Creatures that go bump in the night are front and center in Monsters, a 1988 anthology that ran for three seasons and 72 episodes. This series of standalone frights bears a striking similarity to Tales from the Darkside, but that’s mainly because they share a producer, Richard P. Rubinstein, and production companies. Unlike its predecessor, Monsters is purely horror with an emphasis on demons, ghouls, and other nightmarish entities whose names we dare not speak.
THE VAMPIRE HUNTER
Season 1, Episode 4
Original Airdate: November 12, 1988
Directed by Michael Gornick
Written by Edithe Swensen
When an aged vampire hunter turns away a woman who seeks his help, his assistant secretly offers his services instead. Unfortunately for him, though, there’s more to the story than the woman let on.
Why yes, this is another period episode. And, it’s directed by Michael Gornick, who helmed the The Feverman. The Vampire Hunter begs the question if Gornick had a penchant for the Victorian era. Regardless of the answer, the nineteenth century setting definitely adds a welcome sense of disbelief that makes tales of the supernatural easier to digest for both the characters and viewers. The cynicism towards vampirism in modern horror is nowhere in sight, thus allowing everyone to get lost in the story.
The Vampire Hunter is as uncomplicated as its title. A seasoned slayer named Ernest Chariot (Robert Lansing) is looking to retire until an old enemy returns. Being the pro he is, Chariot instinctively refuses to help the suspicious woman (Page Hannah). The decision upsets his assistant, Jack (Jack Koenig), and when he himself decides to help the damsel in distress, Chariot swoops in to save the day.
There are sorely no surprises to be found in The Vampire Hunter. This makes it the most underwhelming entry so far in the first season. Everything happens so linearly—which is a shame since much of the plot stems from events of the past. Monsters was produced on a meager budget so the focus on the present comes of no surprise. I digress.
The episode does pick up steam once Chariot confronts his archenemy, a vampire named Charles Poole (John Bolger). Lansing could possibly act the hell out of a phone book. Hence why his scenes opposite a Dracula wannabe are so engaging. In addition, Lansing‘s hardened approach to his character is tasteful, even as he wipes his hands clean with a handkerchief after driving a stake deeper into Poole’s perforated chest.
Torn between era-specific romanticism and drama, The Vampire Hunter ends up being more underwhelming than it really should be. Suffice it to say, the routine script is boosted by its lead. Lansing breathes life into a story that feels sucked dry before anyone ever takes a bite.
Charles Poole is an old foe of Ernest Chariot. He is 300-years old, and his face was disfigured by Chariot long ago. To lure in the vampire hunter himself, he enlists the help of a woman Maura Warren. She is a helpmate similar to Dracula’s consorts. Maura is under Charles’ thrall, which makes her an innocent.
Like traditional vampires, Charles is preternaturally strong, and he feeds on blood. He presumably can create other vampires, but he leaves a bitten Jack dead as a way to hurt Chariot. Nonetheless, Chariot avenges his fallen friend by plunging a stake into the undead’s heart.