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VAMP (1986)

A full ten years before Robert Rodriguez took us to the Titty Twister, writer/director Richard Wenk took us to The After Dark Club, a vampire infested strip bar deep in the urban jungle of Los Angeles, in this 80s horror/comedy from post-Corman New World Pictures (Corman sold it in 1983). Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler) want desperately to get into a fraternity and to do so, make the frat brothers a deal that, if they get them a stripper for one of their parties, they are in. The boys hitch a ride with nerdy but wealthy Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) into downtown L.A. and choose a place called The After Dark Club to find their stripper. Inside the sleazy club, the haunting and impressive Katrina (Grace Jones) is whom they choose. Unknown to them, though, Katrina is a centuries old vampire and so are most of the club employees, except for new girl and old friend of Keith’s, Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer…Michelle’s sister). Soon a quest to join a frat becomes a night of terror and survival for Keith and his friends, as they face an ancient and hungry evil that wants them all dead…or worse.

Low budget flick is no Lost Boys, but it is fun, though, not as fun as I remembered it when I saw it in 1986. Under Wenk’s direction the film has a slower pace than a flick like this should. He could have used some more intensity and energy in the action sequences, though budgetary restrictions probably were to blame here, too, as the action is pretty small scale and low key. His visual style gives it a sleazy neon-bathed look and that works in the film’s favor and Wenk is supported by some nice gore and make-up FX from master Greg Cannom. The script has some definite weak points, such as vampires keeping drums of flammable liquid in their lair. Then there’s an albino street gang that prowls the neighborhood, yet somehow has never come across their fanged neighbors, but the local coffee shop guy is well aware of them? Giving the film a boost over it’s flaws is that the flick is very 80s and the nostalgia helps one past some of it’s weaker spots.

Wenk also has a cast that gets the material and it’s tone. Makepeace is a suitable hero and it doesn’t hurt that he has a passing resemblance to Mel Gibson. Rusler performs well the part he usually played in the 80s flicks he was in, the cool player. Wantanabe is still milking Long Duk Dong, but with better English here and Pfeiffer gives us a crush-worthy, cute and ditzy heroine in her Allison/Amaretto. Grace Jones doesn’t have as much screen time as you might think as Katrina. She is formidable, though, and has presence, even if she has no dialog and spends a lot of time under Greg Cannom’s make-up artistry. The music by Jonathan Elias suits the mood fine and the cinematography by Elliot Davis and Douglas F. O’Neons captures the sleazy neon soaked atmosphere of the setting. To give the film credit, the comedy and horror elements do mix fairly well and that isn’t always easy.

Overall, Vamp is still fun, especially with the 80s nostalgia added, but not as good as I remembered it being. Grace Jones made an interesting stripper/vampire queen and with a little more energy and a perkier pace, this could have been a real treat. It’s still considered a cult classic by some and I agree it is a good example of 80s B-Movies, the type that soon went direct to DVD. It might be one of the last films of it’s kind to get a theatrical release before the home video era made it cheaper to go direct with flicks like this. It’s an amusing 80s horror/comedy and while there are certainly better examples of that genre mix, Vamp is still worth a look and a bit unique in it’s own way…and it did pre-date Lost Boys by a year and From Dusk Till Dawn by a decade. Also stars 80s B-Movie bad guy Billy Drago as albino street gang leader Snow.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.




7 thoughts on “TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: VAMP (1986)

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