John Carpenter's Vampires is one of my least favourite films in his entire body of work (and that includes Dark Star, Elvis, and Memoirs of an Invisible Man!). It's another macho buddy/action/comedy/horror flick from JC's lighthearted half; a formula I enjoyed in Big Trouble in Little China, chuckled at in They Live, and tolerated in Ghosts of Mars. In Vampires, however, James "I am fucking insane" Woods takes Carpenter's dumb script and reads it like gospel. You would think an actor showing unfaltering commitment to the material would be a good thing in a movie, but in the case of Vampires, Woods' unrelentingly grating performance drags the film into the ground kicking and screaming louder than a "suckhead" in the sun. It was with much surprise then, that I enjoyed Vampires: Los Muertos, the quickie straight to video sequel, helmed by Carpenter pal, Tommy Lee Wallace, and starring 80's panty moistener Jon Bon Jovi. Slap on a Wes Craven-esque Presents, and you even get a little marquee value from John himself.
Bon Jovi plays Derek Bliss, a "burned out" vampire slayer (is there any other kind?) who is seemingly being targeted by an ancient master (Jover, who also played the evil blonde Irish vamp in Blade) after he is ordered to gather a group of slayers to wipe out a nest in Mexico. The vampiress slaughters the slayers before Bon Jovi can give 'em a "shot through the heart" (couldn't resist), and the lone slayer is forced to try and take her out himself, with a small gang of assorted misfit types. Amongst them, the luscious Zoe (Wagner), a young woman whose been infected by a vampire, but maintains her disease with medicine she got from a Mexican pharmacy or something. When the master becomes aware that Zoe's medicine allows her to walk in the daylight, she nabs the girl's pharmaceuticals, snorts 'em up like Scarface, and becomes a daywalker!! The vamp kidnaps Zoe and Bliss and his deputized irregulars must race against the clock to kill the master and save their friend from a fate worse than death; UNDEATH!! BWHAHAHAHAHAHAH!
Okay, it's fucking stupid as all hell, I know. So why did I like it? Well, let's start with the cast. Bon Jovi is a likeable goofball, much like Scott Bakula. The singer/actor basically plays himself, but with a wooden stake instead of a silk scarf. It's funny to watch, and he's not half-bad. The supporting cast, especially the incredibly gorgeous Arly Jover, are as easy on the eyes as they are on the brain, and lend this light as a goose feather tale some ballast. The flick is also pretty damn gorey! The vamps go on some serious binges, slashing up throats, eating people's organs, and generally spilling a lot of red stuff. I was actually pretty surprised by the sheer amount of gore in the flick, but, then again, it did go straight to video, so maybe the MPAA wasn't looking.
Tommy Lee Wallace, whose worked on more of Carpenter's films than Kurt Russel, takes on directorial duties here, as he did back in early days of Carpenter's other franchise with Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Sadly, Wallace has to do without the support of Dean Cundey's cinematography, possibly the best thing about Halloween 3, and the result here is a run-of-the-mill TV quality flick. It's nothing bad, nor is it especially good. It's...just...there. Wallace also wrote the film's screenplay, and while it ain't Dickens, it's still better than Carpenter's original. The jokes are more subtle, the characters more restrained, and...well....damnit, there's no Jimmy "I need to chew some scenery now, damnit" Woods (or the fat, ugly Baldwin. Which one is he, again? Sneezy?)!
As for the DVD, well, there's nothing to speak of, other than a solid widescreen anamorphic transfer and 5.1 audio mix. There's also....errr...subtitles? Suffice it to say; Total Shit. It's a shame, because there was obviously a lot of fun had making this one, and some behind-the-scenes stuff, a commentary, or even a trailer would have at least showed this film some love. Alas; no love.
Vampires: Los Muertos is a fun brainless goof. It's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but as straight to video fare (and genre sequels, for that matter) goes, you could do much worse!