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29th Mar 11
Two college boys need to get a stripper to impress the frat house they're pledging for and they try to find one at a strip joint run by vampires. Mayhem ensues.
It's the 80s and Keith and A.J. are pledging to a college frat house. It's the usual rubbish, fake hanging, guys dressed as monks, chanting, etc, only the tape player screws up the sinister voice over tape and one of the guys dressed in robes tries to finish the speech about the forces of darkness and all that with his whiny high-pitched American teenager voice. It's lame, and A.J. and Keith have had enough, jumping down from their fake hangman's gallows and pointing out as much. A.J., perturbed they've creased his 80s slacks, points out they're missing a real trick. They want the frat house's accomodation and cable TV, what do they really want from them? Ignoring Keith's protests, A.J. promises them anything.
Five minutes later they're wandering back to their campus room trying to work out where they're going to get a stripper from. After having most of his female friends hang up on him (in a scene where A.J. shoots an apple in half with his posh looking competition bow - wonder if he'll get to use those skills again later?) they decide they need professional help. They need a roadtrip to go get a stripper, so that means they need wheels. They need Duncan. Duncan is the Chinese American rich kid that pays for all his friends and hangers on. He owns 9 cars, one of which is available. They only catch? They take him with them, and they promise to be his friends for a week.
The next minute they've headed uptown, but one sharp turn, a spin out and some clever editing later (some very clever editing) they suddenly find themselves downtown, in a shady looking backstreet. And it's dark, and getting darker. I wonder what they'll find at the After Dark club, I bet they weren't expecting Grace Jones!
Vamp is a somewhat refreshing 80s comedy horror to revisit. The opening credits whip along, and the interplay between the two leads is crisp and quick witted (the kind of stuff you expect from a Kevin Smith movie, albeit without over doing it) with A.J. quickly set up as the smart mouth and Keith his sidekick. Frat house, phone calls, bow demonstration, then it's to Duncan's house, Gedde Watanbe's Duncan crashes out a few funny one-liners and before you know it we've had that spin out and we're down town in minutes, and that's where the fun begins.
Our first hint at the flavour of the movie comes from the trio's first encounter with Billy Drago's gang. Drago pops up a lot in stuff as the nutter bad guy in the late 80s (remember the Untouchables and Cyborg 2?) and he plays perfectly to type here. He really shouldn't have spilt coffee on A.J.'s shirt though, which makes me think, does it really hurt a vampire that much if you drag them by the balls? Either way, Drago's gang, and the other vampire gang that turn up later (with the awesome little girl vampire) provide the pink and green hued backdrop to the movie, adding a nice splash of colour. I didn't know vampire gangs fought amongst themselves.
It's at the After Dark club where the main action really takes place though, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that it's Grace jones's stripper character that A.J. tries to get to come and strip at the frat house. We should mention her performance; it's like nothing you've ever seen from a stripper, and that's no surprise considering it's Grace Jones who's doing the dance, to one of her songs with one of her own, bizarre, interpretive dance-esque routines. It's no surprise, rather than whooping away and throwing cash on to the stage like they do with the other strippers, all the guys just stare at her. Then, when she's finished, they slowly start to clap, and the clapping builds up until they're all applauding with vigour.
She is, of course, a vampire queen, and the whole strip club thing is just a front for her and her undead entourage to feed of vagrants, down and outs, no hopers, and all the other seedy sorts that would hang out in a dingy back street strip club. As Vic, the doorman says, "Nobody tells anybody where they're going when they come here..." and he has a point. Why would they?
Vic is played by Sandy Baron, and is perfect as Vic the sleazy doorman looking to bring some Vegas class to this dive. He gets just as many gags as the rest of the cast, although this could be said for anyone in the movie. The nice thing about Vamp is that it's a well written ensemble piece, all the characters seem to get as much screen time and gags as the next, they're all likeable (for their sins or not) and, well, it's just hard to fault, even Dedee Pfeiffer as Keith's long lost love interest is funny, and there aren't many 80s teen comedies where the bubbly 80s teen girls that keep their shirts on aren't pretty annoying.
That's another thing to point out about Vamp, it's much more a comedy horror than a horror comedy. It's stable mates of the time are more films like Weird Science than the Re-Animators of this world, but the closest movie I can think of in terms of character and feel is the often ignored nightmare movie After Hours, which came out the year before. The influence that had on Vamp is quite clear to see.
Gore-wise, there's not much going on. Sure, there's the occasional biting moment, and Grace calmly rips a subordinates heart out at one point, but these moments aren't the point of the film. Neither is nudity, and there's very little of that in the movie too, as the director early on decided that wasn't the point either. The movie focuses wholly on the comedy element; that's where the movie shines and that's why it's still held in such high regard to this day. That, and the fact that every single night time scene is severley back lit with lashings of green and pink lighting. God knows why they came up with that idea but it looks great, and it gives Vamp a very unique and quite memorable feel.
So, a tight comedy script, a nippy pace, well balanced cast of characters, a bit of gore, a bit of stripping, pink and green everywhere and Grace Jones. There's a late night Saturday night movie right there. Hard to fault, although to be fair you'll probably enjoy this film a lot more if you remember it from it's first time around, like I do :)
Versions The best version available is the UK Region 2 Cult Labs edition released by Arrow Films because of these extensive special features...
- Introduction by Robert Rusler
- Vamp it Up – Dedee Pfeiffer Remembers The After Dark Club
- Vamp Stripped Bare – An Interview with Richard Wenk
- Back to the 80s – Producing a Campy Cult Classic
- Scrapbook of Scares - Richard Wenk looks over his collection of Vamp memorabilia
- Easter Egg
- Behind the Scenes Rehearsals
- Blooper Reel
- ‘Dracula Bites the Big Apple’ short film by Richard Wenk
- Original Trailer