Goon Review: Vamp (1986)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my wickedly awesome ho-rror ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Can we agree that vampires are horribly misrepresented nowadays? I could count how many decent vampire movies that came out since 2000 on one hand, even if I were missing a few fingers. After the ‘80s, vampires didn’t seem to work too well. During that decade, we saw too much of the fashion and pop culture making their way into these films, like the filmmakers wanted to “modernize” vampires. They also had this unnecessary trend of having one of the characters reiterate all of the vampire rules just incase you have comatosed since the beginning of vampire films and didn’t know what kind of creatures there were. In all seriousness, a lot of vampire movies I like come from the ‘80s, including Fright Night and Near Dark (which in my opinion is the best vampire movie). I didn’t include The Lost Boys, because personally I don’t like it and I know it has a huge following, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.

Somewhere in the middle of all those movies lies Vamp from 1986, a movie that was advertised to be much darker than it actually is. The first time I ever saw this movie, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the movie that was sold to me and it was jarring to watch this sophomoric comedy that happened to have vampires and an albino gang. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but slowly it began to grow on me somewhat. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not the greatest. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get. The humor doesn’t always work, it doesn’t offer anything to frighten you, it’s quite predictable, but visually it’s super stylish. There’s mood and atmosphere to accompany the style Vamp undeniably has. It’s be can cool, it’s a little sexy and it’s very much a product of the ‘80s vampire era.

Chris Makepeace and Robert Rusler play Keith and AJ (I’ll let you guess which one of the two plays the loveable asshole), two young college studs that are trying to find just the right fraternity to join and not just any old fraternity will do. They are looking to rub elbows with the rich and spoiled, so ya know, less college work for them. Offering to provide the frat with any service, and they do mean anything, the frat tasks them with getting a stripper for their party. Sounds like no problem for two resourceful, handsome gents… except between them, so after enlisting the help of rich kid Duncan, they head off to the dirtiest part of town. Duncan serves almost no purpose for the film other than to later try and the wool over your eyes, but it doesn’t work. He pretty much just drinks and regurgitates bad jokes, but hey, this Meatballs inspired vampire flick needs a cliched Asian character. Speaking of Meatballs, Chris Makepeace was also in that movie. Well, let’s move on.

The trio runs into an albino gang at a pitstop for some coffee and now I realized I wrote the words “albino gang.” The leader, who kinda looks like a Pablo Honey era Thom Yorke pulls a switchblade on them, but AJ’s also kind of a badass and turns the tables. The scene ends and the film carries on and as it progresses, it will be in the back of your mind and you won’t be able to help yourself and wonder, “what the hell did that have to do with anything?” The short answer is nothing. Not a goddamn thing other than to add an action scene later that could honestly be cut from the film and it would have no effect on the overall feature or maybe it was to pad out the run time. When it comes to things like this in films like this, neither answer would surprise me.

Somewhere in between classy and sleazy is the nightclub, ran by a slender man in a pink suit named Vic and his brute of an enforcer, Vlad, where they decide to find their stripper and the patrons and workers are also somewhere in between classy and sleazy. Actually, it’s very fitting with how I first described this movie. It’s like it wants to take inspiration from others, but never finds an identity of its own. An old acquaintance of Keith’s, a very cute and new wave looking girl named Allison played by Dedee Pfeiffer, recognizes him, but he can’t seem to recognize her. Honestly, how could you forget such a cute face like that? This is Dedee Pfeiffer at her cutest. She would go on to do a lot of TV show appearances, like Supernatural, but her real big credit would go to starring alongside the 2000 action flick, Billy Ray Cyrus starring vehicle, Radical Jack. It’s worth it to see Billy Ray Cyrus try and play an action star.

Now for the main event. A mysterious woman named Katrina (Grace Jones) takes the stage and performs a very ritualistic style dance that commands attention, although I’d have to say it’s the fell-asleep-with-product-in-my-hair hairstyle I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Being thoroughly impressed, AJ, unbeknownst to Keith, goes backstage to hire Katrina, but never comes back. Keith now starts to realize that there is some really weird stuff going on, like Vic snacking on crickets and everybody seems to be telling him that AJ ditched him. Something isn’t right here and as Keith keeps meddling, his questions are making him a target and soon he’s confronted by AJ who is telling him to relax and then reveals himself to be a vampire! But, ya know, not before going down the list of rules that makes you a vampire. As I said, a lot of vampire movies at this time had a character exposition dump all the vampire rules, because the filmmakers and studios thought we were idiots and had never seen or heard of vampires before. No matter what film it’s in, these scenes bring the movie to a screeching halt for me and it never fits in. Well, it only lasts several minutes before the two are forced to fight and Keith escapes to learn that the whole nightclub and most of the town are bloodsuckers!

At this point, it’s relatively paint by numbers without any surprises, although the film will still try to make you believe there may be. Keith tries to survive the night along with his new galpal Allison, but escaping seems much harder than it should be and the film does a great job at this point of making an open city feel closed off and isolated. Keith is even driven into the sewers for hiding after being confronted by the albino gang once again, which at this point feels like filler. They needed something to stretch out the run time, so they added a subplot with a bunch of violent, punk rock albinos. Come to think of it, albinos are fairly rare, so the fact that they all found each other and formed a gang is commendable.

I have to wonder if From Dusk Til Dawn would later take the idea of a strip club full of vampires. Just a thought that’s totally irrelevant. So anyway, Arrow Video presents Vamp in a brand new high definition digital transfer that looks quite remarkable. The film itself is lit with a lot of magentas and greens, almost like it’s a comic book and this new transfer helps those colors really pop out and it looks really beautiful. There are some other features included, like a brand new documentary called One of Those Nights that interviews the cast and crew as they recall making the film. There are some funny stories involved, so it’s absolutely worth a watch. Retro viewers might get a kick out the rehearsals video and blooper reel or even director Richard Wenk’s short film Dracula Bites the Big Apple.

Vamp may not be the best vampire movie or even the best college buddy comedy, but it’s not horrible in any way. It unfortunately misses the mark at mixing both genres and has noticeable filler, but thanks to great performances, special effects and likeable characters, it will be one of the better “teen vampire” movies to me.