FANGS FOR THE MEMORIES: Vampire Films of the 1980′s Part II

by Jake on October 24, 2012

Alright, where were we? 1985? Great! Let’s move on.

Vamp‘Vamp’ (1986) is not as well known as some of these other films, which is a shame. Not only does it have vampire strippers, not only does it have Grace Jones, not only does it have Gedde Watanabe as his usual Asian stereotype, not ONLY does perpetual bad guy Billy Drago play, well, a bad guy, but ‘Vamp’, first and firemost, has the lovely Dedee Pfeiffer in it.

Okay, I’m a tad biased here, but I have a serious crush on Dedee Pfeiffer!

In ‘Vamp’, Keith, AJ and Duncan are trying to hire a stripper for a frat party. They end up in a bizarre version of the wrong part of town (with albino street gangs and other assorted oddities), where they find a strip club that is actually the headquarters of a pack of vampires ruled over by Katrina, who never speaks once in the movie, but trust me, she is one scary chick! Grace Jones is kind of scary ANYWAY, so the truly monstrous thing she turns into is really just icing on the crazy cake. The movie is rather violent and creepy, but always gas a comedic tone, even in the really gruesome parts.

1987 gave us two entries: a movie that is considered THE 80′s vampire classic and a movie that SHOULD be a classic, but is often overlooked.

The Lost BoysI have a confession to make: I like ‘The Lost Boys’, but I do not love it the way many people my age seem to. It’s great, yeah, but there are several movies on this list alone that I would argue are better. But nobody can argue that ‘Lost Boys’ has style.

The basic plot has single mom Lucy, accompanied by her sons, Michael and Sam, moving in with Lucy’s eccentric, hippie father in Santa Carla, which is apparently Murder Capital of the World. Michael (Jason Patric) falls in with a bad crowd (so of course, he starts wearing sunglasses all the time and acting funny) while his younger brother Sam (Corey Haim) falls in with the Frog Brothers, who warn him that Santa Carla is a haven for the undead.

What can we say about this movie? Vampires! Motorcycles! Keifer Sutherland! Shirtless saxophonists! The Coreys! Death by stereo! Hey, isn’t that one vamp the guy from the Bill & Ted movies? YES! Whoa, are they flying? YES!! Wow, is this gay or what? YE-, hey, that’s inappropriate. All I’m saying is, the fake blood in the movie is filled with glitter. That’s all I’m saying. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But seriously, ‘The Lost Boys’ is great fun. The atmosphere, the look of the vampires, the music, all really work well, even now. Just avoid the recent ‘sequels’.

Near DarkAlso in 1987, we got ‘Near Dark’, which is a GREAT film. It’s a bleak vampire road movie, a modern-day Western with a small band of vampires traveling from place to place, eating folks and moving on.

The vamps in ‘Near Dark’ also do not have fangs or monster eyes. In fact, the word “vampire” doesn’t seem to come up, somehow. Their only weakness seems to be sunlight – which makes the DESERT seem like a bad choice of hunting grounds, but hey, it’s certainly easy to hide out there.

‘Near Dark’ is the story of boy meets girl, girl turns out to be a vampire, boy and girl run into trouble. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) joins Mae (Jenny Wright) and her clan of hard-living, mean-spirited mean motorscooter type vampires (when the leader’s girlfriend is named Diamondback, you know you are dealing with people you don’t wanna upset), but Caleb is just not vampire material.
Lance Henriksen is great as Jesse, the head honcho of the vamps. Bill Paxton plays Severen, the resident psychopath, while an interesting character is Homer (Joshua John Miller), an immortal being trapped in the body of a young boy.

‘Near Dark’ is, despite the unusually happy ending, a very grim movie. These vampires do not inspire envy – they have nothing but their endless existence and their hunger. One wonders why they go on at all! Doesn’t look like a fun time is being had. Oh, they certainly enjoy killing people – the scene where the vamps wipe out a bar is a highlight of the movie – but still, pretty bleak lifestyle.

Great stuff, though. Highly recommended.

My Best Friend Is A VampireThe same cannot be said for our final entry, 1988′s ‘My Best Friend is a Vampire’. I mean, the best I can say is, it’s probably better than ‘Once Bitten’. In fact, they start off very similarly.

Robert Sean Leonard plays Jeremy, who is a fairly normal high school guy. He has a thing for this band nerd, but she seems uninterested. Jeremy and his friend Ralph go out on the town one night and Jeremy runs into – Lauren Hutton! Kidding.

No, but he does get seduced by a vampiress. Can anyone guess whether sunglasses and behavioral changes are next? You guessed right.

This movie treats vampirism as a condition that can be managed like any other. The vamps aren’t bad guys or monsters. In fact, the villains of the story are a pair of vampire hunters determined to kill, like, ALL the vamps.

So starting with proto-Goth decadence and ending with goofy comedy, we see that the 80′s was a time for new ideas in what vampire movies could be and what vampires represented. Rather than simple metaphors for sexual deviancy, vamps were symbolic of addiction, of freedom and rebellion, of disease, as well as the old-fashioned monsters we know and love. ‘Fright Night’ spawned a sequel and a remake, ‘Vamp’ certainly seems to have inspired ‘From Dusk ’til Dawn’. Those ‘Lost Boys’ generated two terrible sequels and a lot of merchandising. Even ‘The Hunger’ was inspiration for a mature-audiences cable anthology series of the same name. And if ‘The Forsaken’ isn’t a ripoff of ‘Near Dark’, then it is an incredible coincidence!

So there are a bunch of 80′s vampire movies to choose from. This list just gives you a few examples of the wide variety of retro vamp flicks you might wanna sink your teeth into!

 

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