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October 21st, 2014


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11:35 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Vamp
Netflix has been trying to get me to watch Vamp for ages, but I've been ignoring it because I didn't know anything about it. Hovering my house over it this evening, however, I saw that it was from 1986 (I had assumed it was much newer), and that the clown-faced waif on their movie poster is actually Grace Jones in whiteface. I decided it deserved a shot.

Vamp begins as Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) are failing their fraternity initiation. They figure they can buy their way in by hiring a stripper for the next house party, but they don't have a car so they have to hire the assistance of Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), the campus rich kid. Duncan is probably an offensive Asian stereotype, but that stereotype is so thoroughly entrenched in the '80s that it's hard to recognize now--his dorm has all the amenities: hot tub, a bank of computers keeping track of his stock trades, even employees to keep everything running. Duncan intimates, as his Cadillac leaves the campus, that the only thing he can't afford is love.

Our heroes drive into what appears to be a Joel Schumacher movie--there's steam and wet pavement and green and purple lighting. This is the bad part of town, and it isn't long before they run afoul of a street gang led by Billy Drago. After improbably beating the gang (who, by the way, are vampires (Keith & Co. haven't noticed)), they arrive at a strip club. Duncan and AJ are ready for a good night, but Keith just wants to make their deal and get the hell back home.

The action grinds to a halt (in a good way) when a stripper named Katrina (Jones) takes the stage. Her dance is more art than porn, and everyone is mesmerized. After the show, AJ worms his way into the back room where Katrina seduces him, then bites his neck.

AJ is gone for a long time, and Keith gets nervous. He starts poking around in back and discovers all kinds of creepy things: a sarcophagus, human remains (which must be props, right? Right? Oh, God, I hope these things are fake...), and eventually witnesses a clandestine exchange: the bouncer pays in cash for the garbage man to take care of... what? Keith doesn't want to know. Then the gang shows back up, and chases Keith into the sewer, where he runs into the now-undead AJ, and learns that this place is a nest of vampires.

I probably am not making Vamp sound any good, but I liked it a lot. It's funny and weird and doesn't invite a high level of scrutiny; just what you want from escapist entertainment. If I have a complaint, it's that Grace Jones headlines the poster, but she's on screen for what, a couple of minutes?

I like Grace Jones. She belongs to the same class of celebrities who Have Never Ceased to Be an Enigma (Until They Do), which includes such hallowed persons as Tilda Swinton, Crispin Glover, and David Byrne. Alums of this group include Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Angelina Jolie, who all traded their raw weirdness for starring roles in Hollywood blockbusters. Good on them, but I do appreciate outsiders.

Grace Jones has remained an outsider, in spite of her turns as an amazon warrior in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond villain in A View to a Kill. It drives me crazy that she gets her name on the poster, but never gets to do very much in these movies.

Here's the trailer.

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31 Days of Halloween: Vamp - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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