In an effort to get into a fraternity two friends, Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) travel to the ‘wrong side of town’ to find a stripper to hire for a college party. Taking along the nerdy Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), simply because he has a car, they find that beneath the already seedy surface lies an even seedier underbelly of vampires in the After Dark strip club. The club is run by the sleazy Vic (Sandy Baron) and the star attraction is the frightening Katrina (Grace Jones).
Vamp boasts a cast of cult eighties stars, including Robert Rusler (Weird Science, Thrashin’), Chris Makepeace (Meatballs), Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles) and Deedee Pfeiffer (That’s right, Michelle’s sister) and the inclusion of the iconic and extravagant Grace Jones as a key vampire/stripper also represents a pretty inspired piece of casting.
The premise is also pretty fantastic for a film of this type, a comedy horror about college friends looking for a stripper but finding out that the strippers are vampires? Vamp should have been an instant cult classic beloved not just for nostalgia but for being a hell of a lot of fun too.
Sadly the film never really delivers and what could have been the American Werewolf in London of vampire films ends up being more the American Werewolf in Paris of vampire films. The script and direction let the film down constantly, where the film should be funny it falls flat and any moments intended as scares just drift by.
There are positive aspects to the film that make it reasonably worth checking out for though; Grace Jones is terribly underused but turns in a wonderfully off the wall performance (with artistic input from Keith Haring and Andy Warhol) and Deedee Pfeiffer is infectious as the over enthusiastic waitress who Keith can’t quite seem to remember. The cinematography is also very striking in places (amusingly the film shares the same cinematographer as Twilight – Elliot Davis) and the efforts to mask the lowish budget ($3.3 million) with expressive set design and lighting often work well.
The film never gets the momentum it needs though and with a script lacking the wit and spark so crucial for this type of film everything feels a little unimpressive.
Whilst the film may not stand up too well Arrow Video’s release certainly does. Despite unfortunately omitting the US Anchor Bay commentary with Wenk, Makepeace, Pfieffer and Watanabe this release has more extras than anyone probably could have hoped for and fans of this film or indeed the area of films surrounding this will find a lot to occupy themselves with.
As with all of Arrow’s releases the film is handsomely packaged with different sleeve options, a poster and booklet and the new transfer is top notch. As with many of their recent releases they have commissioned new artwork to accompany the original posters (a very nice touch and something that supports up and coming designers) and the main cover (also at the top of this post) is designed by Tom Hodge, a designer also responsible for this rather nice Hobo With a Shotgun poster and the cover for a variety of other recent Arrow releases.
The commentary on the main feature is a very casual affair and not too insightful but it is enjoyable listening to Rusler reminisce about the film, hanging out with Grace Jones and also recollections from the other films he appeared in, including Friday the 13th Part 2, Shag and Weird Science. Disc 2 is given over entirely to extras and features interviews with Richard Wenk, Donald P. Borchers and Deedee Pfieffer. The highlight for me was the Deedee Pfieffer interview, although by the time I got round to watching it I was was already head over heels for her so this view may be a slightly biased.
The behind the scenes videos and blooper reel are fun and are certainly worth checking out but again a little light on substance. By far the best extra Arrow packs in though is the twenty minute film by Wenk, Dracula Bites the Big Apple which is fun slice of late seventies vampire/disco silliness. This is a lot more fun than the feature and it hints that maybe Wenk would have been better sticking with more of a comedy rather than horror approach with Vamp.
Vamp is available to buy or rent on DVD and Blu-ray today.
This release contains the following:
– 4 panel reversible sleeve options with new artwork and original posters
– Double-sided fold-out poster
– Exclusive collector’s booklet by Jay Slater critic and author of ‘Eaten Alive’
– Brand new audio commentary with star Robert Rusler and critic Calum Waddell
– 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