DVD Review: VAMPIRES

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SHOCK reviews the grubby and lifeless “lost” 80s flick VAMPIRES.

As scores of boutique labels license the rights to resurrect marginal genre films of every sort, buffing them to a high-def gloss and arming them to the teeth with supplemental material that often eclipses the quality of the features themselves, customer expectations run high. Even borderline worthless fare like Len Anthony’s dismal 80s effort VAMPIRES would, under the watchful eye of an Arrow or Synapse or Severin, receive audio/visual TLC.

But indie entity Film Chest apparently don’t adhere to the industry standard. Their inexplicable re-release of Anthony’s bizarre, barely watchable direct-to-video mess looks like it was struck from a VHS source and none-to-well. Which would be all fine and good if such a release was bumping around some sort of delete bin at a small-town K-Mart for a buck. But Film Chest is treating this title like a bit of a big deal. Odd…

VAMPIRES was released to video in 1986 and later, was attached as the second story in Anthony’s slipshod anthology picture FRIGHT HOUSE. It stars real actor Duane Jones, he of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and GANJA AND HESS fame as a mysterious, super-serious doctor who takes the new student (Orly Benyar) at the sinister Abadon art academy in New England under his weird wing. Seems the school is really a sort of coven of vampire-like demons who have created a machine that sucks energy from the students and funnels it directly to the school’s founder, a sort of contemporary Elizabeth Bathory.

All sorts of tacky, low-rent action happens, none of it compelling or interesting. You know you’re in trouble when a horror movie’s idea of a quality scare is a broken, talking, un-flushable toilet that suddenly decides to suck those who wish to squat on it down into its porcelain depths. It sounds kinkier and more interesting than it is…

Jones (of which this was sadly his last film), when he’s on-screen is rather good and a rather sexy pulsing synth score that is mixed loudly into the soundtrack is the best thing about the movie, but that’s not saying much. The picture is un-salvagable and made even more dismal by Film Chest’s insulting shrug of a transfer. Watching dirty dishwater swirl down the drain is prettier than the mud-wash that is their rendering. Shame that, because the picture was shot by Ernest Dickerson (TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT) a great cinematographer and good director with a solid visual eye. That eye appears to be afflicted by cataracts here, however.

VAMPIRES – or at least this release of it – is junk. It probably should have stayed “lost”. And this bile coming from a writer who tends to love and defend even the lowliest of genre refuse….