Films I Love: Vamp (1986)

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I’m so generous towards the 1980’s that I think I should start making actual cash donations to it. I don’t know exactly how I’d do that, but until that day, I’ll continue to overpraise silly B-movies like Vamp. I guess it is a guilty pleasure, because I can’t ignore that some of the humour is pretty broad and unsuccessful, and it’s all very, very silly, but there’s so much that I love about it that it’ll always have a place in my heart. You know, the place in my heart that loves garish pink and green lighting. Blimey, this film has a lot of that. I’m guessing director Richard Wenk may have seen Dario Argento’s Suspiria and/or Inferno, where the lighting was completely unrealistic but so damned cool-looking that anyone who was complaining about it was just simply in the wrong screening room at the wrong time. Yeah, it’s contrived and stylised, but it looks great. And for a film as low-budget as Vamp, those colours give a touch of sleazy class to the proceedings. Anyway, this is the one where three college students (the cool one, the baby-faced one, the dork) drive downtown to hire a stripper for their fraternity’s upcoming festivities. So far, so Porky’s, but all of a sudden their car spins out of control in the middle of the big city and literally emerges from it in a completely different part of town where all the establishments close up just as The After Dark Club is opening its doors. It turns out the guys’ selected stripper is a mute Grace Jones. It also turns out she’s a vampire. Personally I’d have run a mile after her frankly terrifying dance sequence, which crosses the line past titillation and into outright experimental performance art territory. The guys however, go for it. Cue a night’s worth of horrors, including bad toupees, killer lift doors, an albino Billy Drago (yes, yes, yes!), bug eating and a grisly shock heart-rip that out-nasties the one in Temple of Doom. Plot-wise it’s a by-the-numbers affair, despite the clever switch from frat-comedy to camp-horror – but the joy lies in the approach. The afore-mentioned colour-scheme really gives everything a pleasingly gaudy personality, the cast look like they’re having huge fun and Grace Jones makes the most of her limited screen time by delivering a purely physical performance, resulting in one of the most frightening screen vampires. True, her last few moments are dismally jokey, but her earlier seduction of Robert Rusler’s unwitting victim is pretty scary and surprisingly full-on. Not one of the better vampire films of the 80’s, and you’ll have difficulty convincing those who think it’s shit to consider otherwise, but this is definitely my kind of cheap and cheerful horror. By the way, when I first watched this as a child, I had absolutely no idea what Formica was and therefore did not get the final twist at all.

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3 thoughts on “Films I Love: Vamp (1986)

  1. Jolly well written. I was old enough and material-savvy enough to get the Formica gag. Reminds me of a scene in an old X-Men comic when non-believer Wolverine makes the sign of the cross with his claws to ward off Dracula with hilarious results. My favourite vampire film of the 80s? Fright Night. Take that, Near Dark. Peter Vincent FTW.

    • Don’t forget the Jewish vampire who fails to be affected by the cross in The Fearless Vampire Killers! Classic! Top marks for loving Fright Night, it is quite wonderful. My inevitable review/commentary will be appropriately adoring, but Near Dark should never be neglected. It has Bill Paxton.

  2. Well said.
    I was old enough and material science-savvy enough to get the Formica gag. Reminds me of an old X-Men comic when filthy heathen Wolverine makes the sign of the cross with his claws to repel Dracula, with hilarious results.
    My favourite vamp film of the 80s? Fright Night. Take that, Near Dark.

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