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Talk about an opening. The first few minutes of John Carpenter's Vampires--in which James Woods's vampire killer leads a dawn raid on a New Mexico "goon nest" of bloodsuckers--not only suggests a horror movie that will not pull any punches, it even evokes some of the more disturbing dream-memories of American Westerns. Muscular and uncompromised, the sequence suggests a new Carpenter classic unraveling before one's eyes. Well, dream on. Things don't quite work out that way, but this is still a film to reckon with. There are a few serious (and surprising) misjudgments on the director's part, particularly a mishandling of Sheryl Lee's role as a prostitute poisoned by the bite of a "master vampire" (who pretty much wiped out Woods's team of goon terminators). But aside from some weaknesses, the action is jolting, the suggested complicity of the Catholic Church in destroying monsters is provocative, and the traces of Howard Hawks's continuing influence on Carpenter's storytelling are in evidence. --Tom Keogh
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Let's be honest: this should be titled Wretched Excess' Frankenstein. Swooping, wild, bloody, and energetic, this is bad moviemaking from the best, which makes it all the more lovable. Kenneth Branagh plays Victor Frankenstein, a man so obsessed with conquering death that he decides to create life. What he gets, after a protoplasmic mud wrestle, is a Mean Streets monster (Robert De Niro) that isn't particularly happy to be back from the dead or thrilled about all the stitches. Helena Bonham Carter may, at several points in this film, actually be channeling Ramtha. The supporting cast couldn't be peopled with better performers (Tom Hulce, John Cleese, Ian Holm) but they all look like they're ringside at some Ultimate Fighting competition. A must for any midnight movie collector for the shock factor alone. A hoot. --Keith Simanton
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