Vamp
Arrow Video // R // $29.95 // October 4, 2016
Review by William Harrison | posted November 7, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

THE FILM:

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A relatively minor entry in the 80s vampire catalogue, Vamp is nonetheless entertaining and worth your time. Two college fraternity pledges, AJ (Robert Rusler) and Keith (Chris Makepeace), are at risk of getting cut and must prove their worth to their potential brothers in booze. They decide to do that by going into a seedy part of downtown Los Angeles and hiring a stripper to come to a house party the next night. Trouble is, the club is not some Skid Row house of prostitution, and is instead staffed by a group of hungry vampires. This works out well, as the crew feeds on the homeless and degenerates that will never be missed. Vamp surely inspired From Dusk Till Dawn, at least in part, and it plays out with much tongue-and-cheek humor. Parts of it are scary, other parts feel like Ferris Bueller's Day Off with undead strippers. Overall, it's a good time.

Richard Wenk's film feels very 80s, with its neon cinematography and gritty, grimy L.A. scene. After the boys fail an initiation task, they barter a reprieve and decide a stripper is just what they need to make it back in the fraternity's good graces. They take rich nerd Duncan's (Gedde Watanabe) Cadillac (with him in backseat) and head into downtown, where they stop at a diner. There, a pretty waitress, Allison (Dedee Pfeiffer), keeps claiming to know the boys from high school. They do not remember her, and things only get stranger from there. The diner patrons leave promptly before midnight, and warn AJ and Keith to head back to campus. Instead, the pair enters the after-hours club, and is quickly amazed by a performance from Queen Katrina (Grace Jones).

After the performance, AJ heads to the back to recruit Katrina, who ends up biting him in the neck, turning him into an undead. From there, Keith and Duncan try to escape from the club and its angry staff. This is played for laughs, mostly, and Vamp does a nice job mixing humor with blood and guts. Vamp is relatively tame by today's standards, but there are a couple of amusing kills. The movie has a surprising amount of heart, and the leads are nicely developed, as is the Allison character. Model/actress Jones is a freaky cool vampire queen, and she steals most of her scenes despite giving an amateurish performance. Watanabe, best known as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, gives a similar fish-out-water performance here that elicits a couple of laughs.

The initial threat to life and limb appears to come from an albino biker gang roaming the nearby streets, but the strippers soon join the killing party, too. AJ awakens and is perturbed to be dead, lamenting that he will never get to work during the day again. He tries to help his buddy escape from Katrina, to humorous results, and becomes the hero of the film. Wenk goes for humor when he could have allowed Vamp to be unoriginal horror, and the film feels like a just-graduated member of the 80s teen comedy club that includes the aforementioned Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, as well as Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Vampire films did not always have to be so serious or sappy, folks.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Arrow provides a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image, from a 2K scan of the original camera negative, and the results are generally impressive. The film is dark, gritty and grainy, but that's a source issue not a transfer flaw. The opening titles display some print damage and instability, but things quickly clean up. Fine-object detail and texture are fairly good, and colors are bold and nicely saturated. Blacks are deep with adequate shadow detail, and the layer of grain is thick but lifelike. I noticed no issues with digital tinkering, and this image is wonderfully true to the source.

SOUND:

The 2.0 LPCM mono mix is also true to the source, and is mostly clear and without distortion save a few pops here and there. Dialogue is clear and uncluttered by effects or score. The mix is moderately deep and certainly strong for a single-channel track. English SDH subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release comes in Arrow's trademark thick, clear Blu-ray case. The artwork is two-sided, and a multi-page insert includes liner notes and an essay. Extras include One of those Nights (44:30/HD), which offers interviews by Wenk, DP Elliott Davis, Pfeiffer, Watanabe and others. You also get Rehearsal Footage (6:40/HD) of Jones and Wenk; a Blooper Reel (6:13/HD); Wenk's short film Dracula Bites the Big Apple (21:02/HD); and TV Spots, Trailers and an Image Gallery.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Arrow Video's Blu-ray of Vamp is Recommended. This amusing 80s vampire horror/comedy feels like a mix of John Hughes and From Dusk Till Dawn, and director Richard Wenk skillfully mixes humor and horror.


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