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John Carpenter's Vampires

James Woods stars as the leader of the team of vampire hunters in this action thriller, one of genre legend John Carpenter's more palatable latter efforts.

James Woods plays man's man Jack Crow, a vampire slayer who leads a contingent of Vatican-funded mercenaries in a long-waged war against the undead. Their methods are simple: find a nest, storm it during the day, stake who needs to be staked and pull the remainder out into the deadly sunlight with a harpoon winch.

After eliminating a particularly brutal nest in New Mexico, the team is attacked by Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), a vicious 600-year-old vampire who is pursuing a ritualistic cross which will give him the power to walk during the day.

John Carpenter's movies are often a western set-up applied to another genre, and Vampires is no exception. Most of the film is set in the dusty vistas of New Mexico, and Jack Cole extols the stoic values of the classic western heroes. Vampires has a cool efficiency that has come to be unfortunately lacking in much of Carpenter's later work (like say, the doggy doo that is Ghosts of Mars).

Carpenter broke onto the scene with his inventive low-budget sci-fi comedy Dark Star in 1974. He followed that up with the critically acclaimed, but decidedly off-beat siege drama Assault on Precinct 13, which established his affinity for the westerns of Howard Hawks.

But it would be Carpenter's next film that would define his career, 1978's massive horror hit Halloween. Carpenter's career kicked into full gear and throughout the 80s he made such classics as Escape from New York, The Thing, Christine, Starman and Big Trouble in Little China.

But the 90s weren't kind to Carpenter, and although he got some plum directing jobs, none of his films were met with any real critical or commercial success - Memoirs of an Invisible Man, In The Mouth of Madness and Village of the Damned.

Many thought Carpenter would bounce back with his big-budget sequel Escape from LA, but the film was not well-received. And while Vampires wasn't exactly a massive hit either, many of his fans felt it was an artistic return to form for Carpenter.

A straight-to-video sequel, Vampires: Los Meurtos, starring Jon Bon Jovi, followed in 2002. Interestingly, that film was written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who also wrote and directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a sequel to another Carpenter film.