Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Vamp (1986)

One of my favourite movies of the 1980s is Fright Night (1985). I saw it when it first came out and I loved the clever mix of horror, humour, and vampires. So, when I saw an ad for Vamp (1986) a few months later, I got excited. It looked like it had all of the elements that I had loved in Fright Night – plus Chris Makepeace and Grace Jones!

I was a big fan of Meatballs (1979) and had watched it on TV several times as a kid. I also saw My Bodyguard (1980) and, for some reason, had read the movie tie-in novelization repeatedly. Chris Makepeace was the teenage star of both of these movies. I was also aware that he was Canadian, which made him somewhat of an inspiration to me. 


I’m not sure how I first became aware of Grace Jones. I saw Conan the Destroyer (1984) and A View to a Kill (1985), but I already knew who she was before those films. Maybe it was because I saw her being interviewed on The Tonight Show, or other programmes – I’m not sure. I knew she had been a successful model and singer, particularly in Europe. My overall impression of her, at that time, was that she was a unique, tough, larger than life personality who had once slapped a talk show host and held her own opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Bond! I thought she was cool, and when a teacher asked me who my favourite actor was – in French class of all places – I answered “Grace Jones.” 


It should be noted that I liked to give strange answers in French class. I’m not sure why. Maybe because my classmates seemed to take everything a little too seriously. In this case, they would have been naming the most respected actors that they could think of. I had only seen Grace Jones in a couple of films at that point, but I named her as my favourite actor because I knew that it would flummox people. And it did.

However, the act of doing so somehow seemed to turn me into a Grace Jones fan. I wound up buying a couple of her records, even though I was primarily a hard rock/heavy metal guy in those days and she was more like pop/disco/funk. I rented movies like Deadly Vengeance (1981) because the box had her name and picture on the front (a dirty trick, as it turned out – but that’s another story). And when I found out that Grace Jones was starring in this new movie Vamp, it was one more reason to get excited about it.

When I saw Vamp I was not exactly disappointed in it. I actually found it to be quite enjoyable. It was funny, and entertaining, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of Fright Night for me. One of the problems was that there wasn’t quite enough of Grace Jones in it, although I loved her silent, but commanding performance. I eventually bought a copy on VHS and watched it a few more times over the years. I resisted upgrading it to DVD (although I was very tempted to). When I found a reasonably priced copy of the new Arrow Films Blu-ray, I could no longer resist. It was great to see it again (as it had been a few years) – and especially in such high quality! The amazing ’80s colours, the costumes – the entire production – has never looked better.

One interesting note: Concrete Blonde, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s, can be heard on the soundtrack of Vamp. I wouldn’t have known who they were in 1986. In fact, they weren’t even called Concrete Blonde yet. Song For Kim (She Said), is one of my favourite tracks on the very first Concrete Blonde album (Concrete Blonde released in1986), but it is credited to Dream 6 at the end of Vamp. This means that it was included in the movie before the album had been released. Four years later, Concrete Blonde unleashed Bloodletting (1990) on the world and it became their most successful album. The sort-of title track, Bloodletting (the Vampire song), was apparently inspired by the novels of Anne Rice. But now I can’t help but wonder if Vamp had helped to get the creative juices flowing. Probably not, but it’s an intriguing thought.

By the way,  Bloodletting (the Vampire song) was featured in the Canadian vampire film Blood and Donuts (1995), which I’ve always admired. Now there’s a film that could use a remastered Blu-ray with extras. But I digress…

Vamp (1986) is not a perfect movie. It is generally rated lower than #Certified ’80s vampire classics like Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987), and I would agree that this is appropriate. Still, I somehow find Vamp irresistible, and I will always be happy to see it on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. After all, it is the imperfections that often make a movie a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic.