Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vamp, 1986

It's been a Burn Notice marathon in the house for a couple of weeks now and wanted something totally different.  Rumaging through Netflix I come across Vamp, from 1986.

I'm totally expecting a cheesy 80's risque comedy, something like Bachelor Party with fangs.  What I got was so much better.  The movie opens with a scene right out of a serious horror movie, a flashback sequence to a medieval monastery, robed monks, men dragged up onto a gibbon in a great hall, and a rumbling basso extolling the value of a final sacrifice.  Those expectations of a serious movie are tossed aside when we find out it is a lame fraternity initiation, and the pledges in question find the whole scenario ridiculous.  In a surprisingly well acted speech, AJ, our handsome protagonist, proposes an alternative, he'll get them a stripper for their party and they get in the frat.

So, it's comedy time, right? You have the athletic, handsome protagonist.  The slightly less alpha side kick, and a road trip to a strip club.  They add in Gedde Watanabe to the group, the goofy Asian rich kid with a car.  Should be time for pithy one liners and over the top laughs.

You think since we are going to a strip club it will feature copious T&A, right?  Not exactly.  There is some very tasteful on stage sexiness, but it's really tame.  We see a couple of stage performances before we get to the star of the show, Grace Jones as Katrina.  It's an avante garde art piece, not at all what I was expecting.

This was Grace Jone's first movie role, and basically, she is playing herself with fangs.  She doesn't have lines really, but she doesn't need to say anything to own the scenes she is in.  It's pure physical performance.

It never realizes the comedic potential of the set up or cast, totally under utilizing Gedde Watanabe, but it does manage to be a half way decent horror movie for the era.  There are some great little visuals, like the undead kid in the alley, Billy Drago as an albino redneck vampire crook, and the practical effects of the vampire's "game faces."  These vampires lead a sad, humorless existence, and dream of better places.  Their immortal lives are filled with the drudgery and ennui that living night after night in a strip club would bring.

It's a remarkably stylish, well produced movie for what it is.  The whole thing is set in this dingy industrial area, basically shut down at night save for the strip club.  Everything is lit in violets, greens, crazy over saturated film effects, fog and neon.  Realistic would have been expensive, instead they went for visually distinct.  It is basically a comic book done on film, and might be a little ahead of it's time in that regard.

Stand out performance in this flick has to be DeeDee Pfeifer, younger, hotter sister of Michelle Pfeifer.  She's ditzy, sweet, and the most vivacious presence in a movie filled with walking stiffs.

If you liked Dusk Til Dawn, you should appreciate this slightly more innocent precursor.

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