Vamp, 1986 – Movie Review – 31 Days of Horror
Posted by LiveFor on October 12, 2009
Director: Richard Wenk
Starring: Chris Makepeace, Sandy Baron, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe, Grace Jones, Billy Drago, Brad Logan
Score: 7 / 10
I remember watching this years ago in the Alex Cox Moviedrome series.
Vamp was apparently written in a weekend, and it shows! This isn’t necessarily an insult to the film, because Richard Wenk’s feature-length debut has a goofy, throwaway charm that really pays off for the most part. This isn’t as good as Fright Night, The Lost Boys or Near Dark, but it’s a very likable blend of horror and comedy. The premise is unbeatable: two students hope to win over a campus by delivering them a stripper for the night, only to realise that their choice of dancer is more likely to want to be paid in blood rather than cash…. Chris Makepeace is a good enough lead, and he’s well matched by 80′s god Robert Rusler as his best mate. Gedde Watanabe may test the patience of some with his wildly over-the-top performance as the dude who comes along for the ride, but i found him quite amusing. The best performances are to be found at the After Dark Club, where Keith, AJ and Duncan visit to find their stripper. Dedee Pfieffer (yep, Michelle’s sister) is a treat as a waitress who may or may not be one of the undead, Sandy Baron is funny as the club’s compere, but best of all is Grace Jones as Katrina, the vamp of all vamps. She’s underused: in fact, she’s barely in the second half of the film at all, but she exudes serious presence, sheer animal sensuality and she does all of this without saying a word. Her striptease might terrify more than titillate, while her seduction of one of the main characters is a terrific scene, the best thing in the film. After the first half hour, the action picks up, with amusing consequences: confrontations with deadly lifts, street punks and vamped-out friends make for lots of fun. The last half hour more or less repeats the same formula, with fairly agreeable results, though the final confrontation could have been a lot scarier.
Wenk effectively captures the seedy atmosphere of a strip joint, populated with drunken misery-guts who can never be traced because they never boast the fact that they’re going to such a place. This is one of the film’s cleverer conceits, and one that means the vampires can drink all they want without fear of being traced. The music is appropriately tacky, synth-led bar room music, quite memorable in places too.
Visually, Vamp is pretty cool stuff. As soon as it gets dark, the film adopts a brilliant colourscheme of pink and green lighting, making for some atmospheric action. It doesn’t look realistic, but who cares? It looks great, and gives Vamp a identity all of its own. It also means that this film belongs to that category of 80′s films that you couldn’t imagine being made in any other decade, though the plot and even the vampiric make-up effects seem to have played an influential part in the making of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s cult bloodsucker favourite From Dusk Till Dawn.
Vamp isn’t a particularly great film as it does run out of steam towards the end, but it has loads of excellent moments, remains exceptionally likable and has enough cool effects, good jokes and fun scares to provide a fine hour and a half’s entertainment.