Saturday, 4 March 2017

WATCHING: VAMP (1986)


The night time world of the mysterious After Dark Club is lit exclusively by neon fuchsia and green, opposite colours designed to make this mysterious block as seedy and uneasy as possible. The strip club is home to the usual group of exotic dancers, all leather and high-cut panties, and then there's Katrina. With piercing blue eyes and a striking red wig, her long svelte body is painted with Keith Haring's distinctive patterns and her modesty barely covered by David Spada's metal two-piece. Her dance is not the typical titillation; its aggressively sexual but there is little attempt to be sensual in any conventional manner. Her performance ends by simulating fellatio on a decapitated male body. The lights dim and the audience is awestruck. Katrina is quite clearly the perfect stripper for a last minute fraternity party.

Richard Wenk's 1986 comedy-horror Vamp is a bland college caper with a secret avant-garde centre. Androgynous superstar Grace Jones portrays Katrina, a silent femme fatale, a vampire goddess that uses the strip club to lure drifters to her feast. She wares Alaia and Issey Miyake, and the club is filled with artwork by Richard Bernstein and Andy Warhol. The After Dark Club is a haven of heady 80's pop art, and her dance truly needs to be seen to be believed. It comes out of nowhere.


Robert Rusler's AJ and Chris Makepeace's Keith are in charge of finding a stripper for a party in order to gain entrance to a college fraternity. They require the help of Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), a rich kid and the film's awkward comic relief, in order to drive into town and solicit a dancer. It all seems simple enough, and reminds me somewhat of the naff Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, but then slips straight into From Dusk till Dawn (surely inspired by Vamp), and its revealed that the club is full of hideous vampires, and Katrina quickly makes a meal of the cocksure AJ.

Its up to Keith to try and save AJ and a girl who remembers him from his past, and who may or may not be a vampire (Dedee Pfeiffer), and protect himself from a grim looking gang of misfits who may or may not be vampires either. Vamp rambles along these areas, never living back up to the highs of Grace Jones' dance, and is so tonally different that you wonder if Jones only agreed to do the movie if she could have free reign of her character. Its almost too crazy for what is usually a cliched genre.


Jones' vampire, and the best parts of this film, are pure artifice and style. A edit that cuts out AJ, Keith and Duncan would make an amazing music video, and maybe makes Vamp indicative of the ever-growing MTV generation that came out of the 80s. Grace Jones is a true vampire in this film; alluring, mysterious, and sucking the life blood out everyone, including the rest of the cast.

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