John Carpenter’s Vampires
and the Lost Boys
John Carpenter’s ‘Vampires’ is a horror film from 1998, described on Wikipedia as an American independent neo-Western action horror film.
And it is. It totally is.
John Carpenter is generally recognized as one of the greatest masters of the horror genre. He was lauded as “a creative genius of raw, fantastic, and spectacular emotions”, by the French Directors’ Guild during the Cannes 2019 Film Festival.
In his film ‘Vampires’ James Woods stars as Jack Crow. The plot is centered on Crow’s efforts to prevent a centuries-old cross from falling into the hands of Jan Valek (a reference to Valac, played by Thomas Ian Griffith) , the first and most powerful of all vampires. The film also stars Daniel Baldwin as Tony Montoya, Crow’s best friend and fellow hunter; Sheryl Lee as Katrina, a prostitute who has a psychic link to Valek after being bitten.
Jack Crow leads his team of Vatican-sponsored vampire hunters in a daylight raid on an abandoned house in New Mexico. Finding a ‘nest’ of vampires, the team subdue the creatures with gunfire, pikes, and wooden stakes, using a modified crossbow attached to a mechanical winch to pull them outside, where they are incinerated by sunlight. Despite disposing of nine ‘goons’, Jack is concerned about not having found their older, more powerful ‘master’.
While the team drunkenly celebrates with prostitutes at a local motel, the master vampire Valek arrives and bites one of the prostitutes, Katrina, initiating her transformation into a vampire. He swiftly murders the hunters, with only Crow and his trusted lieutenant Tony Montoya escaping alive with Katrina. Disturbed that Valek recognized him by name, Crow orders Montoya to lay low with Katrina, hoping to use her growing psychic link with Valek to track him down.
Guarding Katrina at a hotel, Montoya explains the changes she is experiencing. Horrified, she attempts suicide and bites Montoya when he rescues her, which he hides from Crow and Guiteau when they arrive. Crow decides to pursue Valek without gathering a new team, and Katrina is linked with Valek when he questions and kills a priest. Sensing Guiteau is hiding something, Crow threatens him, recounting that he killed his own father for being bitten by a vampire and killing Jack’s mother in front of him. Guiteau reveals that Valek is seeking an ancient relic, the “Black Cross” of Berziers, and Crow welcomes him to the team as his new slayer.
Using Katrina’s psychic link, Jack, Montoya, and Guiteau learn that Valek has roused seven additional masters. They follow the vampires to a Spanish mission, where Valek has slaughtered the monks and seized the cross. Guiteau realizes that Valek plans to complete his own exorcism, making him immune to sunlight and virtually unstoppable. Searching a nearby abandoned town, they suspect at least thirty new goons have been transformed. Guiteau volunteers as ‘bait’ for the masters, allowing Jack to harpoon them and Montoya to drag them into sunlight. While they manage to kill most of his lieutenants, Valek and his undead army overwhelm them at sundown; Crow is captured, Guiteau takes cover, and Montoya and Katrina flee, only for her to fully transform and bite Montoya on the throat before joining Valek.
Cardinal Alba reveals himself as Valek’s ally; having grown to fear death, he has agreed to help Valek recreate the original ritual in exchange for becoming a vampire himself. The ritual requires the participation of a priest, and the blood and crucifixion of a “crusader” — Jack. Guiteau kills Alba before he can complete the ritual and holds off the vampire horde by threatening to kill himself and leave Valek without a priest. Montoya and Guiteau rescue Crow as the sun rises, and Crow confronts Valek, impaling him with the Berziers cross and destroying him in daylight.
Guiteau and Crow prepare to slay Montoya and Katrina, knowing their transformations are irreversible; however, to repay Montoya’s two days of loyalty after being bitten, Crow grants them a two-day head start. As Montoya and Katrina depart, Jack and Guiteau head off to kill the remaining vampires.
Valac is a demon mentioned in the goetic grimoires ‘The Lesser Key of Solomon’ as an angelically winged boy riding a two-headed dragon, attributed with the power of finding treasures.
… and the Lost Boys
‘The Lost Boys’ is a 1987 American supernatural black-comedy horror film directed by Joel Schumacher. The title is a reference to the Peter Pan and Neverland stories, who, like vampires, never grow up.
The film was produced by Warner Bros Pictures on July 31, 1987 and was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $32 million against a production budget of $8.5 million.
Plot: Michael Emerson and his younger brother Sam move with their recently divorced mother Lucy to the fictional small beach town of Santa Carla, California, to live with her eccentric father, Michael and Sam’s grandfather.
Michael becomes fascinated by Star, a beautiful girl he spots on the boardwalk, though she seems to be with the mysterious David Powers, the leader of a youth biker gang. In the local comic book store, Sam meets brothers Edgar and Alan Frog, a pair of self-proclaimed vampire hunters. They give Sam horror comics to teach him about the undead threat they claim has infiltrated the town.
Through Star, Michael is drawn into the orbit of David’s motorcycle gang. They challenge him with several tests of courage and soon offer him initiation into the gang. During a meal in their hangout, an abandoned luxury hotel sunken beneath the cliff by the 1906 earthquake, Star warns Michael not to drink from an offered bottle, warning it is blood, but he ignores her advice. Soon thereafter, Michael begins to undergo a change; his eyes are sensitive to sunlight, the smell of food revolts him, and his reflection becomes partly transparent. He develops a craving for blood and attempts to attack his brother Sam, but is stopped by Sam’s dog Nanook.
Sam is initially terrified, but Michael convinces him that he is not yet a vampire and desperately needs his help. Sam deduces that, as Michael has not yet killed, he is a “half-vampire” and his condition is reversible upon the head vampire’s death. Sam and the Frog Brothers initially suspect Max of being the head vampire but after he passes their “tests” they focus on David.
David tries to provoke Michael into killing but Michael repeatedly refuses. Star reveals that she and Laddie, the youngest of the gang, are also still partly human and that David had intended for Michael to be Star’s first kill, sealing her fate as a vampire.
Michael leads Sam and the Frog Brothers to the gang’s lair. They impale one vampire, Marko Thompson, with a stake, awakening David and the others, but the boys escape, rescuing Star and Laddie. Realizing the gang will come after them that night, the teens arm themselves with holy-water-filled water guns, a longbow and wooden stakes barricading themselves in the house. When night falls, David’s gang attacks. The Frog Brothers, Sam, and Nanook take out two of the gang while Michael and David battle each other. David is impaled, but there is no change in Michael, Star, or Laddie, forcing the group to conclude they still have not accounted for the master vampire…
Amongst the carnage and debris, Grandpa casually retrieves a drink from the refrigerator and declares: “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach: all the damn vampires.”
It won a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1987.
The novelization was released in paperback by Berkley Publishing and is 220 pages long. It includes several scenes later dropped from the film, such as Michael working as a trash collector for money to buy his leather jacket. It expands the roles of the opposing gang, the Surf Nazis, who were seen as nameless victims of the vampires in the film. It also includes several tidbits of vampire lore, such as not being able to cross running water and salt sticking to their forms.
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