Halloween viewing, 1980s style
|No Elvira? No comment.|
|Sandy surprises Van Helsing.|
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)
I won't be surprised if you've never heard of this one. In fact, I'd be amazed if you have seen it yet didn't go to my university wargames club, where it had a cult following of sorts. To sum it up: it's a modern-day (well, 1980s) vampire western set at a plant making fake blood in the middle of the Arizona desert.
Yes, you did just read that correctly. Are you still with me?
It's got a fantastic B-movie cast, including Bruce almighty himself, Mr Campbell as Van Helsing. (Ah, loves me some Bruce Campbell!), David Carradine as Mardulak, the plant's owner, and Maxwell Caulfield, who played the decidedly unloveable male love interest in Grease 2 and Miles Colby in Dynasty and The Colbys. Caulfield plays Shane, a scientist who's been turned into a vampire – his skills are valuable – and lures fellow scientist David to the desert because he really fancies his wife just as a fight breaks out between the vampires who want to try to live on the fake blood, and those who'd rather get their meals the old-fashioned way...
Honestly, it's good fun. Cheesier than cheddar, but good fun.
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
If you were born in the 1980s, the phenomenon that was Elvira may have passed you by, although I believe she's still very popular in the States. Played by Cassandra Peterson, Elvira was a vampish character who hosted showings of horror movies; I'm pretty sure this was her first proper film outing. Buxom, dim Elvira needs money to keep her telly show on the air, so when an unknown aunt dies, she leaves LA for New England to find her inheritance. What does she inherit? A rackety old house, a poodle and a cookbook. The conservative townspeople don't like her much, but she sets about restoring the house with the help of the local teens ("Just grab a tool and start banging!"), then realises there is more to the cookbook than tasty food...
The thing that makes this watchable is that Elvira really is a ditz. Peterson's not afraid to show the gothy glamourpuss sloping around in ratty old nightwear with a facepack on, she doesn't take the character too seriously. There are plenty of silly one-liners and daft situations to keep things light.
Based very loosely on the HP Lovecraft tale 'Herbert West, Re-Animator', this film begins with Herbert West being booted out of his Swiss university for reanimating his dead professor. He moves to Miskatonic University in New England, rents a room from a fellow student and sets about continuing his research. He then comes into conflict with Dr Hill, one of the university staff. When you've got a research-stealing lecturer and an unscrupulous reanimator butting heads, things are going to get lively...
This one's probably the most critically acclaimed of the three, and two sequels were made, but it's always best to start with the original!
And if none of those take your fancy, try the original Fright Night? Nuts to the remake with squeaky Tennant...