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Anchor Bay presents
Vamp (1986)

"I'm in the mood for love, simply because they're naked!"
- Duncan [singing] (Gedde Wantanabe)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 21, 2001

Stars: Chris Makepeace, Sandy Baron, Robert Rusler
Other Stars: Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Wantanabe, Grace Jones
Director: Richard Wenk

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, gore, language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:33m:02s
Release Date: August 21, 2001
UPC: 013131141894
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+B- B+

DVD Review

When looking back, it would seem that the 1980s brought about a lot of horror movies that tried different things, mainly humor. For example, the unofficial sequel to Night Of The Living Dead, Return Of The Living Dead turned out to be a bizarre satire of everything the Dead movies stood for, but it was wildly successful anyway. The whole "funny horror movie" syndrome produced a lot more misses than hits, though, and I think the great horror/comedy films of the 1980s could probably be counted on one hand, and I'll give you a hint: most of them weren't mainstream productions. One of the most perplexing and original of this breed is Vamp, a fast-paced prototype for a lot of the tongue-in-cheek thrillers we see nowadays. It stands as probably one of the most unusual, but fitting, hybrids of those two genres. Parts of it work and parts of it don't, but the whole thing occupies a very unique niche.

Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) pledge themselves to your average, generic, college fraternity. Of course, in the process they have to undergo some kind of initiation. In their case, they wind up making the fraternity a promise that they'll deliver a superb strip show for a party, thus insuring them membership. Like all great plans, though, things are easier said than done. As they and their temporary friend Duncan (Gedde Wantanabe) head off into the world of Los Angeles' nightlife to look for strippers, they wind up at a rather strange establishment, the After Dark Club. They think they've hit sexual paydirt, but they soon discover that the club is filled with very unusual, sinister people...and then there's the vampires. Heading up the blood-sucking dancers is Katrina (Grace Jones), the most mysterious of them all and possibly most dangerous. Keith, Duncan, A.J., and a waitress, Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer), must all figure out a way of getting out of the neighborhood alive, but that will prove much harder than it sounds.

Vamp has primarily made its name for the appearance of musician/actress/dancer Grace Jones as the deadly Katrina. While Jones has had many film appearances, very few them have been more than simply an exploitation of her weird personality. What makes Vamp much different is that her presence is actually quite sparingly used, and she also has no spoken dialogue. Instead, her mere presence is used as a intimidating factor. While her short appearance might disappoint some people, it actually seems to work better that way, especially since putting her in more of the movie would have been pushing things a bit. Beneath her appearance, though, Vamp is still an entertaining horror film. It experiments with a lot of radical departures from the norm, including an extremely high level of comedy. Some of the jokes and humor fall pretty flat, I must admit, but I admire the attempt.

I've endlessly heard Vamp compared to the more recent From Dusk 'Till Dawn, as both movies share very similar aspects. I guess I'd have to agree, but Vamp certainly is the more inspiring and original film. From beginning to end, director/writer Richard Wenk is obviously trying very hard to make a film that's both creepy and hilarious, and considering this was 1985, the attempt itself was outrageous. It's not a masterpiece or anything, but it's a fun film with a very flippant attitude about how it presents itself. If there are any flaws, I'd have to say the casting really doesn't work. Well, more accurately, Chris Makepeace doesn't seem to fit. He does a good job, but I can't help but think he doesn't grasp the right attitude for a college kid who'd be out looking for strippers. Otherwise, the film has the right touches, especially in the smaller roles. Vamp is well-handled and entertaining, despite being a little over-ambitious and falling short. It's not on the same floor as other 1980s horror/comedy masterworks like Evil Dead II or Fright Night, but it can certainly be in the same building.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film seems a bit aged and a little soft, but the transfer does manage to capture the wild, multicolor cinematography quite well. It's a very dark movie, but no details are left behind and the original balance of light/dark seems well maintained. Colors do not bleed or fade out and this is certainly most vivid Vamp has been in some time. In some ways, the film looks much like old sci-fi, B-movies when Technicolor got really big, where everything was lit in some elaborate, weird manner.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack is pretty uneventful. While the dialogue and sound effects all sound fine, it could have done with a little juicing up, at least into stereo. Regardless, there are no complaints here. It sounds fine, it just seems to lack a certain about of punch for such a wild film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
7 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Richard Wenk, actor Chris Makepeace, actress Dedee Pfeiffer, actor Gedde Wantanabe
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:20s

Extra Extras:
  1. Original short: Dracula Bites The Big Apple
  2. Rehearsal footage
  3. Blooper reel
  4. Promotional art gallery
Extras Review: Starting things off is an audio commentary featuring director Richard Wenk, Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Gedde Wantanabe, which constitutes the bulk of the central cast. I'm sure plenty of Vamp fans wet themselves upon hearing about the reunion and I guess they can't be blamed. It's a very active commentary with loads of information on all sorts of things, including auditions and how certain people eventually got what parts, etc. The commentary is live (they are all together watching the film) and it makes a great addition to the film, exposing the personality and wit of the individual people.

The disc contains Richard Wenk's short film Dracula Bites The Big Apple, which originally got him noticed and, subsequently, in the director's chair for Vamp. It's about 22 minutes long and is photographed at 1:85:1 with anamorphic enhancement. It's basically a comedy short that shows Wenk's ability to mix horror with sight-gags to produce a positive effect.

Some rehearsal footage is presented; essentially practice for a big Grace Jones scene. Richard Wenk takes the role of Jones' victim while they work out camera angles and other elements.

The blooper reel is about 6 minutes worth of edited-together goofs and deleted footage. Interestingly enough, there are a few cool scenes that apparently never made it into the film. There's some videotape problems, but otherwise a really interesting grouping.

There is a collection of promotional artwork and photo stills, some trailers, and more TV spots than you can shake a stick at. The general presentation is impressive, and the keepcase booklet contains a brief essay by Michael Felsher.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

It's easy to see why Vamp has such a devoted following. It's a highly stylized experiment with a traditional horror movie that succeeds in keeping people guessing. It's a bit dated, especially in terms of it's rather deadpan humor and one-liners, but the flaws can be excused when looking at the bigger picture. Fans get a great special edition here, so kudos once again to Anchor Bay.


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