Vamp (1986) movie poster

(1986) director Richard Wenk
viewed: 09/20/10

This was a film that I remembered from it’s original release and run in 1986.  Not a film that I remembered all that fondly, per se, but remembered nonetheless namely for the striking appearance of Grace Jones as an African vampire stripper of distinctive bearing.  And in one of my multiple themes in film viewing, a 1980’s horror-comedy seemed apt to revisit no matter how I’d remembered it.

Besides Jones, the film also features actor Chris Makepeace, who I’d liked a lot from his teenage films Meatballs (1979) and My Bodyguard (1980).  The story follows Makepeace and his buddy A.J. (Robert Rusler), two pledges looking to get moved out of the noisy Kansas state college dorms and into a fraternity, as they seek to land a big city stripper to impress their would-be frat mates.  They also pick up wealthy dorm geek Gedde Watanabe (best known as “Long Duk Dong” in John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles (1984)), in a less painfully stereotyped comedic role. They stumble on a strip club run by vampires, whose statuesque New Wave/Glam queen in Jones in a non-speaking role.

I’d remembered seeing the film in the theater in the day, and I recalled not particularly liking the film.  And it’s not a great film nor an overly well-crafted film.  The acting is also decent but clunky too.  But the film is not without its charms.  While it’s not as humorous as The Lost Boys (1987) (another 1980’s comedy-vampire flick), it has some likable characters in A.J., the buddy-turned-vampire, Amaretto/Alison(?) the girl next door/stripper/waitress, and Vic, the Renfeldian bar owner, who pines for Vegas and the days of Louis Prima.

And most significantly it has Jones, not necessarily utilized to full potential, but quite striking in her mien.  Her initial appearance, on stage as a cat-like stripper, with her bright red bob wig, whitened face, blue contact lenses, and Keith Haring-like body paint, is something of an All-Star drag event.  Her sexuality is potent and formidable, “out there” and “other”, artistic and odd, much like her general stage and artistic persona.  She appears in a bikini of sorts, made up of a couple of metallic spirals, barely covering her lean frame.  She’s almost a special effect in and of herself.

Cast in a classic 1980’s motif of color-hued lighting, the sets are often green or pink or red or blue, in a sort of faux neon theme.  The soundtrack pulsates with largely unrecognizable 1980’s music, too.  Very much of its time, and while not really peaking in any one area, the film as a whole isn’t as atrocious as I had recalled it.  There is pleasure in it.

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