Thursday, November 10, 2016

VAMP: Richard Wenk's cult classic horror-comedy hits Blu-ray; Grace Jones: Yikes!

When the surprise scares-with-laughs movie, VAMP, first opened in theaters -- in the summer of 1986 -- audiences were taken with its original combination of vampire horror and charming college-kids-in-danger plot. TrustMovies had not seen it since its theatrical release (and then again when it hit videotape not long after), so he was primed to take another look, 30 years later, via the new Blu-ray release of the film from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment. It does not disappoint.

As written and directed by Richard Wenk, shown at left (this was his first foray into full-length filmmaking), the movie has a funny, bouncy sense of humor coupled to a wealth of scares, little and large.

Many of these creepy moments come from the film's star, musical performer Grace Jones -- shown below and further below -- who was then at her peak and has the perfect role here: one that calls for no dialog, but offers a terrific dance number/performance art piece, followed by some spectacular vampire make-up. Ms Jones delivers every bit as well as does the movie itself.

The plot has to do with a couple of friends -- the sweet and silly Chris Makepeace and the uber sexy Robert Rusler -- who, in order to get into the fraternity of their choice, must arrange for some good-time girls to perform for the upper classmen. They manage to borrow the car of the class nerd, a rich kid longing for acceptance and played to goofy perfection by Gedde Watanabe, who comes along as part of the deal.

One of the great charms of this film is how it uses its tiny budget so smartly and gets much of its ambience from, of all things, colored lights and gels. It one major special effect -- other than the terrific vampire make-up -- is the way in which the little group manages to enter the netherworld. This occurs via the sudden spinning around of a car gone out of control. The effect produced is original, simple and smart.

Once in this very weird "other" place, the group encounters an adorable young woman (Dedee Pfeiffer) who seems to know the character played by Makepeace. Ms Pfeiffer turns what could be silly or too cute into something original, sassy, and very sweet. Along the way we get a rogue elevator, a family of nasty albinos (led by Billy Drago), a sad little girl with her doll (below), an ultra-skeevey club manager (Sandy Baron), some attractive strippers (the film may put you in mind of From Dusk til Dawn, though it got there a full decade before Mr. Tarantino).

The consistent alternating of laughs and scares works quite well, and the movie builds nicely to a tingly climax, with its last laugh providing a low-key but very funny moment. How sweet it is to see a film one remembers so fondly that actually holds up decades later.

From the ever-productive British firm of Arrow Video and released here in the USA via MVD Entertainment, Vamp's beautifully transferred Blu-ray disc, available now, is awash in fabulous extras, my favorite of which is a present-day interview with the film's director, Mr .Wenk, and three of its stars: Mr. Rusler, Mr. Watanabe and Ms Pfeiffer. There's also a blooper reel, image gallery, subtitles for the hard-of-hearing, plus Mr Wenk's earlier short film, Dracula Bites the Big Apple, which helped lead the filmmaker into Vamp.

No comments: