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  Vamp Creatures Of The Night
Year: 1986
Director: Richard Wenk
Stars: Chris Makepeace, Sandy Baron, Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe, Grace Jones, Billy Drago, Brad Logan, Jim Boyle, Larry Spinak, Eric Welch, Stuart Rogers, Gary Swailes, Ray Ballard, Paunita Nichols
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: After an initiation to a college fraternity turns wrong the two candidates, Keith (Chris Makepeace) and best friend AJ (Robert Rusler) give the stuck up students a piece of their minds. And yet, they still want to join for their benefits the classy fraternity will give them, such as decent dorm rooms and cable TV, therefore they come up with a compromise. There is a party to be held soon, so the leader of the students requests that they do the house a favour: if Keith and AJ find a stripper for them, then they can join up. Sounds simple enough, except that they don't have a car, are new in the area and aren't familiar with the nightclubs, and have no idea of the trouble awaiting them...

Back in the eighties, if you wanted to get your horror film made you took the cue of An American Werewolf in London's success and added a few gags to your resurrection of the genre clich├ęs. Et voila: a palatable chiller that would go well with any amount of beer and pizza on a Friday night. Screenwriter and director Richard Wenk's Vamp was one of those, and often dismissed as a cheap, sub-Fright Night cash in, yet there are those who remember it fondly, and little wonder as in spite of its low budget it achieved a good humoured, visually striking experience which placed it head and shoulders above the usual gunge perpetrated in the name of this kind of shocker entertainment.

Once our heroes have secured the use of a car, from rich fellow student Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) who wants to come along for the ride in spite of their reservations (they can't exactly protest, it is his transport after all), they end up in the nearest city. And after driving about for a bit, they lose control of the vehicle and spin round in a nice little effect to find that now dusk is approaching, the streets are deserted, one instance where the old "I guess we're not in Kansas anymore" quip seems to fit right in. For what Vamp really transpires to be is one of those eighties movies where a previously confident character, usually a yuppie but not in this case, is taken on an adventure through the night.

You know the type of thing: After Hours, Into the Night, Something Wild, there was a rash of them around this era, and Vamp is a neat example of the style masquerading as a horror film. As far as the striking imagery goes, Wenk did rely on a Mario Bava technique of lighting his sets in pink and green, which livens up what could have been fairly drab and offers the proceedings a distinctive appearance. However, his main bonus was the casting of Grace Jones as the star attraction in the strip club the three boys end up in, as her act and look is so arresting that it almost overshadows the rest of the movie, with her white body paint and barely there costume, which naturally, or supernaturally, gives way to yellow contact lenses and a mouthful of sharp fangs.

It doesn't seem so at first glance, but there is a lot going on in Vamp, and while the brasher AJ goes backstage to try to hire Grace's Katrina, Keith catches the eye of one of the waitresses, whose professional name is Amaretto and insists she recognises him even though he has no idea who she is. She is played with bright appeal by Dedee Pfeiffer, a ray of sunshine amidst this gloom, and the characters are very well observed, the other standout being Sandy Baron's nightclub owner Vic, who snacks on cockroaches and dreams of opening an establishment in Las Vegas, if only the performers were not quite so keen on feasting on the patrons. Add to this a gang of albinos who we're not sure are vampires or not, a murderous elevator and the Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of worry that everyone except Keith has turned bloodsucker, and you have an underrated gem. The jokes could have been better, but let's not be picky. Music by Jonathan Elias.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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