College fraternity pledges Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) go on a road trip to book a stripper for their frat house. Together with “friend for a week” Duncan (Gedde Watanabe out of Gung Ho) they have a run in with Billy Drago in a white fright wig before happening on a dodgy looking strip club with cockroaches for bar snacks, a creepy manager, a psycho bouncer and a cute waitress/stripper (Dedee Pfieffer). Oh, and loads of vampires, led by Grace Jones’ Katrina.
Richard Wenk’s Vamp is a minor horror-comedy cult classic which I’d somehow managed to miss over the years. It’s good cheesy fun – funny in places, creepy in others, its neon lit nighttime street settings combining with the synth heavy soundtrack for a gothic, even goth, atmosphere. There’s a great, bird-flipping death scene in there and one of the best creepy child-vampires you’re likely to see. The cast is good with Dedee Pfieffer particularly engaging while Grace Jones’ vampire turn is a memorable one, her Katrina pitched somewhere between Nosferatau and Metropolis.
What’s most remarkable about the film though is its very clear influence on later movies. Drago’s street gang is an obvious template for Keifer Sutherland’s vampire gang in The Lost Boys and as a monster-movie riff on the teen college comedies of the day, it’s no great stretch to say Buffy the Vampire Slayer owes Vamp a debt. As to a strip club run by vampires? From Dusk Till Dawn, surely – right down to meeting the queen vamp during a dance sequence (we first encounter Katrina using her powers to mesmerise the audience during a mental ’80s performance art piece). More surprisingly perhaps, I think it’s fair to say that Watanabe’s Duncan is surely a loose template for both Zach Galifianakis’ and Ken Jeong’s characters from the Hangover movies.
Vamp finds itself at the better end of the horror comedy scene of the ’80s and ’90s. It does however leave certain questions unanswered – why would a group of vampires keep open oil drums and naked flames next to their coffins? And, just how difficult was it to hire a stripper in 1986?