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John Carpenter's Vampire

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Self-aware rather than simply clever, and as earnest as it is tongue-in-cheek, this playfully gruesome vampire western may be the only movie I've seen that has a good reason for including the director's name in the title. Jack Crow (James Woods) is a dedicated vampire slayer whose team of experts includes Daniel Baldwin as the operator of a winch used to haul vampires into the sunlight. After a nasty master vampire (Thomas Ian Griffith) nearly wipes out the crusty good guys, Crow becomes convinced they've been set up and accuses his employers of suppressing intelligence. Intrigued by masculinity and the nature of male relationships, Crow muses incessantly about a connection between violence and sexuality, half knowingly fulfilling movie stereotypes with his adolescent patter. And he's so obviously both a Christ figure and a stand-in for legendary horror director John Carpenter (Halloween) that the symbolism becomes drily humorous instead of grandiose. With a distinctively middle-aged zest, Carpenter retools even the hopeless cliche requiring action heroes to spout bad puns while dispatching bad guys; his eminently stylish movie proves that new blood can flow from an old vein. Don Jakoby adapted John Steakley's novel Vampire$; with Sheryl Lee, Tim Guinee, and Maximilian Schell. For another point of view, see Jonathan Rosenbaum's capsule in these listings. Chatham 14, Ford City, Golf Glen, Norridge, Plaza, Water Tower, Webster Place. --Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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