Monday, April 5, 2010

Richard Wenk - Vamp (1986)

This camp horror-comedy gem from the 1980s lies unjustly neglected in the cult vaults… but, pursuing my mission to give new (un)life to the contents of the 1980s (Society, I’m looking at you), I bring you a film which features as its centrepiece an undead Grace Jones, with white and red body paint and props by Keith Haring, performing a striptease (Ms. Jones’ costumes throughout are provided by Issey Miyake, naturally).

The plot is simply told: a duo of likeable wiseguys, desperate to join a fraternity, promise to bring a stripper to the frat party that night. But, heading from their wholesome country town into the urban and moral decay of the big city in pursuit of this goal – or should that be ‘score’? – the strip club they choose turns out to be one in which they will become the objects of the wicked desires of the (vampiric) inhabitants, rather than vice versa. Visually, Vamp is a treat – particularly the spectacular presence of Grace Jones, as well as Billy Drago as an albino bad boy – and it features a rip-roaring synth-rock 80s soundtrack remniscent of others such as Once Bitten - I'm currently addicted to Stallion's 'Let My Fingers Do The Talking', a song which is not quite as sleazy as it sounds, but almost - not to mention a cameo by that stalwart of the Asian sterotype, Gedde Watanabe.

The gritty post-industrial streets, greasy spoons, and, in this case, sewers of the decaying 80s cityscape, familiar from other works including Batman and Howard the Duck, provide a nice sense of atmosphere. Despite the setting, the homoerotic (or should that be bromantic?) undertones (not to mention the classic conflation of sex and danger so commonly present in the vampire trope, here reworked in the service of the 80s teen sex comedy) are not far below the surface (gentle reader, have you ever found yourself insisting that you sleep in your same-sex buddy's bedroom with only honest intentions?), particularly in the oddly moving scene in which AJ (Robert Rusler), having been turned, begs Keith (Chris Makepeace) to stake him (and that pink tuxedo!) – while the suggestion of straight romance seems like a nod to commercial tropes rather than a heartfelt inclusion. Finally, who could not love a film in which a skeleton flips the bird? Fangs for the memories…

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