Color, 1986, 93m.
Directed by Richard Wenk
Starring Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, Robert Rusler, Grace Jones, Sandy Baron, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Drago
Arrow (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RB HD) (DVD) (UK R0 PAL), Image, Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

VampVampOften considered a second-tier entry in the run of mid-'80s vampire films like Fright Night and The Lost Boys, this arty Los Angeles take on the teens and monsters formula trades on the same sexual panic and trendy style that made its better-known studio peers such enduring favorites. The quirky indie attitude (which draws just as much on the previous year's After Hours as any of its horror predecessors) definitely gives it a unique flavor that's built it a small but devoted cult following over the years, carried in large part by a silent but memorable supporting role for the distinctive Grace Jones.

A college hazing ritual gone amiss into a very long, very strange night for pledges Keith (My Bodyguard's Makepeace) and AJ (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge's Rusler), who are sent to prove their value by heading downtown L.A. to scope out some strippers for their Greek brothers. Accompanying them is Duncan (Sixteen Candles' Watanabe), a geek who happens to have a car they need, and soon it's off to a club where they're treated to a wild stage routine by Jones in a body-painted getup designed by the late, great Keith Haring. Of course, it soon turns out that the club is a cover for a den of vampires who prey on lusty businessmen, and it seems increasingly unlikely that the boys will make it till dawn.

Modest but clever and often visually striking, this film was unwisely promoted as a Grace Jones starring vehicle when she really only gets three significant scenes; however, on its own terms it's a lime and Vampviolet-colored fever dream of a Vampfilm with a nice vein of humor, some welcome character development and relationships (especially between Makepeace and Rusler, which takes a curious turn midway through), a winning performance by Dedee Pfeiffer as the one possibly non-predatory club employee, and a fun, jangling score by Jonathan Elias (Children of the Corn). It's exactly the kind of oddball film people would stumble across late night on TV or randomly on VHS well into the '90s, with word of mouth keeping it fairly high in the roster of New World's horror offerings from the decade.

Vamp has had a long history on video beginning with its VHS bow from New World, which continued with a variety of international laserdisc releases and a DVD debut from Anchor Bay in 2001 featuring a passable widescreen transfer and some fun extras including an audio commentary (with Makepeace, Pfeiffer, Watanabe, and director Richard Wenk), two trailers, seven TV spots, rehearsal footage, a blooper reel, a gallery of promotional artwork, and Wenk's early short film, "Dracula Bites the Big Apple," which is probably the only disco-fied vampire film you'll ever see that makes prominent use of "Dancing in the Moonlight." The film was later reissued on American DVD from Image Entertainment, who threw out the extras as usual for their New World acquisitions and only included a trailer instead.

Meanwhile in 2011, the first Blu-ray popped up in the UK from Arrow Video sporting a very nice HD transfer that really brings out the exaggerated, colorful visuals about as strongly as you could ever imagine. The PCM English mono audio also sounds excellent, with optional English subtitles provided. (A DVD mirroring the same presentation is also included.) Here you get a different audio commentary with Rusler, Vampmoderated by VampCalum Waddell, which plays like a relaxed and amusing tour through the wilds of indie '80s filmmaking. Rusler also provides a video intro, while the adorable Pfeiffer gets a separate video interview with "Vamp it Up" (29 mins.), Wenk covers the mounting of his passion project in "Vamp Stripped Bare" (18 mins.), and "Back to the '80s" (23 mins.) puts the spotlight on writer Donald P. Borchers and how his own skewed take on the genre came about. Wenk returns for a "Scrapbook of Scares" look through his collection of material from the film and its release, while the main trailer, "Big Apple" short, and rehearsal and blooper reel extras are ported over from the DVD, with a liner notes booklet by Jay Slater included as well.

In 2016, Arrow announced the film for its North American Blu-ray premiere along with U.K. edition mirroring the same new contents. The transfer looks about the same (still excellent), but things have shuffled around a bit otherwise. Neither of the prior commentaries has been used here; instead you get the rehearsal footage, bloopers, trailer, a gallery, and the "Big Apple" short, while the excellent new "One of Those Nights: The Making of Vamp" brings back Wenk and Pfeiffer (in different, new interview sessions) into a more streamlined 44-minute documentary with additional contributions from Rusler and Watanabe (and cinematographer Elliott Davis) about how much they enjoyed putting together this very vibrant show. The first pressing also contains a different liner notes essay by Cullen Gallagher, while the new cover design (with the original poster art on the reverse) featuring work by Twins of Evil.

Reviewed on October 17, 2016.