1 mix is the clean and clear winner with a much more dynamic audio presence.
With DTS Neural:X turned on it really gets the blood pumping! That first attack sequence was just awesome how it moves from creepy windswept quite to an all-out warzone. Those surrounds are almost constantly engaged and heightened by Carpenter's moody score, intense gunfire, and the explosions of vampires burning in the sun. All of these elements get so much more life with the 5.1 mix than the 2.0 track. At this point that 2.0 track really is only any good if you have a low-end soundbar or still watch movies on your computer. Dialogue for both tracks is clean and clear. No hiss (that aren't from vampires), no pops. It's a great audio mix.
Where this Scream Factory release dominates and proves its worth is in the bonus features department. There are a ton of new interview materials with cast and crew. The James Woods interview is a great highlight. I knew he really enjoyed making the movie, but it's cool to see that 20 years later he still has such fond memories. Same for the Tim Guinee and Thomas Ian Griffith interviews - it'd been great to get these guys in a room together to chat about the old times, but these separate interviews do just fine. Also, any Greg Nicotero interview is great if you want a behind the scenes look at how to bring physical creature effects to life!
Audio Commentary - Vintage Audio Commentary featuring John Carpenter
Isolated Score - Chill out to the smooth grooves of Carpenter's tunes.
NEW Time to Kill Some Vampires (HD 12:25) Interviews with John Carpenter, Sandy King Carpenter, and Gary Kibbe
NEW Jack The Vampire Slayer (HD 22:18) Interview with James Woods
NEW The First Vampire (HD 9:38) Interview with Thomas Ian Griffith
NEW Raising the Stakes (HD 10:20 ) Interview with Greg Nicotero
NEW Padre (HD 12:45) Interview with Tim Guinee)
Original Making-Of (SD 23:41)
Theatrical (HD 2:06)
20+ years after its theatrical release, John Carpenter's Vampires is still a kick-ass flick. Sure, it's not the man's best work, but it's far from his worst. It's an entertaining rollercoaster blend of western, horror, and action genres. It's the last Carpenter movie that felt like it had an energy and purpose to it and it makes one wish the master was still working behind the camera. At least he's scoring movies again so I'll take what I can get.
Scream Factory gives fans reason to take another look at John Carpenter's Vampires on Blu-ray with a new Collector's Edition release that features the same solid A/V presentation as the 2015 release but gives the flick its due respect in the bonus features department collecting a host of new interviews with all of the old archival bonus features -- including the excellent isolated score! If you missed out on the last disc, this is a no brainer. If you're a fan and completionist, this new release of John Carpenter's Vampires is Recommended.
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