26 Years Later, Forgotten John Carpenter's Western Finally Drops on Netflix

26 Years Later, Forgotten John Carpenter's Western Finally Drops on Netflix
Image credit: Legion-Media

If you're a fan of vampire movies, John Carpenter, or anything quintessentially '90s, this is a must-see.


  • Released in 1998, this movie received mixed reviews.
  • It was a new take on the genre, but unmistakably a John Carpenter flick.
  • Over a quarter of a century later, it's finally available to stream on Netflix.

Vampires was a neo-western action horror film released in 1998 to mixed reviews. Starring James Woods and directed by John Carpenter, it was an adaptation of John Steakley's 1990 novel Vampire$.

It's now available on Netflix.

What’s the film about?

As the name suggests, it's a movie about vampires. James Woods plays Jack Crow, the leader of a team of vampire hunters authorized and run by the Vatican. Crow's parents were killed by vampires, so he was raised by the Catholic Church, which prepared him to take on the role of Master Slayer as an adult.

It begins with Crow and his team raiding a house being used as a "nest" by vampires. They successfully eliminate all the vampires present. But the leader, Valek, is not there.

With their mission unfinished, the team leaves to celebrate their partial success at a bar with a group of prostitutes (it is unclear if this is sanctioned by the Vatican). During the evening, Valek shows up and kills most of the team. Only Crow and his right-hand man, Tony Montoya, survive.

One of the prostitutes, Katrina, also survives, but she was bitten by Valek and is now destined to become a vampire. However, since she is psychically connected to Valek, she is also Crow's best hope of tracking him down.

As the scene is set, it becomes clear that Valek is intent on obtaining the Black Cross of Berziers, which will allow him to become invincible. This raises the threat level, resulting in Crow and Montoya being granted additional, powerful Vatican resources as they attempt to stop Valek.

Why were reviews mixed?

It's the kind of movie that was always going to get mixed reviews. With a budget of $20 million, it wasn't cheap to produce, but it wasn't one of the most expensive productions either.

Dolph Lundgren turned down the opportunity to play Valek, the role went to Thomas Ian Griffiths (who played Terry Silver in Karate Kid Part III and Cobra Kai). Without being disrespectful, this explains the level of star power the movie was able to attract.

Put those two together with the fact that it was a slightly different take on the genre and you can see why it had the potential to go either way. Vampires could have been great, it could have been a cult classic or, as it turned out, it could simply be a movie that divided opinion. Some found it too wacky to be taken seriously, while others found it not quite silly enough to achieve cult status.

Is it worth watching?

If you're a fan of the genre (or of John Carpenter), it's definitely worth a try. It offers some interesting new elements to both vampire movies and neo-westerns, and has the trademark Carpenter gore. It's also a great example of how directors were starting to play with genres in the 90s.

The movie has a critics score of 43% on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 47%. As was the case when it was first released, reviews of the film are mixed. There are criticisms of a lack of plot and clear structure, but the overall opinion of the movie is probably best summed up in a review by Ed Travis:

“Vampires is a mixed bag. It's clear that John Carpenter is still having fun whilst making this movie. And John Carpenter having fun is something the world generally benefits from.”

Vampires will be available to stream on Netflix on March 1.

Source: RT.