Cineray Hits the Strip Club

Get ready for beauty with bite fiends! Strip clubs are very lascivious places where men throw their money down for sexy ladies to dance and reveal more of their bodies while alcohol is usually drunk. But what if the ladies who dance in these clubs were after more than the patrons’ wallets? What if they wanted a little more? Like, say the blood pumping through their veins, for instance. Today’s double feature is two tales of strip clubs filled with the most deadly dancers, vampires and riff-raff. The double-feature recommendation is Vamp and From Dusk Till Dawn. 

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What We’re Watching

Ray discusses Tobe Hooper’s 80s Space-Vampire movie Lifeforce as a homage to Hammer Horror by way of Twins of Evil. Tori has an awesome theory that Pyscho Goreman exists in the same world as another film we love, and Shawn sings the praises of Alex de la Iglesia’s recently finished HBO opus 30 Coins! Plus, The Love Witch, the new Mortal Combat trailer, and all the stuff in 2021 we’re waiting for!

Cineray Goes All Out for Fright Night!

All right fiends, its time for some vampire fun. Now I normally don’t like to make a double feature that includes sequels. It just feels lazy to me most of the time and usually, I like to try and create double features that focus on interesting connections and thematic elements. But there is something so perfect about putting Fright Night and Fright Night Part 2 together as a fun night of horror-filled fun. 

To be clear I am recommending the 1985 and 1988 original films, not the remakes. Both are clever and funny films that pay homage to the history of horror they reference in the films. As I discuss each film I will highlight those qualities. They are also horror movies that never stop considering that they are trying to be fun. Whether it’s through comedy or fantastic effects or scares, these movies focus on you enjoying what’s on-screen. 

Fright Night was directed and written by Tom Holland and starred Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowell, Amanda Bearse, and Stephen Geoffreys. Ragsdale stars as Charlie Brewster, a young man who lives with his mother and is dating Amy (Bearse). One night while he and Amy are in his room, he looks out the window and sees his new neighbors moving in, which arouses his suspicions because who moves after dark. The next day he falls asleep watching Fright Night, his favorite late-night horror tv show where Peter Vincent (McDowell) showcases horror movies. When he wakes later in the night and goes to turn off the TV, Charlie passes the window and sees his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge with a woman in the middle of sex.

While Charlie watches, Jerry grows fangs. As he goes to bite the woman, Jerry spots Charlie. He connects eyes with Charlie and then closes the shade. The next night Jerry attacks Charlie in his room, but Charlie’s mother overhears the commotion and Jerry flees. Charlie tells his friends Amy and “Evil” Ed (Geoffreys) and even calls the police, but Jerry outsmarts Charlie and appears innocent. In desperation, Charlie goes to enlist the aid of Peter Vincent, who is doubtful but comes to believe Charlie. Meanwhile, Jerry has become enamored of Amy, and Charlie has put everyone in danger because they know Jerry’s secret. Charlie and Peter are headed for an eventual confrontation with Jerry or die. 

What makes Fright Night so good is how it references films from the past while telling its story. To start, it uses the Fright Night tv show that plays in the background as a device to pay homage to horror hosts and their shows from the past. Before there was streaming and even home video, people sat down on Friday and Saturday nights to watch old horror movies hosted by people like Elvira and Zacherley. They played all different types of films with much focus on horror from the ’50s and ’60s and Hammer horror movies, many of which were vampire films. Peter Vincent is a direct reference to those times, not only as a host, but his name is a reference to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, and his outfit is reminiscent of Cushing’s Dr. Van Helsing’s costumes. The structure of the story and action is also very similar to those films. A vampire arrives and starts killing young women, which arouses the locals’ suspicions. They enlist a vampire hunter to help stop him before taking a woman as his bride (usually the love interest of the main character). This film also is very respectful of vampire lore in a way some play fast and loose. One is Jerry’s use of a ghoul that is his daytime protector, a character that has seemed to disappear over time. Another is the way certain items affect Jerry. Garlic has been a referenced ward against vampires, but roses and other aromatics are usually forgotten but used in this film. And the holy cross as a talisman is utilized, but it places importance on the ward’s use being dependent on its user’s faith. Oh, and Geoffreys as “Evil” Ed – Charlie’s hapless friend that is turned into one of the most famous side characters with very little screen time – is iconic. These elements are carried over into our second feature Fright Night Part 2.

This sequel opens on a brief recap of the first movie with Charlie discussing the events with his therapist. Charlie is now a college student and is convinced that the whole thing was a delusion to create a logical explanation that Jerry Dandridge was a serial killer and that vampires do not exist. Peter has meanwhile returned to being a tv horror host with a show that has waning popularity. One night while visiting Peter at his apartment with his girlfriend Alex, he sees people moving in with large crates and becomes attracted to one of them, the beautiful Regine. Later, Regine reveals to Peter she is a vampire, and Jerry’s sister comes for revenge on Peter and Charlie. While Regine slowly begins to change Charlie into a vampire, Alex starts to see Charlie was not delusional and turns to Peter to help her save Charlie. 

Fright Night Part 2 builds on many of the first film concepts and adds some great new characters and story elements. Again the story structure and events are referential to horror films like Vampire Circus; the family of a killed vampire comes to exact revenge on the exterminators. It’s also clever that Regine not just wants to kill Peter but steals his show away from him. To aid Regine in her revenge are not only her ghoul but a werewolf and a transgender roller-skating vampire named Belle. Yeah, you read that right. Although Belle – played by Russell Clark – never says a word, he makes a lasting impression. This character is also a reason I love horror as a genre more and more. Whereas mainstream media was slow to use or deal with queer characters and themes, horror was doing it for a while. It may not seem like much, but doing so leads to the more inclusive and accepting environment we live in now. 

Before I tell you where to watch these films, I have an interesting trivia piece to share about Fright Night Part 2. At the time of its release, the sequel was a bomb; it in no way was the success the first was. It did not get a major theatrical release and was hardly promoted but has become a cult classic since. This status is not because of the film but rather because of its unfortunate ties to an infamous piece of history. The story goes that the sequel’s director Tommy Lee Wallace and Roddy McDowell had a meeting with Live Entertainment CEO Jose Menendez about the film’s planned distribution and ad campaign one day. That evening Jose was murdered along with his wife by their sons in events that would become known as the Menendez murders. As a result, the film lost its nationwide distribution opening in LA and NY before hitting video store shelves with no advertising. This also killed the plans for another sequel that director Tom Holland and actor Roddy McDowell planned. 

You can find Fright Night on Amazon, Apple tv, Fandango Now, Redbox, and Youtube for rent or purchase, as well as streaming free on Prime Video. Fright Night Part 2 is not available for rent or purchase, but thankfully it is streaming for free on youtube in HD. 

2 Year Anniversary Episode!

It’s our two-year anniversary, so Chris, Ray, Anthony, and Shawn hit Zoom and talk about everything they’ve been watching. In this episode we talk Ron Bonk’s House Shark, Glen Danzig’s Verotika, the 1935 predecessor to The Wolf Man, Stuart Walker’s Werewolf of London, 976-Evil, and Chris and Shawn cover Narrative Horror podcasts Borrasca and The Magnus Archives (both fantastic!). That’s not everything we cover though, so join us for another episode chock full o’ Horror!

Cineray Double-Feature! Near Dark and John Carpenter’s Vampires

Hey there horror fiends, for some summertime vampire fun, this week’s double feature is Vampires directed John Carpenter and Near Dark directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The weather is starting to heat up, and it’s the perfect time to watch vampire movies that take place in desert settings. Locations like these present some interesting problems for sun-sensitive creatures and the people or victims who interact with them. 

I would recommend Vampires as the first of these to watch as its fast-moving and pretty action-packed. The film centers on Jack Crow (James Woods) and his Vatican-sponsored group of vampire hunters. Crow’s group of mercenaries are not men of god, but killers who enjoy the hunt, and when they are not exterminating vampires, they are hard-partying. This is something the priest on the team objects to, but Jack allows because of the horrors they experience fighting and killing vampires. After a day of successful vamp killing, the group celebrates with a party and hookers at a hotel.

During their party and with most of the team drunk, a master vampire named Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) attacks and kills most of the team and the hookers. Only Jack Crow, his second in command Tony Montoya, and prostitute Katrina (Sheryl Lee) survive the attack. Katrina, however, gets bitten. After the attack, Crow is assigned Father Adam Guiteau by the Church. This new, three-man team brings Katrina on their pursuit of Valek, who is searching for a relic that turned him into the first vampire.

Don’t look behind you…

Katrina is a quasi-prisoner, and the bite is slowly changing her into a vampire, which gives her a psychic link to Valek, which Crow exploits to aid in their pursuit of him. Complications arise from Montoya’s empathy and attraction to Katrina that threaten the team. As they get closer to Valek, the danger gets worse, and there is more going on then they may suspect. 

Does that give you wood, padre?

Vampires is not Carpenter’s best film, but it is an enjoyable movie. Woods is perfect as the anti-hero Crow, the kind of guy you are glad to see do his job, but not someone you would ever want to meet. The film moves at a nice brisk pace, and the action is great. The team’s method of harpooning and then dragging vampires into the sunlight using vehicle hoists is impressive, and considering the strength of these vampires proves a great solution for helping them keep their distance from the creatures. The film also has somewhat of a western feel that leads into the second feature nicely. 

Classic poster

Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is an excellent horror movie with western elements that has thankfully only grown in popularity and cult status since its modest release. The film stars Adrain Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Janette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller. Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein were all featured in James Cameron’s film Aliens, leading to their casting in this film after Cameron suggested them to Bigelow. 

Near Dark concerns a young man named Caleb (Pasdar) living on his father’s farm in a small town who meets Mae (Wright) one night. Mae is a pretty drifter, and after spending the night together, she bites Caleb just before dawn. She then takes him in the RV the group she travels with calls home. 

Bloody good fun for the whole family!

The new addition to their group causes problems in Mae’s vampire family. Severin ( Paxton) wants to kill Caleb, but Jesse (Henriksen), the group’s leader, decides to give it a week to see if Caleb can hunt and kill. Caleb refuses, however, Mae helps him survive and hide this from the others. Paxton is fantastic and terrifying as the bloodthirsty and murderous Severin. Henriksen is excellent as well. Miller is also great as the child vampire Homer, a decades-old vampire trapped inside a child’s body. There is a fantastic line of dialogue that implies Jesse is an old confederate soldier and that he and Severin are responsible for at least one tragedy in history. The desert setting adds a nice challenge for the group, providing some fantastic cinematic moments. Watch for the bloody bar scene – you’ll know it when you get to it. Near Dark is on the moody and slower-moving side, but its fantastic moments of intensity more than make up for that. 

Severin in all his glory. RIP Bill Paxton

So, why these two together, you may ask. It’s interesting to see how two different directors handle the vampire mythos in similar settings. Carpenter’s approach is a lot more pedestrian and very clear on what the movie is about, from the title through the film to the clearly delineated protagonists and antagonists. Near Dark, on the other handis a lot more moody and subtle; the term vampire is never used in the film, and it’s a lot more ambiguous as to who are the protagonists and antagonists. The only problem with these picks is availability. Vampires is readily available from all the usual streaming rental sites; however, Near Dark is unfortunately not only out of print at the moment, but also not streaming on any services. This one is a used copy find, but honestly, very much worth buying.