Vamp (1986) Blu-ray Review: From Dusk Till... Hey, Wait a Minute!

Though the extras for this Arrow Video release are a bit on the anemic side, I can still sink my teeth in this fun '80s vampire cult classic.
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While the cinematic equilibrium of horror and comedy had been teeter-totting off and on for many years prior, it really wasn't until the 1980s rolled around that people started to get the balance right (that may or may not have been a Depeche Mode reference, for those of you playing at home). Indeed, the monstrous success of Ghostbusters in 1984 (you know, the good one) all but blew the doors off of the previously sealed gateway to the otherworldly. Within the boundaries of films we weren't supposed to take very seriously, that is. In a way, this permitted the horror movie boom of the '80s to blossom the way it did ‒ with catchy climactic one-liners, sarcastic quips from dream demons, and in-frame jokes (for silent killers sporting hockey masks) spewing forth ad nauseum.

More importantly, the horror-comedy of the '80s gave kids a chance to conquer their fears without feeling too much like they were going to go to Hell once it was all said and done with, both off-screen and on. In the case of Richard Wenk's Vamp, the symmetry betwixt the supernatural and the silly is about as perfect as it can possibly get; the sense of this palatable formula heightened by copious amounts of four-color neon and synth music. The film's premise was also somewhat popular ‒ not that it made for a super mega huge hit; rather, Wenk's concept would be recycled a decade later for the second half of a more popular film, something called From Dusk Till Dawn. For you see, here, for the first time, we explored the filmic phenomenon of exotic dancers who were quite literally to die for.

Determined to move into a boring frat house, Keith (Chris Makepeace, who looks like the illegitimate offspring of Corey Haim and Kirk Cameron) and A.J. (Robert Rusler) ‒ two young gents who almost personify the lyrics of the Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities" ‒ are faced with the dubious task of hiring an even more vacillating entertainer for the evening. Alas, they live in an era before the advent of the Internet, and are forced to venture outside of their comfort zone in order to procure a stripper. With the financial aid of a terminally geeky kid named Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), the trio head out to a sleazy stripjoint which is so far out on the shady outskirts of the city, the police don't even bothered to patrol the area. And if there was ever a calling for someone to say "What could possibly go wrong?", this is it.

For you see, boys and girls, this particular well-hidden night spot is run and largely inhabited by a group of vampires, as ruled by a seductive mistress of the netherworld, Katrina. And it is the appearance of Katrina ‒ or rather the ever-alluring charms of the mysterious performer inhabiting the part, Grace Jones ‒ that easily escalates Vamp up the ranks. Though she never so much as utters a single word throughout the entire picture, Jamaica's answer to David Bowie commands all eyes be upon her from the moment she enters the story, wherein the first thing she does is give us a show which Salma Hayek couldn't even top with a snake added into the equation. From there, our naïve assortment of aspirating protagonists slowly start to realize they should have picked a different district to cruise.

Seemingly inspired by Fright Night while paving the way for Near Dark, this naughty li'l romp between the streets also stars Borscht Belt comic Sandy Baron (Broadway Danny Rose) as the club's sleazy manager, Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle's youngster sister) as the cute club girl whom hero Chris Makepeace can't remember, the great Billy Drago as an albino gang member, and Brad Logan as Baron's bouncer. Hy Pyke, a minor cult movie performer who popped up in everything from Dolemite to Blade Runner to The First Nudie Musical, also appears as a shady hotel desk clerk. Writer/director Wenk, who most recently penned the screenplays for the remakes of The Equalizer and The Magnificent Seven, based the story off of an idea by producer Donald P. Borchers (Children of the Corn).

Though Arrow Video issued a Blu-ray of Vamp in the UK in 2011, this marks the first time they have given the catalog title to viewers in North America. And while this release of Vamp boasts more special features than the 2011 Image Entertainment BD, it contains very little of the extras seen on the UK disc. In fact, were it not for a new documentary One of Those Nights: The Making of Vamp featuring bits and pieces from various cast and crew, the bonus items on this are almost identical to that of the old Anchor Bay DVD ‒ except that the audio commentary with director Richard Wenk and stars Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Gedde Watanabe is sorely missing. A different commentary track from the UK Blu-ray with actor Robert Rusler and critic Calum Waddell is also absent here.

The remaining, included extras for this Arrow Video release consist primarily of scraps of footage which had been rescued from old analog sources. The exception to that is Wenk's 1979 short (student) film, Dracula Bites the Big Apple, which is something quite unto itself. But, all of my griping aside, Vamp is still a fun flick to sink your teeth into, so I’ll still recommend it just the same.

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