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Vampires: Los Muertos (October 9/02)

It's interesting that, of all the John Carpenter movies to choose from, director Tommy Lee Wallace would choose to film a follow-up to Vampires. It's certainly not Carpenter's worst film (Ghosts of Mars earns that dubious distinction), but it's also not one of his more successful efforts (both creatively and financially). It was a fun movie, though, and the door was left open for a sequel. However, this being a straight-to-video flick, it's not terribly surprising that James Woods decided against returning. What's surprising, however, is the casting of Jon Bon Jovi in the lead role. And even more surprising, he's not that bad.

It helps that he's not taking over where Woods left off, a move that undoubtedly would've been disastrous. He's playing an entirely new character, Derek Bliss, a bitter and seasoned vampire-hunter whose latest job demands that he take on a team. Like the original, Bliss is forced to assemble a ragtag gang consisting of a tough black guy (Darius McCrary), a priest (Cristian de la Fuente), an inexperienced newbie (Diego Luna), and a woman (Natasha Wagner) who shares a psychic connection with the head vampire.

Vampires: Los Muertos is far more entertaining than it has any right to be, mostly due to Wallace's inventive direction and Bon Jovi's engaging lead performance. The movie never really veers from the groundwork laid by Carpenter with his film, but there are a few innovations and surprises to be found within. Bliss has, in his arsenal, a device that allows him to instantly determine if someone's a vampire based on their body temperature. That was pretty cool, as was the rifle utilized by McCrary's character that had wooden bullets. This is the kind of movie that relies on such inventions to keep things moving, since there's not much of a story here. And speaking of McCrary, considering this guy used to be on Family Matters, he's surprisingly effective as a stereotypical tough black guy. If Ving Rhames ever quits acting (or keeps continuing to eschew features for TV-movies), McCrary just might have a shot.

And Wallace does exactly that (keeps things moving, that is), throwing in one action sequence after another and keeping the expository stuff to a minimum. He's even got a few stylistic tricks up his sleeve, most notably a shot occurring in slow-motion that features a vampire slicing the throats of helpless restaurant patrons. But, when you get right down to it, the whole thing is just a watered-down remake of Carpenter's version. For what it is (and what it could have been), though, Vampires: Los Muertos works.

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