Vamp (1986)

On paper, this film is a very good idea. It’s a blend of the classic genres of the 80s: sexy teen comedy and sexy vampires. It’s also got the amazing Grace Jones, who adds a touch of sexy and terror to any movie she’s in. Throw in some strippers, a few curious-looking street punks (including a top-notch appearance by Billy Drago), and what do you have?

Well, mostly you have a slow starter of a film that pads out its relatively straightforward script with a lot of hanging around and waiting. It’s hard to tell if it’s trying to make some deep point about time, being as vampires are immortal, if it wants to show off its cinematography and very mid-80s pink-and-green neon lighting motif, or if first time writer and director Richard Wenk just didn’t have enough material to fill the gaps. But if you were after something zippy then this is not a film for you as it will not be rushed.

NO! Not until you’ve finished your main course

The cast fills in the time mostly with their presence. Chris Makepeace and Robert Rusler work a great double act as the cocky but adorably protagonists Keith and AJ, heading to the city to hire a stripper for a frat party. The aforementioned Billy Drago does a grand job as an albino criminal, ready to terrorise the pair to show that they are outside of their comfort zone. Sandy Baron plays an amazing ancient club host, Vic, full of ambition and ennui, and Dedee Pfeiffer does the best she can with a sign-post holding bit of love interest.

“Timotei, why do you ask?”

Grace Jones… just steals every moment she’s in, because she’s Grace Fucking Jones. Her first appearance is what can only be described as avant-garde striptease, which is in equal measure terrifying and alluring and terrifyingly alluring. She then, essentially through mime, commands her minions into stopping the interlopers and, when that craps out, gets her own hands messy. She is absolutely perfect in this role and honestly, it’s her presence that makes this film worth watching.

Ladies and gentlemen; Miss Grace Jones

Complimenting her is just how good everything and everyone looks. The costumes, the sets, the make-up: it’s all trashy in that high-gloss magazine way that the 80s excelled at. This is attractive sleaze, a pop skid row, which doesn’t worry too much about common sense or logical outcomes. In some places that gets a bit hard to believe, especially when it seems that everyone on the street is a bloodsucker. But the almost surreal nature of it helps with the more artistic elements, including everywhere being light in the aforementioned pink-and-green neon. It makes absolutely no sense, but once you notice it you’ll forgive its presence as it just looks so good in the street, on the road, in the sewers, in the bins etcetera etcetera

You thought I was kidding

This mostly, but not totally, helps hide the fact that the film is slow. The combination of cast and look just about paper over the cracks, even when the script doesn’t. But, it must be said, that wears thin during the second act and you will be forgiven if you sit there patiently waiting for it to pick up the pace. Thankfully, it does in the final quarter of the film, with some exciting twists and turns to wake you back up.

“Don’t look now, but we’re being chased by a grip with pink and yellow lighting”

There are better vampire films from the era to watch, and certainly more exciting ones. However, they don’t have Grace Jones in them and few of them take the chances that this one does. For all its flaws, including an insipid female not-vampire lead and Gredde Watanabe playing another socially awkward racial caricature, it has got something that can keep you watching. So, if you are willing to give it both a chance and time, you might well find it quite the Treasure.

The Raggedyman

Sub note: we recently watched Strippers Vs Werewolves, which was crap. One of the specific things Vamp does incredibly well, which SvW didn’t, is giving a better idea of what it’s like to be in a strip club. Well, that and basically everything else.

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