Monday, 20 August 2007

Vamp (1986)

Martin Scorcese’s After Hours was a big hit back in 1985. Vamp, made the following year, is more or less a remake but with vampires. Which is not an entirely bad idea. Two clean-cut college boys who think they’re pretty cool find themselves outside their familiar environment, in a strange threatening world where they don’t know the rules and everybody seems to want to kill them. All they wanted was to find a stripper for a college party, but the strip club they’ve chosen is full of vampires and is situated in an urban wasteland populated almost entirely by the undead. Now all they want is to get back to their nice safe dorm room.

It’s in the execution that Vamp falls short. After Hours succeeded because of the surprising lightness of touch with which Scorcese filmed it, and because it had a strange off-beat charm blended with real menace. The innocent caught in a strange and terrifying world was confronted with characters who were both scary and weird and genuinely quirky. Vamp is just a little too predictable, a little too straightforward, and a little too bland. It does have Grace Jones in the cast, so the potential was there for some serious weirdness. Her dance at the club is a step in the right direction, but she doesn’t get enough to do and she’s a little too restrained. The strange androgynous sexuality she projects could have been exploited to produce some disturbing erotic undercurrents, but sex in this movie doesn’t go much beyond schoolboy sexual humour. Eroticism is one of the many things this movie lacks. It’s rather odd to use a strip club as the main setting and then make a rather sexless movie. As straight horror it isn’t particularly scary or horrifying, it isn’t funny enough to work as a spoof, and it isn’t odd enough to have any great camp value. And it’s too competently made to work on a so-bad-it’s good level. It’s like a routine late 50s or early 60s drive-in movie that was made a couple of decades too late. I have to admit that I do have a serious bias against 80s movies, and against just about everything else from that sorry decade - has there ever been a period in human history so completely lacking in style as the 80s? So that may have coloured my feelings for this film a little. And it does have worrying teen movie tendencies, another quality that fails to fill me with enthusiasm. It may be that it just wasn’t the sort of movie I was ever really going to like very much.

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