Our review of Fright Pack: Campy Classics, published July 26th, 2005, is also available.
A comedy with bite…and of course, Grace Jones.
Can we all agree that the 1980s produced some pretty great horror flicks? I'm not just talking about obvious cinematic treats such as A Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (shut up. I liked it). There were plenty of big Hollywood horror movies and sequels during the '80s, and they were all well and good. What I'm talking about are smaller movies like House, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and Sleepaway Camp. These are movies that didn't spawn sixteen sequels and didn't make huge bucks at the box office. What they have done is collected a cult following over the years that has kept them alive and well. As DVD expands, more of these "smaller" titles are being released in widescreen versions for '80s horror fans to revisit. One such movie is the vampire horror comedy Vamp. Starring the multi-talented Grace Jones (A View To A Kill), Chris Makepeace (Meatballs), Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles), Robert Rusler (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge), and Dedee Pfeiffer (TVs "For Your Love"), Vamp takes a bite out of your DVD player courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment!
Facts of the Case
Fraternities are sometimes pretty tough to crack. Just ask AJ (Rusler) and Keith (Makepeace), two local college students trying to get into a local frat house. After their initiation ritual is screwed up, AJ and Keith offer a trade: entrance into the fraternity if the two boys can supply the night's party with a stripper. Willingly the Greek's agree to this trade. Now AJ and Keith have to come up with a honey that's willing to pop her top for some gawking beer guzzlers.
After snagging a car from Duncan (Watanabe), an obnoxiously rich student, AJ and Keith make haste for a seedy part of the city in search of a lady of the night. Arriving at the "After Dark" strip joint, AJ, Keith and Duncan are treated to the most bizarre dance routine in history, provided by none other that Grace Jones as the strange and wild Miss Katrina. Katrina looks roughly like an evil version of Bozo the Clown, complete with red mushroom hair and a frighteningly pale skin complexion.
After the dance, AJ heads into the back room to proposition Katrina as Keith meets up with Amaretto (Pfeiffer), a bubbly blonde waitress who seems to remember Keith even though he's clueless as to who she is. While in the back, AJ has the unfortunate luck of finding out that Katrina is a bloodsucking vampire hell bent on having him for dinner!
Soon the realization hits Keith that things aren't right at the club, the dead giveaway being that everyone working there has fangs and drinks blood! As the night wears on, Keith, Duncan and Amaretto will need to keep their wits about them and their stakes sharp if they want to survive the night filled with a thousand Vamps!
Let's see a raise of hands of those who think Quentin Tarantino saw Vamp before he wrote From Dusk 'Till Dawn.
Yup. That's what I thought.
Some movies you never see coming. When I received Vamp for review, I thought it would be just another throwaway horror film from 1986. I mean, let's face it, this is the same year that plopped Psycho III and The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf into our laps. My hopes were not riding very high.
In the first ten minutes of Vamp I could see that this would be no ordinary horror masterpiece. The dialogue struck me as much wittier and interesting than most horror movies, and many of the performances were strong and original. Take for example Robert Rusler as AJ, a self-assured jock who thinks that he can do and say anything with maximum results. Rusler and his buddy Chris Makepeace have been fed some pretty funny lines by writer/director Richard Wenk. The opening sequence is a fine example of great banter and goofy performances converging into the wonderful start to a movie. plus we get to see all kinds of cool lookin' vampires killing and subsequently being killed themselves! How can you beat that kind of deal?
Simply put, you can't.
Luckily for the viewer, Wenk and the cast are able to maintain the high energy pace throughout most of Vamp's 94 minutes. Both leads are funny and engaging as our guides through this romp. Chris Makepeace has charm to spare as Keith, and Rusler is very funny as AJ. Everyone remembers Long Duck Dong from Sixteen Candles, but did you know he was in other '80s staples such as Gung-Ho? Here Gedde Watanabe plays a goofy nerd not unlike his Dong character, except this time he knows the American language. Dedee Pfeiffer (sister of Michelle) is charmingly cute as Amoretto, a sexy stripper with a heart of gold.
As their strange night unfolds, AJ and Keith will meet an assortment of weirdos and freaks in the bowels of the city. Both boys make the mistake of pissing off an albino thug named Snow (Billy Drago, The Untouchables). Snow leads a group of Albino bikers who seem to hold a grudge against our heroes for being revolted by Snow's girlfriend's crooked teeth. In the strip joint they run into Vic (the very funny Sandy Baron), the club owner who comes across as a mix of "The Sopranos," Archie Bunker, and some bizarre character from "Seinfeld" (and indeed Baron did play "Jack Klompos" on the TV show, so there you go).
The film touts this as being a Grace Jones movie, but the solid truth is that Jones shows up for only a handful of scenes. However, like the insert of the disc reads, ."…a little bit [of Grace Jones] can go a long way." Never have I heard such a universal truth. Her introduction in Vamp is that of B-movie legend. I could go on and on about Jones, but all I'm going to say is "see this movie" and leave it at that.
Vamp is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As if I even need to say that Anchor Bay has done a great job on the transfer. Colors were vibrant and natural. Blacks were solid with only the slightest amount of gray to them. No digital artifacting was spotted, nor was any edge enhancement. Once again, the boys at Anchor Bay lay down their cards and come up with a full house.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono 1.0. I guess Anchor Bay has been spoiling me with many of their new Dolby 5.1 remixes, for now I yearn for everything to be in 5.1 sound! Unfortunately, Vamp doesn't acquire that luxury and comes to us in the lowest common denominator known to Dolby. Otherwise, this track is clear of any distortion. The dialogue, music, and effects were all mixed evenly. No subtitles are included.
Vamp includes a very nice array of extra material for the seasoned viewer to "take a bite out of." First up is a commentary track by director Richard Wenk and actors Gedde Watanabe, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Chris Makepeace. Like the best commentary tracks, this one has its fair share of stories and laughs. Everyone involved is genuinely proud of their work (especially Pfeiffer, who calls this her "baby"), and there is an amusing hushed silence as Miss Jones makes her graceful entrance. A funny track and well worth the time.
A short film titled Dracula Bites The Big Apple was Richard Wenk's precursor to Vamp. The short cost around $5,500 to make, lasts around 22 minutes, and features an appearance by Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell. Not quite as well made as Vamp, but still worth taking a look at. This short is grainy (as is expected with such a low budget) and is presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Seven minutes of "behind-the-scenes" video footage is included featuring Grace Jones crawling all over the director and licking his belly. Before you even ask the answer is yes—it's very bizarre. A six-minute blooper reel of rough footage features some outtakes and goof-ups incurred while filming Vamp. Finally there are two full frame theatrical trailers, no less than seven TV spots, and a fairly large poster and still gallery filled with concepts and promotional material from Vamp.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At one point, Grace Jones wears large metal coils around her crotch and breasts. Frankly, I think that's enough to scare anybody shitless, myself included.
Vamp is nothing more than an enjoyable horror romp. Then again, what else could you possibly be looking for in a movie starring the kid from Meatballs and Grace Jones? With a great transfer and some nice supplements, Vamp is going to be something you'll cherish for years to come. Share the experience of Vamp with a friend—preferably one who can go out during the day!
Grace Jones it guilty of dressing so loud she could scare the blind AND the deaf. Otherwise, Vamp is absolutely free to go!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary by Richard Wenk, Gedde Watanabe, Dedee Pfeiffer and Chris Makepeace
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