The 1980’s were a decade full of bright, colourful and, in retrospect, corny horror films, and vampire movies were prevalent too, probably due to the popularity of The Lost Boys (1987). One year earlier than Kiefer Sutherland flew across Santa Carla with his blonde mullet haircut and his fangs glittering in the California moonlight, Vamp was released, a horror comedy directed by Richard Wenk, who would go on to do very little, his most notable offering to film since being that he wrote The Expendables 2.
From the outset Vamp looks, sounds and feels like an 80’s film, it just has that undeniable look that only films from that decade have. The sound of synth pop, actors spewing out terribly cheesy one-liners, the specific fashion style and that atmosphere that is almost indescribable, but feels like that emotional response to walking into somewhere and seeing a bunch of old classic video game arcade machines with the smell of pepperoni pizza in the air and Tab Coke being sold. It’s just very 80’s.
Our film followed two fraternity pledges who, as a way to impress and butter-up their fraternity “bro’s” go to a strip-club with intentions of hiring a stripper for their buddies back at college. They bring a nerd along with them because he has a car, and the three of them set out to improve their life as students. Running into problems on their journey, including angry bikers, the two find themselves in danger, and a lot of it, when the strip club reveals itself to be employing lots and lots of creatures of the night. With Grace Jones as the seductive vampire queen, Katrina, the frat-boys attempt to escape and battle their way out of the grasp of the vampire strippers and other enemies who are hot on their tails.
The film is, for lack of a better word, camp, and it benefits from it. The silliness and humour, both intentional and otherwise, brings a distinct charm to the film that makes it really work almost thirty years after its release. Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) as the frat pledge leads are charismatic and enjoyable. Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) as the nerd who is socially inept, is funny though very corny and goofy in his performance which can be a good and bad thing. Allison (Dedee Pfeiffer) is gorgeous and provides a feminine edge to the protagonist side of things that the film needs, and benefits from greatly. Grace Jones, as Katrina, is weird and wonderful in the role, and her scenes stand out as some of the most iconic. The cast in general work well together, and while the performances aren’t exactly poignant or amazing, they work in this film because of how cheesy it is.
I am a fan of films from the 80’s, both classic ones that are truly brilliant pieces of cinema, and ones like Vamp, which is one of those enjoyable slices of weirdness that personifies an era in the way it presents itself. There’s no way to replicate films like this, they work because of when they were made, and how they were made, and that makes them special.
Fun music, good practical effects and funny dialogue takes the film from being a mediocre and silly comedy horror to being a cult classic that is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.
It is worth noting that Arrow Video’s release of Vamp is excellent. I watched the Arrow DVD release and the transfer was incredible. There is a Blu-ray also available.