ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring:
Jon Bon Jovi/ Derek
Cristian de la Fuente/Father Rodrigo
Natasha Gregson Wagner/Zoey
Darius McCrary/Ray
PLOT-CRUNCH
Vampire slayer Derek Bliss (Bon Jovi) is called in for a vamp cleaning job in Mexico. When his potential team gets wiped out, the Derekster teams up with a rag tag group and they all merrily go bloodsucker hunting. They eventually discover that the vamps also seem to have watched “John Carpenter’s Vampires” and are therefore also trying to make that darn black cross work (the one that will allow them to walk in daylight). Shit goes down in a “Blaze of Glory”.
THE LOWDOWN
Unlike many other horror fans, I wasn’t mourning when I heard about ex-girl look-alike and glam rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s casting for this sequel to JC’s Vampires. I actually really dug his shtick in “The Leading Man” and had no fear that the Jersey Cowboy and his “Superman” tattoo would stink up the joint with their presence. What I was worried about though was the possibility of an uninspired screenplay that stayed too close to the original and cheapo production values. Did my fears come through? Mostly...yes! Just to clear the air before I shoot my “Magnum”: it was initially rumored that Tim Guinee would be returning in this follow-up to reprise the role of Father Guiteau. Just so you know; the dude is nowhere to be found on this ranch.

Los Muertos’ main weakness is definitely its ho-hum script which doesn’t aim higher than what was said in the original "Vampires". Due to budgetary reasons and lack of imagination I assume, it actually aims much lower. We get less insane action, less gnarly weapons, less enthralling scenarios…just all around less “Bad Medicine”. Plot-wise, we get the same damn thing all over again. The vampires are trying to get that freaking black cross to work (ZZZzzzz), there is yet another master vampire but this time he has tits (it’s a she) and there’s another freaky broad that can psychically connect with the night creatures a la Sheryl Lee, but this time she’s taking “special” pills to stop herself from turning (guess what happens to those pills?). The script also displays the occasional “whiff-whiff” dialogue, makes a couple of really idiotic moves (you would think a veteran vampire slayer wouldn’t get swindled by a hot vamp appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the night), doesn’t follow through with its few good ideas and sports one totally needless plot turn at the act 3 mark that wound up bringing absolutely “jack all” to the film.

On the action front, the “pow-wow” sequences were either too short in length and failed to leave a lasting impression (like the church bit, it should’ve been crazy fun, instead of a quick tease) or too routine for me to fully get into. My biggest complaint, apart from not getting enough GOOD action though, was that Jon Bon Jovi himself was underused when it came to ass kicking that fanged derriere. What good is having that whole brooding bad attitude thang if you’re not going to project it physically on some lowly vampires in extremely violent ways? I wanted him to pull a Jimmy Woods and slaughter all kinds of vamps in his “Shot through the Heart” type of way. It didn’t happen enough for me to be satisfied. Use that sword Jovi! Use it for the love of “Slippery when Wet”! He listened once.

Then, we have the characters who are just bad ideas all around. A kid sidekick (played by Diego Luna) is the last ingredient I wanted to see in a "Vampires" sequel and even though the character brought me a couple of chuckles, I still could’ve done without him. Then you have the big badass (yup, that’s Darius McCrary who played Eddie on TV’s Family Matters…WTF???), who for all his tough jive winds up remaining inactive for the bulk of the flick. There’s also this one old dude who responds with “I had a dream” every time he’s asked a freaking question! Oh man! I wanted to deck that guy so bad! Dream this, jerk-off! PING POW PING! The only character I warmed up to apart from Mr. Bliss was Father Rodrigo aka the Van Damme priest as I like to call him. Played by Van Damme look-alike Cristian de la Fuente, I found the dude very endearing, mostly due to Fuente’s quality performance.

Which brings me to the "fresh meat" on the hook. I really dug the opening scene (which showed so much promise) featuring Jovi exterminating bloodsuckers in slick ass ways (that scene was never topped though), as well as the finale, which was also somewhat entertaining and definitely the more action-heavy block of the movie. Also, the overall pace is even, some of the gore is pretty red wet, the stylish directing is sweeter than Girl Scout cookies, the master vampire chickadee played by Arly Jover is mucho sexy and the score is engaging (shades of JC’s score in the original). So what’s the verdict? Well, it’s watchable, mostly painless and you’ll most likely forget all about it five minutes after the end credit roll. Think a pale imitation of the first and you’ll grasp where Los Muertos stands. I never thought I’d say this but…where’s Daniel Baldwin when you need him?
GORE
There’s some nice grub here but the original Vampires is way gorier. We get a stake in the mouth, neck, and chest. We also get a chest slash, tongue biting, throat slashes, beheadings, punched off head and 2 heads bashed together .
ACTING
Jon Bon Jovi (Derek) broods with the best of them and underplays the part in a kool way. FUN TIMES! Note: I didn’t buy when he called the priest “padre” though, you’re not Jimmy Woods dude...let it go. Cristian de la Fuente (Father Rodrigo) also came through as the pumped up priest. There’s something very sympathetic about him. Natasha Gregson Wagner (Zoey) has played a vampire before in "Modern Vampires" and she does ok here. Her delivery felt phony at times though. Darius McCrary (Ray) does ok for what the part asked of him but I had trouble separating his “Family Matters” role from this one. Yes, I laughed. Arly Jover (Uno) did a wonderful job playing a vampire in "Blade" and she continues her excellent vamp work here. She just has the right look and physicality for the part. Diego Luna (Lupe) is very natural as the kid slayer and he’s not as grating as I thought he would be.
T & A
Arly Jover (Uno) is scantily clad but doesn’t show anything. The ladies will be happy to know that the Jovi man takes off his shirt. Light up the lighters!
DIRECTING
I always liked Tommy Lee Wallace’s eye but I just don’t think he picks the best projects to showcase it. Apart from “IT”, "Halloween 3" and "Fright Night 2" were far from worthy of the man’s talent. Here, Wallace gives us some tasty eye-candy again. We get lots of flashiness, some overhead shots, slow motion and groovy angles. I particularly liked the “paper in the trash can" scene. You’ll see when you check it out, it’s pretty gnarly! Overall, good work but give us a solid stand alone horror opus already! You got what it takes, bro! Use it well!
SOUNDTRACK
The score by Brian Tyler kind of emulates Carpenter’s score from the original but it does bring its own little slick riffs to it. I dug it the most!
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

IMAGE: We get the option to view the film in either anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) or full screen (1.33:1). I always stick to widescreen but both images are sharp, the colors are solid and grain is absent all around. Nice stuff!

SOUND: We get an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. Although kind of subdued, it still gets the job done and excels in quality. I just wish the track had more accentuating moments.

EXTRAS:

Feature length audio commentary: Writer/Director Tommy Lee Wallace comes in to talk in a very composed and chill fashion about the film, the casting, and the locations while at the same time offering some interesting tidbits of trivia in regards to the production. This is a strong commentary; I felt like Wallace was having a beer with me in my pad. I wonder why he didn’t answer my questions when I spoke to my TV?

We also get 3 “Widescreen” Trailers for “Vampires Los Muertos,” Ghosts Of Mars,” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”
BOTTOM LINE
I say just watch the first one again, unless you have a Bon Jovi fetish. I actually watched this sequel twice. I watched it drunk off my ass with a chick (there’s your shout-out, Jennifer!) and once sober as hell with that same chick. Here’s what I came up with. DRUNK: I couldn’t stop laughing every time Bon Jovi popped up, I kept saying: "It's Bon Jovi girl! What’s he doing with a plastic gun? Where’s his guitar?" We would then break out into a rendition of “Living on a Prayer” while watching the events unravel. The Family Matters dude acting all tough also pulled out some drunken chuckles out of us. SOBER: We watched the movie, we didn’t talk much the whole time, she went down on me like a champ half an hour in while I day-dreamed of Sheryl Lee’s butt shot in the original "Vampires" (sorry Jen). Now in what state should YOU see the film? I’ll leave it up to you. It’s a tough one.
BULL'S EYE
At San Diego Comic Con 2001, John Carpenter said that his involvement in “Vampires: Los Muertos” (the sequel to Carpenter’s 1998 film “Vampires”) is basically just him “collecting a check” (you've got to admire the guy’s honesty). And Carpenter admitted that Jon Bon Jovi was actually very good in the early rushes he’d seen of the movie.

This sequel premiered on July 19, 2002 on the “Action Channel”. Check out the action channel here for more listings http://www.actionmoviechannel.com

No home video release date has yet to be announced for this film.

The film had a budget of 10 million clams.

NOTE: The pic of Jovi on this review is an “on-set” pic. For the life of me, I couldn’t find one picture of this movie on the web and none were sent to me with the screener.
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