Archive for the ‘Vamp (1986)’ Category

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Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 04, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:34:01

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono LPCM (48kHz, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 31.98 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

title

“Katrina is a very human type of vampire—meaning she has a lot of memories. So, her personality is that of a regular person. Meaning: She remembers love, she remembers the sun… She is a very good vampire because she’s survived for 2000 years. She’s from Egypt.” –Grace Jones (The Today Show, 1986)

Forgive me. Perhaps I’m a bit closed minded, but nothing about Katrina (the most iconic vampire represented in Vamp) strikes me as “regular.” One assumes that such bizarre people probably exist, but you don’t see many of them shopping at the nearest Wal-Mart. Who knows, though? This was the eighties. Nothing about the eighties seems particularly normal in retrospect.

This critic has always had difficulty with the vampire sub-genre. (Let the Right One In is an exception.) These films seem much too ridiculous to inspire any fear—partly because of the accepted aesthetic of the creature makeup when a vampire turns. Why must these poor souls become so outlandishly distorted? Such things tend to rouse laughter instead of screams. This particular issue is probably less relevant when discussing Vamp because it is designed as a horror-comedy.

Still

Grace Jones is shown here in full vampire make-up.

As a matter of fact, more than a few critics have noted that it bears more than a passing resemblance to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours—another bizarre journey through urban nightlife that feels like a waking dream. Of course, After Hours is the work of a master filmmaker, and Vamp is Richard Wenk’s feature debut. If you are wondering who Richard Wenk is, then the point has been adequately driven home. While After Hours walks a fine line between the absurd and the real, Vamp falls into an abyss of the absurd. What’s more, lines are delivered in the boldest of strokes—as if to drive home the comedic elements. Anyone who has ever seen an eighties film will recognize this particular tendency as one of the decade’s more prominent cinematic attributes.

The setup is solid enough (if not particularly original). Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ want to make the right impression at college and devise a plan to get them into the best frat house on campus. They head to the “After Dark Club” in their effort to find a stripper for a party their friends won’t forget, but the club is the home base for a den of vampires led by Kinky Katrina (Grace Jones)!

one-sheet

The Theatrical One Sheet.

The film was a clear influence on From Dusk Till Dawn, but Vamp is more idiosyncratic. The film’s stylistic flourishes are extremely theatrical and are obviously inspired by the comic book aesthetic. The lighting is given a lurid color scheme of magenta and green, and the composition makes liberal use of canted angles. Nell Dickerson, who worked with the film’s lighting department claimed that the film’s budget influenced these stylistic decisions.

“In horror films, the set and lighting are especially intertwined. Part of that is the lack of budget to build the expensive set. It’s easier, quicker and cheaper to create the atmosphere with lights and gels.” -Nell Dickerson (Man Is the Warmest Place to Hide, July 16th, 2012)

Whatever the reasons were, the aesthetic choices made by Richard Wenk and his crew have made a lasting impression on everyone who has seen the film. Vamp polarized audiences upon its release and continues to do so to this day, but no one forgets having seen it. Perhaps this is the reason why Vamp has such a strong cult following. It is one of those unusual critical failures that simply won’t fade into the night… The green and magenta lighting continues to illuminate (even if you wish that it wouldn’t).

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with reversible film-related artwork. There is a newly commissioned comic-book style cover by the “Twins of Evil” that makes use of the film’s magenta and green color palette. This is one of Arrow’s better designs, but it is nice that Arrow has also offered fans the opportunity to utilize alternative artwork that makes use of one of the film’s original one-sheet designs.

Alternate One Sheet - Reverse Blu-ray Cover

This vintage one sheet was used for the Arrow disc’s alternate cover.

There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay by Cullen Gallagher about the film and what it has to offer. This booklet also includes film related photographs and artwork.

menu

 The disc’s animated menu utilizes footage from the film and is easy to navigate. It is rare that such an obscure film receives such an attractive release, and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

As is usually the case, Arrow’s transfer is quite strong technically. The film’s unusually lurid color scheme seems to be accurately rendered here and is enhanced by an impressive level of detail and clarity (for a film that is 30 years old). It is nice to see that the transfer keeps a healthy layer of film grain intact, and this gives the film an old school texture that cinephiles will enjoy.  A few minor imperfections that seem to be inherent in the source do admittedly arise on occasion (such as light flicker and the occasional soft shot). 

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The mono LPCM track is also quite solid and handles all aspects of its mix adequately. Some might wish for a more dynamic mix to exercise their expensive sound systems, but purists will be more than happy that Arrow opted to represent the film’s original mono origins. This is a very nicely rendered sound transfer.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Dracula Bites the Big Apple (1979) – (22:03)

Before he signed on to make his feature debut, Richard Wenk directed this quirky short that brought Wenk the attention of Donald P. Borchers. Borchers was apparently so impressed by this idiosyncratic “musical” short that he approached the director about collaborating on a feature film. This project became Vamp.

Dracula Bites the Big Apple shows even less restraint than Vamp and is an unusual experience in its own right. It is nice to have this included here, but the silly humor isn’t for everyone. One might even begin to wonder how such a film managed to earn him the trust of Borchers.

One of those Nights: The Making of “Vamp”(44:30)

This brand new documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Wenk, stars Robert Rusler, Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Gedde Watanabe should be a lesson on how to approach retrospective documentaries. Make no mistake: this isn’t the same tired EPK fluff that takes up space on so many Blu-rays. Here viewers are actually given a bit of information about how the project came together, their experiences working on the film and the fondness that they all have for the film. Especially amusing is the cast’s recollections about working with Grace Jones, but it would be a shame to ruin this for everyone by talking about it in detail!

Behind-the-Scenes Rehearsals – (06:41)

Grace Jones seems to be enjoying herself as she rehearses her vampire attack scene with Richard Wenk. It is actually rather interesting to see them figure out the various beats of the scene. This particular footage adds much more value to the disc than one might guess.

Blooper Reel – (06:14)    

It is interesting to see the few bloopers from “behind the scenes” of Vamp that are presented here. A fairly large percentage of the footage is set to Genesis’ “I Don’t Care Anymore” (for inexplicable reasons). Fans of the film should defiantly find this worth watching.

Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots:

This gallery of trailers and television spots are amusing for their interesting glimpse into the marketing of this cult classic.

Trailer #1 – (01:27)

Trailer #2 – (01:58)

TV Spots – (03:44)

They all have quite a bit of footage in common, and this can become repetitive but it is nice to have them all here to compare.

Image Gallery

Finally, there is a slide show of various production stills and promotional materials. Some of the publicity items are especially interesting.

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Final Words:

Arrow’s new Blu-ray release of this title is beyond reproach, but Vamp isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It can’t be described as a particularly effective horror film, and the intentional comedy sometimes feels strained. However, it somehow manages to engage the viewer throughout its entire duration, and those in the proper mood will likely enjoy what the film has to offer.

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Review by: Devon Powell