Monday, January 16, 2012

Dance of The Damned

Dance of the Damned (1989)

I've been wanting to see this vampire film for years and finally got my undead hands on it. It falls into the 'reluctant' vampire who feeds on the suicidal genre, alongside such other similar films such as Pale Blood, Graveyard Shift and Interview with the Vampire.

There is something about magic of 80s vampire films that has been lost to the ravages of time. Even the Lost Boys and Fright Night, along with movies that have vampire characters such as The Monster Squad had that certain charm and appeal that is lacking today with the genres "style over substance" approach.

The film starts off with our reluctant vampire (Cyril O'Reilly) who is wondering the night time streets of a desolate neighbourhood when he comes across a sign that advertises "Live Girls". The Vampire has to feed soon or he will perish, so he searches out for a female lost soul that is suicidal and perchance will not be missed by the living when she dies.

Upon entering the club the Vampire is enamoured by Jodi (Starr Andreeff who played Iris in Vampire Journals), finishing up her striptease act and notices in her the quality that he seeks.

The Vampire
The Vampire takes a seat in the back corner of the room, eye mojos the waitress into not ordered drinks even though he can certainly afford it, (he's loaded) and uses his senses to eavesdrop on a phone conversation of Jodi pleading with her ex-husband to speak to her son Daniel on his birthday.

Vampire using eye mojo
Distraught, Jodi goes to the dressing room of Cafe Paradise and contemplates committing suicide by an overdose of medication. She is caught by a fellow stripper who knocks some sense into her, calling her bluff to use the gun in the duffel bag to get it over and done with.

The Vampire stays behind and offers Jodi $1,000 to spend the night with him conversing because like she, he is also lonely. They catch a bus to his neighbourhood, en-route he discourages two punk types from accosting Jodi. Along the way Jodi gets the hint that something just is not right with this man, and attempts to hand his money back to him several times.

Reluctantly she enters his house where soon enough she discovers he is a vampire and his purpose for bringing her there. She unloads a gun clip into him to no avail, and for the rest of the night they share each other's lives, pains, and lifestyles and how they are both outcasts of society.

The Vampire explains that he is a separate species, therefore cannot turn Jodi to become his life mate. Many years ago, on the verge of starvation, the vampire and his family attacked and drained a family with a nearby broken down carriage, and since the sun was about to rise they left the bodies unhidden and fled to a nearby barn. Their crime was witnessed, and in revenge the barn was burnt down around them. His mother died saving him, burying him in the earth, but he sustained enough fire damage that he slumbered under the earth for 100 years, to wake up in an empty field, his family all dead.

Jodi
His own kind revere beauty, so he was outcast due to his burns as he reminded them of the pains of immortality. Eventually after feeding on vermin, the vampire was strong enough to feed on a human, and gained the strength to heal his wounds, but since then he has been a loner. For those who have read The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, this was a very similar situation when Claudia attempted to kill Lestat in New Orleans.

As the night progresses, Jodi becomes more uncertain that she wants to die, and is faced with her flaws and mistakes. She also realises that humanity is a gift, a spark, and that the threat of eventual death is also a gift that gives humans the ability to fix their mistakes and see tomorrow as another day. Jodi begins to become sexually attracted to the Vampire, and it's obvious he hasn't been in that kind of situation before. We are unsure as to what his other victims were like, but it seems that he has had more of a connection with Jodi than his other victims.

As the night nears dawn, with 6am signalling the death knell for Jodi, the vampire takes her to see her son on his birthday, and Jodi repays that kindness by taking him to a beach and using the lamps on the boardwalk recreates daylight for him, helping him visualise a human sunbathing in the middle of the day.

Vampire vision
They stop by Cafe Paradise for one last dance, and no longer able to deny his lust he succumbs to Jodi's advances and they make love. Back at his house, he feeds her his blood. He says he cannot turn her like in the stories, but the blood will give her the temporary ability to see the world through his eyes. Jodi goes outside to see the world as dawn approaches, almost kills a boy with her temporary bloodlust, and retreats back into the house.

As the 'drug' wears off, she makes a desperate attempt to escape, realising in the last moment that she truly wants to live and repent. Locking herself in the bathroom she uses the last of her vampire strength to tear open a covering over the window allowing sunlight to pour into the room.

The Vampire sees the light from under the door, and against Jodi begging him not to come in, he tears the door off its hinges, and steps into the light reaching out to touch Jodi's hand proclaiming that the sun really is beautiful.

I am a fan of Starr Andreeff. I thought she stole the show in Vampire Journals as Iris, daytime servant to the Vampire Ash, and was glad to see some early work of hers in this film. She played a vulnerable character really well, but she excels at playing beautiful, evil and ruthless in VJ, and I wish she had a bigger career that I could have followed. She was very beautiful in her prime.

O'Reilly as The Vampire certainly played his part well. He resembled some model on the front cover of a romance novel that I believed was intentional, but I think the real reason he wanted to die was because he was stricken with that god-awful mullet.

The vampire powers in these films were typical classical vampire troupes. Eye Mojo, fangs, strength, speed, wall crawling and accelerating healing. Not having shape-shifting made sense since the vampires here were their own race, and not supernatural evil with the powers of Dark Gods.

What I would have done:

This film was great for its time, though nowadays the reluctant vampire is quite cliche. But living for millennia can be tiresome and it seems deep down that the Vampire of the piece seems to want to die as much as Jodi thought she wanted to. Mortal feelings and human sentimentality is certainly a weakness not to be indulged by our kind, and after playing with his food the Vampire should have killed her like the others.

His wounds were healed now, which would allow him to return to his own kind. If he met resistance, well he only needed to make an example out of the one of the leaders of the coven, and chose a mate for himself to continue his bloodline. Falling for this human did none of those things, and it seems that he took her own death sentence onto himself.

Still all-in-all I was happy with what I saw. But I'm dreading the impending remake.

2 comments:

  1. The proposed remake may work - we live in hope, but hopes are so often dashed. But do check out "To Sleep with a Vampire", which was the first remake of this - not as good but has interesting moments.

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