“Vampires: Los Muertos” is the sequel to John Carpenter’s 1998 “Vampires”, starring James Woods as a vampire hunter who leads the charge against a dastardly Eurotrash vampire with plans to make himself invulnerable to the vampire’s biggest enemy, sunlight. The sequel, written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and produced by Carpenter’s company (and that, it seems, is the full extent of Carpenter’s involvement), essentially continues where the original left off.
Rocker Jon Bon Jovi (“U-571”) steps into the lead role as Derek Bliss, a laconic vampire hunter who makes a living, well, slaying vampires. When Derek is hired by a wealthy and mysterious client to kill a certain group of vampires led by the sultry Una (Arly Jover), he goes on a recruiting binge. But Una, who has something of a psychic link to Derek, knows where he’s going before he gets there, and has dispatched her minions to slaughter everyone Derek is intent on recruiting for the job.
Unable to find any living hunters to join him, Derek is forced to join forces with some unlikely characters. There’s Sancho (Diego Luna), a 16-year old Mexican boy with a knack for killing vampires; Zoey (Natasha Wagner), a woman who was bitten by a vampire, but has been able to keep the vampirism at bay with drugs; and Father Rodrigo (Cristian de la Fuente), the only survivor of a monastery where Una went on one of her butchering sprees. Armed with these guys, Derek Bliss doesn’t like his chances!
First off, let me make this bold statement: despite the absence of James Woods, “Vampires 2” is actually better than Carpenter’s “Vampires”. All the elements from the original have been carried over by writer/director Wallace, who doesn’t make up any new rules and doesn’t break the old ones. Although Zoey’s reliance on drugs to keep the vampirism at bay and walk in the light may be considered “new” in the scope of the series, but since the teen vampire flick “The Forsaken” also used the same premise, I don’t consider it new.
That doesn’t mean I think the film is without faults. It has a lot of them, most of which stems from its world’s acceptance (or lack of acceptance) of vampires. For instance, vampires are obviously “out there” and there are people who accept their existence. Not only Derek and his fellow vampire hunters, but also quite a number of others, like the entire citizenry of a Mexican village besieged by the bloodsuckers. And although Una’s vampires go around slaughtering people by the dozens (they butcher everyone in a diner and a pub, for example), and yet somehow the world as a whole still doesn’t know, or is unable to accept, the existence of vampires!
Am I to believe that with all the death by bloodsucking (by the vampires) and all the beheadings (by the vampire hunters) that no one bothered to think this was a big news story? For that matter, where are all the cops? The vampires and the hunters kill their victims out in the open at every turn! These people don’t know the meaning of the word discreet, and yet there’s no global offensive against vampires? I don’t buy it.
The above aside, “Vampires 2” features a terrific performance by rocker Bon Jovi, who is very credible as the lead slayer. Hardened by his years of killing vampires, Derek is cynical to the very end. Like James Woods’ character in the original, one gets the feeling Derek is capable, and quite willing, of staking his own best friend if he suspects him of being a vampire. Although this wouldn’t exactly explain why Derek takes Zoey, the ex-vampire victim, along for the ride when the chances of her vamping out on him are quite good…
While Arly Jover, as the slinking vampire Una isn’t exactly the most dangerous creature onscreen, the movie does benefit from the presence of Diego Luna as the anxious vampire hunter Sancho. In order to convince Derek that he hadn’t run away from home to join up, Sancho gives Derek a permission slip written by his mother! Unfortunately Sancho is relegated to the background after a while, which is unfortunate. And the less said about Darius McCrary’s role as Ray, another vampire slayer, the better. McCrary is just awful.
“Vampires 2” has a lot of problems, one of them being its small budget in relations to the original, forcing the movie to remain “small” in scope. The film also went straight to video, which might turn some people off, but it shouldn’t. “Vampires 2” is a very worthy sequel to Carpenter’s original.
Tommy Lee Wallace (director) / Tommy Lee Wallace (screenplay)
CAST: Jon Bon Jovi …. Derek Bliss
Cristian de la Fuente …. Father Rodrigo
Natasha Gregson Wagner …. Zoey
Arly Jover …. Una
Darius McCrary …. Ray Collins