Release Date(s)1986 (October 4, 2016)
Studio(s)New World Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: C
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B-
A generation of kids grew up scoping the video store aisles, looking for that next movie fix. The cover of a VHS release was the whole ballgame in those days and if something caught your eye, regardless of the synopsis, you were likely to rent it. Of course, the movies almost never lived up to their covers. But the art for Vamp was at least honest.
Vamp’s story is pretty straightforward: Three college students go to a seedy part of town in search of a stripper to honor a fraternity pledge. But it’s soon apparent that they’re not in a typical strip club, as they find themselves on the run and surrounded by vampires. Vamp tries to be a lot of things – a horror movie, a teen comedy, a chase movie, and a drama – all rolled into one. It’s not so much the mix of genres that’s the issue here, but the way they’re put together. Individual scenes are effective, but they don’t blend into something cohesive. It doesn’t help that the color scheme for the film is a mix of neon pink and green. I understand the need to create visual stimulation, but after a while, you just want to see some different colors.
The star of the show here is Grace Jones as Queen Katrina, the head vampire stripper. Her awkward performance is what sells the movie, so much so that they hung the marketing campaign on it. Other familiar faces include Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Billy Drago as an albino gang member.
Much like the movie itself, the Blu-ray transfer features a presentation that’s uneven all throughout. Almost every aspect of the quality has its ups and downs, including grain levels, color, skin tones, black levels, and both brightness and contrast. There’s just nothing totally consistent about any of it. The film’s soft look does at least manage to retain an organic quality. It’s also clean looking and has no digital artifacts. The audio fairs only marginally better. It’s an English mono LPCM track, which is uncompressed but still leaves plenty to be desired. It’s a very flat and centered presentation, with no dynamics. Dialogue is clear enough, but both sound effects and score lack depth and clarity. Optional English SDH subtitles are available for those who might need them.
The supplemental package has plenty to offer, but it’s also incomplete. You do get a great new documentary, One of Those Nights: The Making of Vamp. The rest is carried over from previous releases, including rehearsal footage, Dracula Bites the Big Apple (Richard Wenk’s short film), a blooper reel, 7 TV spots, 2 theatrical trailers, and an image gallery. There’s also a 24-page insert booklet included with an essay on the film by Cullen Gallagher. Missing here from Anchor Bay’s DVD release is an audio commentary (with co-writer/director Richard Wenk and actors Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, and Gedde Watanabe). Material from Arrow Video’s previous DVD release hasn’t carried over either, including an introduction by actor Robert Rusler, an audio commentary with Robert Rusler, Vamp it Up (an interview with actor Dedee Pfeiffer), Vamp Stripped Bare (an interview with director Richard Wenk), Back to the 80’s (an interview with producer Donald P. Borchers), and Scrapbook of Scares (Richard Wenk’s Vamp memorabilia). All of it is sorely absent.
Vamp lives on as a campy horror classic, mostly due to nostalgia. Unfortunately, Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release feels more like a budget re-issue. Considering how thorough companies like Arrow usually are when it comes to their A/V quality and extras, this one is a letdown. It’s still worth a purchase for fans, but be sure to think twice before getting rid of your previous DVD copies if you want to keep all the available extras.
- Tim Salmons