Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie Review: Vamp

 Vamp is not a good film, but it has so many high-points that it is easy to understand why it is a cult classic.  What is does is successfully merge horror and comedy, an accomplishment rarely achieved.

 Released in 1986, this has to be one of the earliest films to setup vampires as owning and working in a strip-club.  Horror fans obsession with the vampire symbol as cool and chic had not quite caught-on yet.  Some of the stereotypes are in place; college kids run afoul of monsters, the hero is a clean-cut "athlete" who's wise-cracking cool friend gets him in trouble, and the female love-interest is a blonde airhead.  Vamp is carried not by its premise.  Instead, it is carried by numerous intelligent one-liner's, zingers, and hints of a deeper back-story.

 The film starts by mocking the typical premise. Two best friends, Keith and AJ, are pledging to the same frat, and call the frat on their cheesy initiation ritual.  They propose that if they are allowed to join the frat, they will bring a stripper to the frat's initiation party.  They seek out a wealthy nerd, Duncan, for transportation to the city and select from a newspaper a strip-club that opens ambiguously "after dark".  

Wire cones: making breasts where none exist.
 The club is in the seedier part of town.  The businesses, like a diner they stop at, close at sundown.  After running into some street-toughs, the three college boys find the club.  AJ, the cool half the the duo, goes back stage to negotiate with the hauntingly statuesque stripper, Katrina.  Katrina is the head vampire, and after toying with AJ feeds on him.

 Keith, the clean-cut one, notices that AJ has been gone for sometime.  With the aid of a waitress, Amaretto, who just started working at the club and is a childhood friend that Keith does not remember, Keith discovers that his friend is missing and begins to suspect something is amiss.  Of course, now the vampires are aware that AJ was not alone and are determined to kill Keith, Duncan, and Amaretto.

Mascara, contacts, and fangs.  GRR! I'm a vampire!
 In and of itself, the plot is not too deep.  It is all the interesting tidbits and dialogue that drive the film and set it apart.  Hints are dropped throughout the film that Katrina is an ancient vampire, hailing from Egypt during the time of Pharaohs.  Her assistants are also obviously from a different era; the bouncer's name is Vlad and seems to have a romantic history with Katrina, and Vic the maitre-d' was once the club owner in the 40s or 50s.  AJ is the funny-man of the duo, with memorable lines throughout the movie (AJ is telling Keith what will kill a vampire, remarking that he has a list somewhere).  AJ, Keith, and even Duncan are likeable characters, instead of the douche-bags that are common to these kinds of films.  The film is full of 80s "cool", which seems laughable by modern standards.
Well, maybe not as much as her.

 The special effects are decent.  The vampires range from simple zombie make-up to full on demons.  The blood-and-gore is not too over-the top, with the most gruesome scene probably being when a throat is violently ripped out.  The sets are not bad as well, save that the sewer-system the characters use throughout the film appears to be lit by purple and green club-lights.  Even the nudity is minimal and not overly done.  Most of the strippers strip down to a bikini or pasties.  Despite being a 'B' horror film, the focus is on the story and not on the gore or TNA.

Just wants a classy joint.
 Grace Jones was an odd choice as Katrina for this film.  Ms. Jones had made her mark as an singer and performer in the New York Club scene and a model.  She hit her acting peak in A View to a Kill a year before in my opinion.  Her androgynous appearance didn't make sense for the seductress, but in that time Ms. Jones was known for her flamboyance, strength, and temper.  Those qualities probably enhanced the primal and animalistic aspects of the character.

 Vamp is an example of campy horror that is well done.  It is smarter than most, subtle in just the right way, and given to making fun of itself.  More for entertainment that frights, Vamp is worth the watch.



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