Netflix R-Rated Action Horror From Legendary Director Based On Forgotten Novel

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

If you’re a horror fan, you’ve probably noticed that everything old is new again, especially with shows like Stranger Things and movies like Lisa Frankenstein constantly taking us back to the ‘80s. Instead of watching new shows and films set in the past, we’re sometimes in the mood to actually watch a vintage horror movie, the more obscure the better. A great example of this is John Carpenter’s Vampires, an underrated film now streaming on Netflix.

A Refreshing Twist On A Classic Story

John Carpenter's vampires

When it comes to John Carpenter’s film oeuvre, most horror fans are likelier to be fans of movies like Halloween and The Thing than Vampires. And while this fang-filled film isn’t as great as his previous masterpieces (more on this later), it is very engaging and very distinct from most other vampire cinema. If you’re tired of modern vampire movies that feel like they are all telling the same tired story, you’re likely to enjoy Carpenter’s film because it has such a fresh approach.

What is John Carpenter’s Vampires about, though? Based on the forgotten novel Vampire$, this is the tale of an ace vampire hunter who takes care of the undead on behalf of the Catholic Church. After a master vampire slaughters most of the hunter’s team, the man must team up with an old partner, a new priest, and a bitten prostitute to take out this undead threat before it kills them all.

Vampires In A Gritty Modern Western Setting

John Carpenter's vampires

A big part of what makes John Carpenter’s Vampires so fun is the cast, including Hollywood legend James Woods as the world-weary vampire hunter. His partner is Daniel Baldwin, and while some fans dismiss him as a lesser Baldwin brother, this is the role he was born to play. Tim Guinee does a great job as the wet-behind-the-ears priest, and Sheryl Lee (best known for playing Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks) is wonderful as a prostitute slowly transforming into something monstrously inhuman.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we also love how well John Carpenter’s Vampires blends two very different genres. He was interested in making a kind of horror western, and this film does just that. While its tone is far less serious, the movie is reminiscent of Near Dark, the classic Kathryn Bigelow film that brought vampires into the western genre with very gory results.

Underappreciated At First

John Carpenter's vampires

Sadly, John Carpenter’s Vampires went unappreciated when it came out in 1998: earning only $20.3 million against a budget of $20 million, this film was a bona fide box office bomb. It didn’t fare much better with critics, as the movie currently has a 43 percent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics generally praised the performances of the movie while complaining that it didn’t deliver enough scares nor live up to Carpenter’s previous films.

Deviates From The Tried-And-True Carpenter Formula

John Carpenter's vampires

As for us, we can’t argue that John Carpenter’s Vampires is inferior to, say, his earlier films such as They Live and In the Mouth of Madness, it’s still more outright entertaining than other vampire films. It’s not as meandering as Near Dark or as pandering as Twilight, and it has all the style of Underworld without being so try-hard and edgy. We give Vampires credit where it’s due for taking the premise and running with it, and your own mileage may vary depending on how much you love the cast, the director, or simply the genre.

As Ambitious As It Is Audacious

John Carpenter's vampires


Fortunately, you don’t have to take our word about the quality of John Carpenter’s Vampires…you can stream the film on Netflix today, dragging this bloodsucking film into the glow of your television (the next best thing to sunlight for us night owls). Afterward, you may join the growing legion of horror fans urging everyone to check this film out. Carpenter is something of a vampire himself, and the intervening years have brought countless new Vampires fans into his thrall.