Vamp  (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes

The recipe: After Hours meets An American Werewolf in London meets Dick Tracy. 

Vamp really comes from the American Werewolf in London school of filmmaking, in the sense that it is a somewhat grotesque horror-comedy focusing on two average guys, one of whom joins the undead with unpleasant cosmetic consequences, while the other fights to escape the clutches of the creatures. The already undead guy continues to communicate with the normal guy, and continues to be his friend in certain ways, although he also has an urge to kill him and drink his blood.

As you can deduce from the title, this time the menace comes from vampires rather than werewolves. The modern day vampires run a strip joint in a really seedy neighborhood in L.A., and this seems like the ideal minority business if the minority is day-impaired Americans. Strippers work at night, and the guys who go to such a place make perfect victims. They usually come alone and live alone, so they will not be missed, and when one goes to such a place in such a neighborhood, one doesn't tell people about it, so the victims will not be traced. 

The vamps even have a fully-integrated business which includes a waste disposal truck to transport the bodies elsewhere, thereby assuring that the drained corpses won't attract police to their neighborhood.

Our heroes are college students trying to get into a fraternity, hoping to prove their mettle by acquiring a stripper for a frat party. They are accompanied by Gedde Watanabe as a rich, geeky student who provides the transportation in return for companionship, and Dedee Pfeiffer, as a new stripper who has not yet joined the undead.

The film's plot is uninspired, but it is a cut above most genre film DVD's because:

  • It makes excellent use of the unique look and talents of Grace Jones.

  • It has an exceptionally striking look in general. The art design and lighting were conceived to make it look like a comic strip, filled with bright colors and vivid patterns. It is not unusual to see red and green buildings in the background, or to see buildings with brightly colored windows, all images created by lighting tricks (Warren Beatty used the same techniques in Dick Tracy, which came after this film)

  • The "average person among the undead" motif sometimes works surprisingly well. Gedde and Dedee were especially good at creating the feel of average people coping with a chaotic situation.

  • The commentary on the DVD is a treasure. It is done by the director, the star (Chris Makepeace), Gedde, and Dedee. It's obvious that they all had a great time making the movie, and all like each other. They rib each other unmercifully, like college frat brothers, and this can be really funny. At times they even dub in their own new dialogue, ala MST3000. (E.g., Gedde hits on a stripper: "Hi, remember me from 16 Candles?") Two of them mentioned that making this film was the greatest time in their lives. Dedee is about the most down-to-earth person you can imagine.

  • There is a short film by the same director on the DVD. It is only 22 minutes long, and was made right after he graduated from film school. It is so good, that showing it around got him the job of directing "vamp".

  • There is additional footage on the DVD from the director's own private collection: outtakes and gag material. This is rare for a DVD based on a fifteen year old movie.

 A couple of notes:

1. This isn't a great movie, but it has some moments, and it showed some inspiration. It seemed to promise a good future for the boy director, Richard Wenk. That same talent is visible in the 22 minute short which is also on the DVD (also a humorous movie about vampires, singing ones this time, and featuring Steve Rubell of Studio 54 fame). Despite his evident talent, Wenk would not direct another full-length feature for 13 years, and then had to take one which was really not right for him. (Andy Garcia in "The Scalper", aka "Just The Ticket", a little-seen 1999 film). Wenk is currently working on a Meat Loaf film called Wishcraft, which is supposed to be a "teen horror" film. That's more up Wenk's alley, I guess. Not sure what his alley might be these days.

2. Gedde Watanabe is the guy who played "The Donger" in 16 Candles. I thought he created an appropriate and amusing character in both films, although his career seemed to languish for a long time after that, until he finally landed on ER. I guess he didn't seem to have much else in his repertoire. Gedde was 29 when he played the teenager in Sixteen Candles, and was 31 when he played the college boy in this film. Other interesting facts about him: (1) he is an accomplished singer whose singing voice had to be dubbed in Mulan because his real voice sounded too professional for the role (2) He may have become famous playing Long Duk Dong, and his family certainly has an Asian heritage, but he's as American as anyone can be. He has no foreign accent, speaks no Asian languages, was born and raised in Utah, and moved after high school to northern California. Not only that, but his ancestors are Japanese, not Chinese.

 What has Gedde been up to lately? Click here. 


DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • good DVD. See the main commentary


Grace Jones performs most of the film in a strange bikini which doesn't hide much, but she is never actually naked. Her nipples can clearly be seen underneath her wire bikini

Bodybuilder Lisa Lyon appears in tassels and thong, and is all but naked.

Two unnamed extras, playing strippers, are topless in the background

Tuna's notes

Vamp (1986) is a stylish, humorous vampire film partially inspired by another film, After Hours.

Three college men take a road trip to attempt to hire a stripper for a fraternity party, and end up in a club owned and staffed entirely by vampires, with the exception of one waitress, Dedee Pfeiffer, who knew two of the boys as kids. Robert Russler as the slickest of the three boys decides Grace Jones, the head vampire, is their woman, so he heads backstage to meet and hire her. Big mistake. She takes a bite out of his neck, and is about to have him discarded when she is told he had friends with him. At this point, it becomes a chase movie, with all the vampires out to get Dedee Pfeiffer, and the other two guys, one of whom is Long Duck Dong from 16 Candles, who was brought along only because he owned the car. As payment for the use of the car, the cool guys agreed to take him along and pretend to be his friend.

The script was written over a weekend, shot in 25 days (much of it at USC), edited quickly, and fully assembled for only $1.9 million. It does not look at all like a low-budget production. Grace Jones brought in her friend Andy Warhol to help decorate the set, and the entire film was shot in green and orange lighting, giving it a very unusual look. In addition to the distinctive appearance of the film, it is populated with good character actors.  I am sick to death of vampire films and was entertained by this one


The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: less than two stars. Ebert 2/4, Maltin 1.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.9
  • With their dollars ... it grossed 5 million in the USA
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics - or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "I think it's a C, a watchable genre film (grotesque horror-comedy). I seemed to appreciate it more than the critics and IMDb members, who all have it pegged around one and a half stars." Tuna liked it even better and awarded a C+, writing, " I am sick to death of vampire films and was entertained by this one."

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