VAMPIRES (1988)- released May 10,2016 by FILM CHEST-DVD -80 minutes-color -$17.98.
‘Wouldn’t you like to live forever? Are you sure? You see, I thought so too. Until I began-to live- forever.” That opening line sets up the soul weary vampire’s angst for the film VAMPIRES (1988) starring Duane Jones (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Continental,1968) fame. Sadly, things go quickly downhill from there.
The obscure film is set at a prestigious art school in New England that has seen better days and restorations are underway. Supernatural forces are unleashed and students start to disappear.
Two young students after making love (providing required nudity) experience a supernatural vortex, which, due to the sound, makes them seem to be pulled into the toilet, as a deep voice intones “iiiiitttt woooorrrkkks”!
Dr. Harmon (Duane Jones, looking very dapper in his mustache and Billy Dee Williams style clothes) drives foreign student Ione (Orly Benyar, NINJA ACADEMY) to the school, and tells her ominously should she need anything to call him.
It is good advice as more and more fellow classmates vanish, she takes it upon herself to investigate. The head mistress, Madeline Abadon (Jackie James) explains that the school has been in the Abadon family for centuries ad was nearly destroyed by fire some time back. The students are warned never to go down into the basement. Of course you know that is where everyone seems to head.
The film seems to be influenced by Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (International Classics,1977) with its art school setting and stylish photography (courtesy of the great Ernest Dickerson, who lensed several of Spike Lee’s classics, as well as being a director in his own right on such projects as TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT (Universal,1995). This film is not listed on his IMDB credits. Some of the film was also lensed by Larry Revene (spelled as Revine in the credits) who toiled on such films as DOOM ASYLUM (1987, Academy).
This is an indeed a true rarity, not even mentioned in the majority of film reference books. It seems to have been originally shot as a film called NEGATIVES in 1988 starring Debbie Rochon and Duane Jones. The film was nearing completion when the crew discovered that their checks had bounced and so walked off. The director, Len Anthony, somehow cobbled footage together to make the film into a part of an obscure horror anthology FRIGHT HOUSE (release on video in 1989 by Studio Entertainment Films). That film has Al Lewis (“Grandpa” of Munster’s fame!) as a Captain Levi in a sinister tale of summoning demons. The second part is called “Abadon”, and is I assume an edited version of VAMPIRES. FRIGHT HOUSE is listed as running at 110 minutes. Debbie Rochon is no where to be seen in any of the existing variations.
(FRIGHT HOUSE ,not currently available.Al Lewis)
Mr. Anthony seemed to feel he could get more mileage out of his work, and so seems to have cobbled together the film VAMPIRES. That title is a bit misleading, as there are no traditional fanged vampires at work are vampiric in that they drain life force from their victims due to some obscure machine that has caused Duane Jones and Jackie James to become immortals, a reason that is never made clear.
The acting, except for Duane Jones, is risible at best. The scene in the acting class nearly had me howling with laughter, as I felt that an acting class was just what was needed by all involved. Jones rises above the material and one wishes that he had been cast in projects more challenging of his notable talent. His scenes make this movie worth watching. It is a shame that this marvelous actor passed away July 22,1988 at age 51 shortly after completing his footage. He would also appear posthumously in Academy Entertainment’s vampire film TO DIE FOR (1989).
The film obviously had footage missing though the sound remained. To replace the gap, shots of tarot cards are shown as the sound plays out. The print used appears to be from a video tape master, and thus looks more like VHS tape quality. Perhaps though, that is fitting, as this would have been one of those films that lined local mom and pop video store shelves.
(mummies?what mummies? lost in the edit?)
The soundtrack is very 80s, so expect to hear a lot of synth music. Also, some sub-par imitation TEARS FOR FEARS songs. Supposedly there was to have been a soundtrack to FRIGHT HOUSE, which advertised a lot on MTV and VH1 upon that video’s release. One wonders were that album ever released? Also beware of some very frightening 80s fashions.
One wishes that someone had tracked down the mysterious Mr. Len Anthony to discuss the history of how one unfinished movie became two. His commentary would probably be a film class for indie filmmakers on the struggles of movie making and getting your product released. As it is, this is a bare bones DVD release, with no extras.
Still kudos to FILM CHEST MEDIA for saving this rare Duane Jones film. Now maybe they can search the film vaults for another 80s obscurity that I worked on that was ever released called MIDNIGHT RENDEVOUS ……
-Kevin G Shinnick
(an out of print DVD of Len Anthony’s FRIGHT HOUSE and an action film MURDEROUS INTENT )