John Carpenter's Vampires: Limited Edition Blu-ray review

It may not rank among the director's finest films, but this Blu-ray is still a must-own for his fans

When a team of Vatican-sponsored vampire hunters are slaughtered by master bloodsucker Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), the only survivors are squad leader Jack Crow (James Woods) and his right-hand man Tony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin). Taking advantage of the psychic link developing between Valek and a prostitute (Sheryl Lee) that he bit during the attack, the duo set out to get revenge.

While earlier John Carpenter films carried the influence of Howard Hawks' Westerns, this 1998 outing has much more in common with the films of Sam Peckinpah – right down to the abuse (verbal and physical) heaped on Lee's character Katrina. While this was an unexpected change of pace so deep into Carpenter's career, it clearly worked. Indeed, when compared to the films that immediately preceded it (Village of the Damned and Escape from L.A.), this sun-drenched bloodbath is a far more energetic effort, boasting a handful of superb set-pieces and a marvellously acidic lead performance from Woods. It's just a shame that he's pitted against such a forgettable villain, with Griffith's Valek giving a good scowl, but little else.

Picture: According to the booklet that accompanies the disc, this Blu-ray is sourced from a 'high definition remaster' supplied by Sony Pictures and supervised by Bill Karydes. The resulting 2.35:1 Full HD encode does an excellent job of handling the rich orange and red hues that dominate the palette, while pixel detail and native film grain are both evident. There are no compression artefacts to be seen.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: The Blu-ray gives you a choice of LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks. The latter is clearly the way to go, delivering a far more immersive and dynamic soundscape as its veers from desert winds blowing around you to gunfire spraying across the surround speakers. The dialogue and score (by Carpenter, of course) also sound excellent.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Pretty much all of the extras from the original DVD release are repeated here. These take the form of another of Carpenter's enjoyable commentaries; a six-minute Making of… promo; short interviews with Woods, Baldwin, Lee and Carpenter; nine minutes of B-roll footage; and the theatrical trailer.

Added to this are a 20-page booklet; an LPCM 2.0 isolated score; and the first half of a 1994 Guardian interview with Carpenter at the NFT. Running just shy of 40 minutes, it covers his career up to 1983's  Christine. The second half appears on the same label's Ghosts of Mars Blu-ray, which is also out now.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: Indicator delivers another knock-out John Carpenter Blu-ray. Any chance of Starman next?

John Carpenter’s Vampires: Limited Edition, Indicator, All-region BD & R0 DVD, £23