Vamp

Don't Bogart the joint.
★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1986
Director: 
Richard Wenk
Starring: 
Chris Makepeace, Robert Rusler, Grace Jones, Dedee Pfeiffer
The Setup: 
College guys go to a strip club run by vampires.
Discussion: 

I had been vaguely curious about this one since it came out, since it looked kind of fun and had Grace Jones, and it had been in the back of my mind to see ever since then--more than 25 years! Now I wish I could have used that space for something more valuable.

So this stars Chris Makepeace, best known for My Bodyguard, defining film of my adolescence, as well as Robert Rusler, whom one might remember from gayest horror movie ever Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge. We open with this weird druidic sacrificial rite or some such, which soon proves to be a fraternity hazing for Keith, that's Makepeace, and AJ, the other one. Makepeace is playing such a different character here--a confident, blasé college student in the mold of numerous teen comedies--that it can only make one admire his work in My Bodyguard, which fully convinced one that he WAS this sensitive, nerdy kid. Anyway, Keith and AJ agree to get a stripper for the frat party, for which they will be able to bypass their hazing. For this they will need a car, which they get by agreeing to be I ends with nerdy Asian Duncan for one week. In 1986, apparently, it was still perfectly acceptable to have an Asian character be an object of ridicule for his attempts to be cool, with the point of view of the movie supporting the idea that it could simply never be possible for an Asian to be cool.

So they decide to go downtown (drat, I forgot to see where this was filmed), where it is bright and sunny and busy with pedestrians, then suddenly they have an accident which causes their car to spin out (and spin and spin and spin) to the point where you wonder if this is supposed to be their entry point into some kind of fantasy world? Like at the end we'll have them wake up and find they've never left the car? Adding to this theory is that by the time they're done spinning out, it's dark out, they're in a notably nastier part of town, and the streets are deserted. Maybe that was an original ending. Anyway, they go into a diner, where they are accosted by this albino and his nasty pals, which AJ gets them out of by grabbing the Albino's crotch and giving it a hefty squeeze, for quite some time, until they can get away. You see, as I have been forced to learn the hard way, many troubling situations in life can be solved by squeezing a guy's crotch.

So they finally get to the strip club. Inside, it's lots of college-boy leering at strippers and scantily-clad waitresses. There is this blonde waitress who remembers Keith from somewhere, though she won't say where, or reveal her name, until late in the film, which someone involved with the writing of this must have thought was amusing? In some way? Because its long and drawn-out and offers NOTHING. But we're going to have to get used to that. Anyway, her name is Alison.

Anyway, then Grace Jones as Katrina is introduced. She appears in a Ronald McDonald RED wig and blue contact lenses, and performs a kind of strip routine on a Keith Haring sculpture, which is more bizarre than erotic, but at least the movie acknowledges that. I don't think she speaks a single line in the entire film. AJ is sent backstage and brought to Katrina's room, and the is perhaps the funniest moment in the film--no clue whether it was intended or not--where Grace has this bizarrely-shaped wrap over her head [above], which she pulls off to reveal her hair in exactly the same shape. I will give it up that Grace, in the few times she appears, does have the crazy outfits you'd expect of her. Anyway, she rips open AJ's neck and feeds there, which was a nice surprise, but let's you know why Makepeace was first in the credits.

Unfortunately, now is also about where this thing completely falls apart--and we're only 30 minutes in, leaving an hour to go. One of the strippers is introduced by saying "She's not much upstairs, but what a staircase." Then Keith goes outside, and you see the distant buildings illuminated in bright purple and green, which is SO 80s in a delightful way. Only, it keeps going on. And on. Purple. Green. Never any other colors. Everywhere you turn--even in the sewer. I have written next to my original note about it "lots of this," and then a bit later "Jesus, fucking STOP IT with the purple and green!" It keeps right up til the end of the movie.

Anyway, Keith and Alison go to a nearby ramshackle motel where the older male receptionist keeps smiling at Keith--is he gay?--then they get in an elevator with a strange creepy operator. Then they get separated. Then spooky stuff happens to Keith. Then he gets out and returns to the club. By now you're like "This is all curiously inert. It just sits there, with absolutely no energy." I wondered for a while if it's because there's no music--but there IS music, it just comes on at odd times, leaving other parts with no music. And it's slackly edited. And nothing happens. For a while one might give it the credit that it's trying to be a really off-kilter but quirky urban 80s thing like After Hours or Something Wild, but after a while you can't even coast on that excuse and you have to face that it's really just a total piece of shit.

And there's 45 minutes left.

SPOILERS, TO BE KIND > > >
So Keith hides out from the albino in a dumpster, where he sees AJ's body. So what does he do? Return to the club, call the police, and then WAIT at the club. Um-hmm, THAT makes sense. Then the vampires bring AJ back to life and he seems fine, so the police leave. Keith and AJ have a talk which strains hard to be quirky/funny, with AJ saying things like "It does work, the fire, the stakes, the sunlight... I have a list right here." We also have Keith slay a stripper using a high heel for a stake. Oooh, funny. Then Keith kills AJ. Then he starts the bar on fire so he, Duncan and Alison can escape. Then Duncan turns out to be a vampire. Then they kill him. Shouldn't this be wrapping up soon?

Not so lucky. Keith and Alison go to a guns and ammo store, where they procure a A) flashlight and B) bow and one (1) arrow. Smart cookies! Then the whole movie-long thing of Alison keeping her name secret is finally revealed, to a monumental squish, and the movie feints in the direction that she might be a vampire herself, which comes to nothing. Then they end up back in the vampires lair, where they set all the vampires on fire. Then Grace Jones appears again (in her vamp makeup, so it's not very fun), holding Alison hostage. This whole sequence goes on far too long, to the point where it becomes comical. For example, after Alison gets free, we have shots of: Grace advancing slowly, hissing. Alison making a worried face [above]. Keith aiming with his bow. Grace continues to advance. Alison continues making a worried face. Keith continues aiming his bow. Repeat about ten times. Just the sheer amount of times we return to shots of Alison making the same worried face is comical in itself. Maybe this is humor the filmmaker intended? If so, he should have been thoughtful enough to share his weed with us. Because without it, it's just sheer fucking stupidity.

Okay, so after Grace is dead, you think "NOW it will end!" but not so fast. The are a bunch more false scares and bullshit to go though before the heroes finally emerge into sunlight, with the undead AJ traveling along underground as they buddy. Then, for a final "WTF?" the credits play over a rendition of "Volare." WTF?
< < < SPOILERS END

Wow, WHAT a piece of shit. But I have to say, it's such a consistent piece of shit that you have to wonder if the filmmaker had some idea that just completely failed to come off. The purple and green is an idea, and delightfully 80s, but just gets massively overused. The is evidence that this all DOES take place in some kind of fantasy vision (during the credits cars suddenly reappear on the streets) but there is no surrounding story to make sense of WHY they went into this vision, how what happened changed anything (and AJ is still dead, right?), and why they came out of it. The lack of music and slow pacing do point to some sort of aesthetic, some sort of warped vision for how all this is supposed to achieve a kind of demented grace, it just thuddingly fails to work.

I will have to do a little further research into who this filmmaker is, and what he has done in the past, but what I'm afraid I must finally conclude (this is entirely speculation, by the way) that is that this is the work of a man on drugs. The consistency of it makes it seem like it was probably really funny to the guy making it, and the slowness and very deadness of it all seems like the kind of thing that would be funny to someone on drugs. Thing is, dude, there's an audience out there! There are people out there WHO ARE NOT YOU who are going to watch this movie, and they're going to have to find some way into it as well. So if you're high, dude, you need to get us high, too, or we can't share your vision. Don't Bogart the joint.

Okay, now research has been done, and we now have some information! The director of this, Richard Wenk, is better known as a screenwriter, and is responsible for such titles as 16 Blocks and The Mechanic. Poor Chris Makepeace went mostly to television after this, and then vanished. We can't be absolutely sure that this movie killed off his promising career, but we can guess. Robert Rusler who played AJ--I knew he looked familiar--went on to be the best friend the hero has a crush on in Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, otherwise known as the Gayest Horror Film of All Time. And Grace Jones' most recent album, Hurricane, is quite, quite good.

I was surprised to see that the majority of the users on IMDb give this fairly positive reviews, so... there you go. A lot more people are on drugs than I thought.

Should you watch it: 

I wouldn't, if I were you, but it does have its own loopy charms (for 30 minutes).