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.
Vamp is an entertaining horror comedy with a simple premise and equally smooth execution. Keith and Aj are two best friends in college in Kansas, pledging a fraternity. However, they don’t care about being a part of the fraternity so much as escaping the dorms. So they create a scheme promising that they will get a stripper for the house if they are allowed to join the frat. To complete their idea, they get Duncan, a friendly but desperate rich kid, to loan them his car if they pretend to be his friend and take him with them.
Once in the city, AJ gets them lost in a sketchy neighborhood. When they stop at a diner to get their bearings, Keith has an awkward flirtation that results in them trying to escape a psychotic albino named Snow. After the chase, they find the After Hours strip club and go in. There they see the exotic Katrina dance, and AJ decides to hire her. But the boys don’t realize the club is a coven of vampires, and getting out this night alive is going to be a lot harder than they expect.
Vamp is an indie horror comedy made by people who were invested in it. Katrina, the head of the vampire coven, is played by Grace Jones. She does not speak a single word in the entire film and has stated that she drew her inspiration from Max Schreck’s Count Orlock in Nosferatu. She is like a tensed cobra on screen; you can just sense the danger in her physical form. It’s also impressive that renowned artist Keith Haring made her makeup for the film, which essentially makes her a walking art piece.
Rounding out the cast are some familiar faces from 80s comedies. Chris Makepeace plays Keith, Robert Rusler plays AJ, and Gedde Watanabe plays Duncan. Makepeace is most familiar, having played the young camper Rudy in Meatballs. Horror audiences will recognize Rusler from Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Max in Weird Science, where he appeared alongside a very young Robert Downey Jr as one of the film’s antagonists. Finally, Watanabe played in Gung Ho but is probably most famous as Long Duck Dong in Sixteen Candles.
But I think Vamp is one of those great examples of horror doing something right in the greater culture. Watanabe is fond of this film when he speaks of it because he is just playing a helpless nerd, not an Asian hopeless nerd. In many of his roles, he points out how important his race was a big part of the role, but in this movie, Watanabe is simply the right actor for the role instead.
The second feature, From Dusk Till Dawn, is a genre-bending work of action and violence. The Gecko brothers, Seth and Richie, are fugitive bank robbers on the run from the law. Richie further complicates their situation by killing a clerk and sheriff in a gas station confrontation. Thins look grim, and the two hold up in a hotel room with a bank teller they have taken hostage. When Seth leaves for food, he returns to find Richie has raped and murdered the woman. Angry and frustrated, Seth explains to Richie that she was their protection if the police catch up to them, but quickly forgives him because he knows Richie is emotionally unstable.
At the same time, ex-pastor Jacob Fuller and his children Kate and Scott are finishing their meal in a diner while Jacob explains they are stopping in a hotel for the night because he needs rest from their travels in their mobile home. Jacob has lost his faith since the death of his wife, and despite his children’s continued belief, he seems to be looking for something in his life. Unfortunately, they arrive at the same hotel, and the Gecko brothers take them hostage. Seth plans to use the family to smuggle them across the border into Mexico in their RV. The plan works with only a few complications, and Jacob indeed delivers the brothers to their destination. The bar – called, of all things, the Titty Twister – sits in the middle of nowhere and is, as you may have guessed, a strip club. Seth brings Jacob and his children inside for a drink, and we see The Twister’s patrons are all bikers and truckers. Despite the danger of the other patrons, they will all soon have to fight for their lives because the club is a den of vampires.
What makes From Dusk Till Dawn such a great movie is that it is essentially two movies slammed together by two directors who were at the start of their careers with skill. Quentin Tarantino stars as Richie, but he was also one of the screenwriters and made it with his friend Robert Rodriguez. With these two directors involved, the first half of FDTD feels like a Tarantino film, focused on the brothers and their escape, while the second half has Rodriguez’s violent, frenetic energy, with its vampire vs. human gorefest. Despite the mash-up of seemingly disparate styles, the movie works in the best of ways (’nuff said! – Shawn).
The cast in From Dusk Til Dawn is who’s who of talent: George Clooney as Seth Gecko, Harvey Keitel as Jacob, and Juliette Lewis as Kate. And that’s just the start! Selma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, and Michael Parks all offer memorable performances. Tom Savini also handled the effects, so you know the gore and effects fantastic. Savini was also able to help them avoid an NC-17 rating or cuts to the film by deciding to make the vampires bleed green blood. Even in the old days when I was more squeamish about gore (I’m a lot better now), the action and crazy energy of the vampire sequence kept me pinned to the screen.
You can stream Vamp on for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Vudu or stream free on Tubi with ads or free with a Hoopla. And From Dusk Till Dawn is available for rent or purchase on many services or on HBO Max.