Carpenter, Col taking next bite at 'Vampires'
By Martin Grove
Carpenter column: Hollywood's long-standing love affair with Vampire films mirrors moviegoers' continuing affection for the genre. On the heels of New Line's current hit BLADE, another transfusion of boxoffice vampire blood is due Oct. 30 when Columbia opens JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES at about 1,500 theaters.
"Often a project will come along and it just seems like the right thing to do. It was with VAMPIRES," Carpenter said. The film, starring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tim Guinee and Maximilian Schell, was produced by Sandy King for Storm King Prods. and Largo Entertainment. Don Jakoby adapted the screenplay from the novel VAMPIRE$ by John Steakley.
"Largo Entertainment offered me this project," said Carpenter, whose classic 1978 horror film HALLOWEEN was made on a $300,000 shoestring and grossed more than $75 million worldwide, spawning years of sequels. With VAMPIRES, he said, Largo has "been developing it for years and years. Other directors and stars have been attached, but they've never quite got it where they wanted it. I was the inheritor of a novel and two screenplays; one was by Don Jakoby and one was by Dan Mazur. Both screenplays were excellent - slightly different, but excellent. And the book had some really interesting things in it. I said, 'If I can work with all three of these, I can probably make a movie out of it.'"
Woods plays a gunslinging vampire slayer who, with his team, destroys a vampire nest in rural New Mexico then gets ambushed by a 600-year-old vampire (Griffith) who hopes to obtain for himself and all vampires succeeding him the power to walk in the daylight.
Carpenter, who also composed VAMPIRE'S' score, was attracted to the project, he said, "because it was essentially a Western (and reminded him of Sam Peckinpah's) THE WILD BUNCH. It also had some Howard Hawks (overtones or) the potential for that. It's set in the American Southwest. What it wasn't (like) was what was fun to me. It wasn't the Gothic cliche. It wasn't the castle with the cobwebs. It wasn't the aristocratic-yet-dissipated vampire. It wasn't all the things I've seen a hundred times."
Carpenter puts VAMPIRES production cost at "just under $20 million," so it's clearly not a big special effects picture. "We didn't have computer-generated effects," he said. "For instance, in FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, the characters would morph into these literal bat creatures. We didn't go that direction; we made it much more real, so the problems were different. (We were) depending on special makeup effects a lot more than technical effects, so it was on-set. It's always more fun to do everything on-set because you know what you're getting and you can work on it."
"We had a lot of prosthetics, rubber appliances, and, of course, we had teeth. It's very important for a vampire movie to have big teeth and weird eyes. But it was very straightforward stuff." Carpenter enjoyed shooting in Santa Fe, N.M.: "You point the camera in any direction, and you're going to have a (great) shot. The only downside was the weather. We got rain every day."