Halloween Viewing: VAMP (1986)

Everyone takes Halloween as a time to catch up on their scary movie quota. Either someone watches the classics–from the Universal Monsters catalog to the genre-defining slashers of the 80’s–or some not-so-classics. While trying to find something labelled as “comedy” on Netflix, the recommendation for VAMP came up. The image featured Grace Jones with face painted white and Kool-Aid electric red hair. With not much to lose but 90 minutes, the PLAY button was pressed.

It’s sort of a vampire version of “After Hours,” Martin Scorsese’s great 1985 film about a long night in the big city when everything went wrong. The story this time: To escape the rigors of a fraternity initiation, a couple of pledges offer to go into the big city and hire a stripper to appear at the house’s next big party. After falling into a space-time warp or something, they emerge in an otherworldly metropolis where the local strip club is a front for a vampire ring. Visiting businessman are invited to the back room, and that’s the last the living ever see of them.

-Roger Ebert, Vamps review

The gist is that VAMPS features two wold-be frat pledges at a Kansas university travel to the local city to find a stripper in exchange for membership in a fraternity with the plushest accommodations on campus. They procure use of a rich-kid’s car to go into town (under the arrangement they take the kid with them) and find a stripper from one of the local clubs. The club they end up is full of Vampires and it’s up to them to make it through to the morning.

Overall, I give the movie a 3/5. It’s not stupid, and for a 90-minute feature that cost 1.9 million to make in 1986, it’s not dumb. It’s not exactly Fright Night or The Lost Boys, but it’s an interesting secondary in the 80’s vampire movies. There’s a right amount of camp for this movie about vampire strippers, acting a bit ridiculous when the moment calls for it but gruesome at times. The only real vampire attack in the movie comes from Grace Jones and though it starts out as sexual in nature, the end results are animal and off-putting in a good way. 

This twenty-seven year old movie is, if anything, a good look into how the world has changed in just three decades. Early in the film, AJ is shown hauling in a pay-phone he removed from the wall of his doomroom hall-way (as opposed to the phone in my hand that is capable of broadcasting the entire movie.) Even the availability of sex has grown; the boys struggle to get a stripper when in today’s world, they could go to Craig’s List or Backpages or ask a friend of a friend. Whether or not this is better is up to you, but this shows that thirty-years ago, people went to great efforts to get something that is readily available today (that something being naked women.)

Most of the budget wisely went into effects. There were a couple times where things looked a bit ‘cheap’ but there are plenty more instances of explosions, fire and horrible dental structures to make up for. The story isn’t terrible but it isn’t as captivating as one might think. The laughs are a bit on the so-so side, which is expected because horror and comedy can be hard balancing act. I think this movie wanted to be a decent vampire movie while adding wise-cracking shots and the occasional topless woman. Mission accomplished.

Other people have discussed this – the Film Connoisseur has a write-up about the movie with some good shots from the film, while 2 Or 3 Things I know About Film points out the film’s “derivative” elements and bringing up the point that every female character is a stripper. I disagree that the movie doesn’t “slut shame,” or that the women come off as being dishonorable or “lesser than” for being strippers. Had the vampires in the movie been only women, then the idea that “women are blood-sucking monsters using sex to ruin men” would have more weight. I see that sex and vampirism are too closely intertwined. The character of Dracula is a sexual creature. Many people have utilized the vampire’s association with being a seductive, captivating creature that uses sex as a lure and Vamp is no different. It could have taken this idea in a different way but I don’t think the screenwriters or director were looking to change the genre.  

Also, for some reason, there’s a gang of Albinos in this movie. One of them has a mullet.

They all can’t be classics. It’s something to watch if you’re bored but not something to watch if you want to watch something, especially if you want to watch something good. Overall, 3/5 – kind of how my Halloween’s going. It’s a 3/5 type of year.   

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