Sat on the South Bank, in front of the NTF, film maker Vince D’Amato had a plan, he’d just returned from an impromptu spending spree at Fopp. Poking from an over stuffed bag I spied a stack of Arrow DVDs. The Creepy Six Films kingpin enthusiastically told me that he was about to embark on Project Arrow. A respectable mission which saw him reviewing as many Arrow releases as he could get his hands on, and so we begin…
The idea for this series of Arrow features struck me after the unfortunate outbreak of UK riots led to the destruction of a major warehouse and distribution centre, all but depleting several indie film distro companies and record labels of their entire stock. I realize that this might be old news to most fans by now, what with the advent of social media, but that, in my mind, does not invalidate the somewhat public celebration of not only these film titles, but of the smaller companies that had laboured to get them to us, the fans and consumers, in the most entertaining (and artistically marketable) way they could. The first order of a show of support, was obviously, get some Arrow titles! As I had just moved to London from Canada only 2 months ago, I still had a list of Arrow titles I was planning on purchasing over the next, say, six or seven months. When I learned about the warehouse disaster – burned to the ground! – I sucked it up and made a single purchase in one fell swoop. I now have, sitting next to me at my dining room table in a little Brixton flat, eleven new Arrow titles with two more still to arrive. Next order of business, was obviously, watch the fucking things! So I set about doing just that, last night, with a double-feature of Richard Wenk’s Vamp and the infamous video nasty Island of Death.
Vamp is a film that has been a guilty pleasure of mine since back in 1987 when I first caught it (and subsequently taped it onto a blank VHS) on the Canadian pay-television network Superchannel. After a few months, the tapes was worn out and warped. I was in grade 6/7 at the time and I thought Robert Rusler was a fucking bad-ass with his shirt sleeves rolled up, kicking albino psycho’s asses and smooth-talking all the hot chicks in the movie. Charming as hell. Actually, the entire cast had been pretty damned charming, even Gedde Wantanabe, who was pretty much straight off from playing another dork in Sixteen Candles. Anyway, as grade 7 waned into the summer (which was about to lead into high school) my worn-down EP VHS recording of Vamp slipped somewhere in between oblivion and off-the-face-of-this-earth. It’s just one of those things you never actually remember what happened to it.
Thankfully, now in the age Blu-ray, Arrow has seen fit to bring one of the more understated Hollywood writer/producer’s first films into the glaring light of HD. And I have to say, both the HD presentation as well as Richard Wenk’s vision do Vamp a hell of a lot of good. Does Vamp, as a film, stand up 25 years later? Logic might dictate not, but actually, it holds up surprisingly well. The humour is entertaining if not riotously laugh-out-loud, and both the performances and the direction have a fantastic rhythm, carrying the unfortunate characters from a collage-fraternity mission into the pits of hell that is an urban-after-dark strip club run by a nest of vampires in a cheeky take on the standard Hollywood “hero’s journey”, where our lead character Keith (Chris Makepeace) is thrust from the world he knows into a world of strange, dark humour and viscous bloodsuckers, where he literally must leap through several hoops of hell in order to prevail and end up with the romantic lead (Deedee Pfeiffer)
But hold on right there. That main plot point… the one about the characters ending up at a strip club fill of vampires… sounds familiar. Ah, yes, it was riffed by Tarantino for his own From Dusk Till Dawn. And while the grindhouse-pastiche boys may have put their own spin on the ensuing mayhem, Richard Wenk’s film has more in common with Argento’s Inferno (visually) and Demons (both visually, thematically, and with the look of the monsters themselves), which was also released around the same time (’86/’87, depending on what country you lived in).
Among the many lovely extras on Arrow’s blu-ray release is a lengthy interview with star Deedee Pfeiffer, which I would recommend sitting through the length first half to get to the much better, and more interesting, parts in the latter fifteen minutes. Robert Rusler also makes a welcome appearance in the film’s new introduction as well as on his own commentary track, and Arrow has thankfully included Rickard Wenk’s early short film, Dracula Bites the Big Apple, a sort of Vamp predecessor.
Check it out!