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Vamp

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1986

‘…there’s a certain visual pizazz to distract from the rather seedy narrative that taps into the inherent ghastliness of most nightclubs…’

I went along to see model, singer, actress and icon Grace Jones play a set at a local Glasgow venue, and wasn’t surprised to experience something of a diva’s behaviour. The concert was listed as starting at 7.30pm, which usually means on stage between 8.30pm and 9pm. But by 11.35pm, there was still no sign of the Jamaican singer; she’s not the kind of person who gives a jot when the last low-level train to Partick leaves from High Street. Her set, when she finally arrived, consisted of walking up and down a large set of stairs in different costumes while her music played in the background; all very Grace Jones.

Jones hit peak form in the early 80’s with a string of hits and film roles in A View to a Kill and Conan the Destroyer. Richard Wenk’s frat-boys vs vampires movie wisely casts her in a prominent, non-speaking role as Katrina, the Queen of the vampire sect that exist in the back of an LA strip club. Robert Rusler and Chris Makepeace play the two jocks who seek to gain entry to a secret fraternity by finding a stripper for a party; they doesn’t sound so hard, but their path leads them to a sparsely populated area of Los Angeles where albino gangs prey on passers by and Katrina (Jones) is the fearsome ruler of a coven of rabid blood-suckers.

Writer and director Richard Wenk went on to write a number of big budget films for Denzel Washington (The Equaliser, The Magnificent Seven), so Vamp clearly did a job in propelling him into the big leagues. There are some genuine flashes of wit in this film, which seeks to reverse vampire clichés in the same way the American Werewolf and The Howling did for werewolves; a nice gag about LA bus timetables, for example. With the film lit in magenta and lime green in a garish neo-noir style, there’s also a certain visual pizazz to distract from the rather seedy narrative that taps into the inherent ghastliness of most nightclubs.

Introduced in a stage act in which she wears a red Koko-the-clown wig, white-face make-up and a hard-wire metal dress, Jones is certainly something to behold; even if the film isn’t one for the ages, she is a remarkable presence. With nasty, rotten-toothed vampires and a nightmarish feel, Vamp is better than most low-brow 80’s horror, even if it never spawned a sequel, and it’s probably the best film Jones made, which isn’t saying much, really. It’s new on Amazon Prime in the UK

 

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