I think the first time I ever saw Grace Jones was when I saw the trailer for “Conan the Destroyer” at the movie theater one day. No joke, it was a little scary. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has felt that way. So, I guess it makes sense that someone had the idea of casting her as the leader of a group of vampire strippers. The film is 1986’s “Vamp.”
The film begins with two college students, Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) who are out to make it into the ranks of the top fraternities on campus. But rather than go through the normal hazing rituals, they convince the fraternity to allow them to provide something special for the upcoming party in exchange for being allowed in…beer, music, whatever they want. The task they are given is to get a stripper for the party. But since they have no car, they enlist rich kid Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) to provide the wheels.
Since their campus is “in the middle of nowhere” they set out on a road trip to the city. Now, the pennant in their dorm room sports the word “Kansas,” but apparently it’s the part of Kansas that has mountains!?!? Anyway, they decide that they are going to seek out a club called the “After Dark” club. This place is in a rough neighborhood, so they wait for it to open in a small diner. While there, they have a run-in with an irritable albino (Billy Drago) and his gang of ladies who seem to be sporting some unique dental work.
When the trio makes it to the club, AJ very quickly spots the stripper they just have to bring to the party. She’s the club’s bizarre headliner, Katrina (Grace Jones), who’s look can only be described as part zebra, part Bozo the Clown. After watching her perform, AJ manages to get himself invited backstage. When he meets Katrina, she quickly starts to get cozy with AJ….which he doesn’t seem to object to. That is, until she sprouts fangs and starts chewing on his neck.
Meanwhile, out in the club, Duncan is turning into a party animal while Keith becomes more and more impatient. It doesn’t help that a pretty young waitress (Dedee Pfeiffer) keeps hinting that she knows Keith, but won’t tell him how. But, when AJ turns up missing, she does offer to help Keith look for him. She takes him to the hotel where the girls from the club live, thinking perhaps he went home with one of the strippers. While there, they encounter a creepy desk clerk and Keith nearly gets decapitated by an elevator.
By the time the make it back to the club, they encounter the now undead AJ and begin to realize that the club is a haven for vampires. They feed on the drecks of society who come to the club…people who will not be missed. Now, Keith and Allison (that turns out to be the girl’s name) are next on the menu unless they can find a way to escape the city.
“Vamp” is a vampire flick that primarily takes place in a strip club, but it’s not anywhere near as exploitative as that premise would suggest. It’s certainly not as over-the-top as “From Dusk Till Dawn,” which would use the strip bar full of vampires premise ten years later. It’s really not that gory. But it IS a vampire flick that takes place in a strip club…so not exactly PG-13 material here.
Unfortunately, the film wanders around somewhat aimlessly for much of it’s running time. It takes a while for Keith and Allison to actually realize what they are up against. Once they actually go into vampire fighting mode, the film does pick up a bit…I just wish we’d gotten there sooner. But I was still entertained. What does make the film somewhat interesting is the strange use of neon green and pink lighting throughout and the cooky use of “Dutch” camera angle. You know, the tilted shots…think the old “Batman” TV series. I also loved the look of the strange hotel, complete with an old-fashioned phone switchboard and an elevator operator.
As for Grace Jones, well, she certainly fits the role. But her part is almost an extended cameo and she has no dialogue whatsoever. So, though the character is intriguing, there’s no chance for the character to develop. She still manages to be a bit scary…but that just may be because she’s Grace Jones!!