November 09, 1998 12:00 PM

James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee

After the superplush decor and purple psychosexuality of Brant Stroker’s Dracula and Interview with the Vampire, it initially comes as a relief—and a pleasure—to see a horror movie in which the bloodsuckers are treated as expendable scum. Woods, who heads a sort of antisatanic SWAT team supervised by the Vatican, roams the Southwest, seeking out vampire lairs. He destroys the creatures by sticking them with a harpoon and hauling them out into the sun, where they burst into flame like the sulphur heads of matchsticks. These scenes are too absurd and Monty Python-like not to be entertaining.

But in the end a vampire movie that doesn’t give the villains even a little depth grows tiring. Thomas Ian Griffith, as the chief monster, is tall and dressed in black (he looks like a telephone pole with fangs), but director Carpenter gives him no personality or even hobbies.

Woods turns in a suitably smart-alecky gonzo performance. Lee, as a freshly bitten victim, is literally kept in bondage and smacked around by Woods’s colleague (Baldwin), who wants to track the vampire through her hallucinations. It’s hard to imagine a role more degrading. (R)

Bottom Line: Fun at first, but the vein runs dry

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