Another movie that seemed much cooler back in its day. VAMP, from 1986, is a sexy vampire comedy that predated similarly themed films like THE LOST BOYS and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. Frankly, there’s a reason those films are well known and this one isn’t. It’s likeable enough, though, for the 94 minute time-waster it is.
This film’s advertising campaign was constructed around Grace Jones, who has but a small part in the film (although she has a record number of assistants, make-up and wardrobe people listed in the end credits). The film’s real stars include Chris Makepeace, of MEATBALLS and MY BODYGUARD, Michelle’s sister Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe, a.k.a. SIXTEEN CANDLES’ Long Duck Dong, and special effects artist Greg Cannom, who’d go on impress with his work on films like BLADE, TITANIC and WATCHMEN.
The writer and director was Richard Wenk, making his feature film debut following a well received 1979 short called DRACULA BITES THE BIG APPLE. Wenk claims he was offered VAMP by New Line, who asked him to write a film with strippers, college kids and vampires. All those things are present in this account of Keith and AJ, college students looking to get into a cool fraternity; it looks as if they’re going to fail in their quest to join said frat until they offer to procure a stripper. To do this they have to venture into downtown LA, which entails borrowing a car from a goofball named Duncan.
Keith, AJ and Duncan hit the town and wind up in a questionable neighborhood. Here they’re set upon by a bunch of punks who AJ beats up. Entering a nearby titty bar, all are seduced by a 3½ minute exotic dance by an androgynous seductress named Katrina. She finishes off her act by bedding AJ backstage—and then Katrina suddenly turns into a vampire and takes a bite out of his neck!
It seems the titty bar is infested with vampires. Its manager sees himself as a waste disposal worker ridding society of the various perverts and degenerates who patronize his bar, and who rarely ever tell friends or family members they’re going there (meaning they can’t be traced to the bar after they go missing).
Keith for his part strikes up a rapport with Amaretto, a cute waitress who’s one of the few non-vampires in the place. The two head back to a nearby hotel for some you-know-what, but she gets angry with him and scurries off.
Left to wander the nighttime streets alone, Keith witnesses more vampiric behavior…and discovers AJ’s corpse in a trash bin! But then Keith runs into a (seemingly) living, breathing AJ back at the titty bar. Keith, however, quickly catches onto the fact that his pal is now a malevolent vampire and finishes him off with a stake to the heart. From there he hightails it out–or tries to, anyway…
For what it is this film isn’t all bad. It’s reasonably engaging and imaginative, and its brand of horror that morphs into comedy and vice versa is a memorable one—although the previous year’s FRIGHT NIGHT did virtually the same thing with far more finesse (some commentators have opined that VAMP’S director Richard Wenk may actually be a pseudonym for FRIGHT NIGHT’S Tom Holland). It also has a pleasing multi-colored look to it, although cinematographer Elliot Davis has an evident love affair with the color green that gets out of hand (every scene looks as if it’s lit by a fish tank).
The film is very much a product of its time. The narrative, set over the course of a single night, recalls those of 1984’s INTO THE NIGHT and ‘85’s AFTER HOURS (an admitted influence), although VAMP is, again, not up to the standards of either. The youthful cast, meanwhile, could have stepped right out of a John Hughes movie (co-star Robert Rusler actually appeared in Hughes’ WEIRD SCIENCE).
Beyond those things VAMP is quite disposable overall, and far overstays its welcome in a third act that has the vampire antagonists taken down far too easily (these vamps are supposed to be centuries old and yet they take no notice of Keith dumping flammable alcohol all over their establishment!). Yet with its poofy hairdos, snazzy wardrobe and attractive cast it has a definite low-key eighties charm.
New World Pictures/Balcor Film Investors
Director: Richard Wenk
Producer: Donald P. Borchers
Screenplay: Richard Wenk
Cinematography: Elliot Davis
Editing: Marc Grossman
Cast: Chris Makepeace, Sandy Baron, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe, Grace Jones, Billy Drago, Brad Logan, Jim Boyle, Larry Spinak, Eric Welch