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This is a wonderful low-budget sleeper, proving that not all
contemporary Roger Corman-produced films are trash. And all it really
is is a night long conversation between a self-destructive, suicidal
stripper and a brooding, world weary vampire. Go figure. But it also
would probably take a more mature, patient viewer to sit through this
one, because if you're looking for gore, action and special effects,
you'll find little of that here. Expect a low key character study
similar to a stage play, with lots of dialogue and few location
changes. This film itself proves you don't have to be a slave to FX
work when working inside the realm of horror. There can be so much more
to the genre than just cheap shocks when a common horror theme is put
into the hands of someone with talent and imagination. I have no doubt
when this was green lit the director was expected to make a vampire
movie with nudity that could be sold off as direct-to-video
exploitation. In this case, she actually managed to make something of
it and that, my friends, does not happen too often.
The script by Katt Shea and Andy Ruben (who were married at the time this was made) not only has some great insight into the outcast condition and very good character development but also some wonderfully poetic passages. One highlight is a beautifully written scene on a beach where the leading lady has to explain to the Vampire what sunlight feels like. It's in her description of this simple feeling that gives her back her will to live. In scenes where the two characters describe their troubled pasts, the monologues are so well written and detailed you can visualize them without having to actually see them on screen. Any movie with a budget would have predictably went into flashback mode but here we're asked to use our imaginations. Clever parallels are drawn between two different lost souls (not to mention two different species); one of whom is forced to live in the night and the other so wounded she's compelled to. Both leads (Starr Andreeff and Cyril O'Reilly) are very good and do their roles justice, and this film manages to be thought-provoking, sometimes very funny and ultimately moving. While a million fx-driven blockbuster type movies involving vampires come and go and entertain while they're around, this one has actually has resonated with me more over time than films like BRAM STOKER'S Dracula, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, etc. It's a shame not many people know anything about it.
I not only recommend this, but also the director's excellent STREETS (starring a young Christina Applegate), and even her more exploitative serial-killer-in-a-strip-club flick STRIPPED TO KILL. They're all well above average for the genre, humorous at times, well written and with a heavy concentration on character. Shea shows the same kind of early talent as the best directors to come from Roger Corman U... including Francis Ford Coppola and Jonathan Demme. In fact, I'd probably place her near the top of the list of the countless directors Corman has supported over the years. And she's certainly one of the most promising female director's I've ever come across viewing countless low budget films.
Amazingly, DANCE was remade in 1993 as TO SLEEP WITH A VAMPIRE. That version, which was also produced by Corman and reused much of the same storyline and dialogue, does not come close to this version. Guess which one has been released on DVD? I wish I could say it was this, but unfortunately some boneheads decided to release the remake instead while this worthy film languishes in VHS obscurity. Hopefully someone, some day will get this out to the masses so it can find an audience.
Dance Of The Damned is one of those rare films that comes along once in a
GREAT while. Filmed on an EXTREMELY low budget with a VERY small cast, it
manages to succeed where other movies (with 10 times the star power and 50
times the budget) have failed miserably.
A man sits in a low-grade strip club and takes notice of one of the women on stage. He senses her mood is dark and later overhears a phone conversation where she pleads (in vain) with her ex-husband to allow her to see her child. He meets her outside and, after a brief introduction (she first mistakes him as someone out to attack her), convinces her to tell him more about herself. Most of his questions concern, strangely enough, the sun and daylight in general (he asks her what it feels like on her face, how the warmth is, etc.).
It's not until later during their conversation that she realizes he is a vampire. The film does an incredible job (via a great script and subtle but strong performances from the two leads) of dealing with issues surrounding anger, fear and love, and eventually leads to a final, sad, dramatic conclusion.
It would appear this film was released directly to video, and it may be difficult to find these days, even as a rental. But if you manage to locate it out there somewhere, I highly recommended spending an hour and a half of your time taking it in - You won't be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This strangely thoughtful and resonant nickel'n'dime late 80's fright
film represents the rarest and oddest of low-budget bloodsucker
sub-genres: the wistfully reflective existential vampire picture.
Seriously, it's a beautifully affecting and poetic work of shamefully
neglected art that's deserving of greater recognition and appraisal
than it's thus far elicited.
The extremely novel and compelling story centers on dejected, suicidal stripper Jodi (the delicately pretty and winsome Starr Andreeff, a very capable and under-appreciated actress who was often wasted in such useless piffle as "The Terror Within" and "Ghoulies II") who one fateful night encounters and strikes up an uneasy rapport with a lonely, angst-ridden, but sympathetic vampire (the handsome, sulky Cyril O'Reilly). The curious, misanthropic vampire wants the deeply troubled Jodi to engage in intimate conversation with him prior to putting the severely tormented woman out of her misery by killing her at dawn.
Skillfully directed with remarkable grace and understatement by the always stylish and intriguing Katt Shea Ruben (who also helmed the splendidly lurid "Stripped to Kill" and the harsh, gritty "Streets" before going upscale with the slicker, but less distinctive mainstream items "Poison Ivy" and "Carrie 2: The Rage"), with a probing, audacious and insightful script by Katt and Tom Ruben (the latter also cameos as a punk cab driver), a hauntingly regretful, melancholy and brooding nighttime gloom-doom mood, and sterling acting by the two exceptional leads (Andreeff in particular gives an achingly vulnerable, strikingly vivid, and ultimately quite endearing performance), "Dance of the Damned" stands out as a real breath-of-fresh-air indie sleeper and a courageous, highly imaginative and unusually sensitive departure from standard, more visceral and traditional 80's cinematic takes on vampirism ("Fright Night," "The Lost Boys," et al). The expected grisly shocks, fancy special effects and garden variety humans vs. monsters premise are nowhere to be found here; instead this movie bravely offers a touching, absorbing and penetrating rumination on the numerous facets of the human condition, including the pain and anguish of being an ineffectual parent, the emotional scars wrought by child abuse, the awesome loneliness of leading a hermit-like existence, the duality of being a stripper (they do have considerable power over the mostly male patrons they disrobe for, but unfortunately said dudes tend to see them strictly as vapid sex objects), and conventional society's awful inability to easily accept and tolerate those luckless individuals who deviate in one way or another from a rigid and repressive collective norm. Marred only by a somewhat annoyingly ambiguous conclusion, this otherwise flawless masterwork qualifies as essential viewing for adventurous horror movie buffs with a penchant for something off-beat, inspired and way out of the ordinary.
The first thing that struck me about this movie and is often true of
well done, low budget films is that it feels like a stage play. The
movie is character and dialog driven with an economy of changing
scenes. Like insects trapped in a magnifying jar, the claustrophobic
space brings the characters into raw detail.
When I first saw this film, I thought it was foreign - maybe British, Canadian, or Italian. None of the actors have been in a lot of movies that I am aware of, although Starr has been in a few other B grade vampire movies (none near this good). Surprisingly it used to be easy to find for rent. Since it never came out on DVD though, it is tougher to find now (apparently it was released on laser disk but the second half/side was badly engineered so it would have to be remastered before being transferred).
There was however an uncredited remake in 1993: To Sleep With a Vampire (directed by Adam Friedman) that is available on DVD (for real cheap). It features almost the exact same script including portions of word for word dialog. Besides the fact that it is not as well acted, the main differences are that the stripper has bigger breasts and that both of the main characters had a small following before they took the rolls. Watching that remake is like watching your favorite play performed at a local High School: it reminds you pleasantly of the better performances you have seen.
A suicidal stripper is token hostage by a lonely vampire who tells her he
gonna kill her at sunrise, but first he makes her teach him about what
people do during the daytime, but as it gets closer to sunrise their
feelings for each other grow strong and the vampire and stripper form a
Intelligent, exceptionally well acted and made film by the true master of this genre in my opinion Katt Shea has largely, and unjustly been ignored for no appearant reason. The film features very good characterizations and covers many themes including love, death, guilt, and redemption. Terrific premise also. Seek this out.
Rated R; Nudity, Sexual Situations, Profanity, and Violence.
Unfortunately this is one of the flicks that popular critics might toss
aside for the cast of unknowns but I have to say if you are into a deep
psychological brain yank...this flick does it well.
It starts by making you think about who you might deem worthless to society and who the real monsters are...then at the end you get this twist that will leave you stunned.
You can't find it on Netflix or at any rental stores but it's actually worth buying and putting in your collection. It will be one of those movies that you will ask all of your friends if they've seen it or not then you'll proceed to throwing it in the player.
You'll want to share this with anyone who enjoys a tastefully done vampire flick with all of the literal horror and hokum taken out.
It hits on the emotional and gives one insight on themselves.
Watch it..you won't regret it and you'll be talking about it for a long time to come. I saw it for the first time over ten years ago and still refer to it as one of the best movies I've ever seen.
...about an 80's rock star-type looking male vampire who picks up a
stripper after hours to ask her plenty of questions that a vampire
would yearn to know the answer to and then to subsequently eat her
before dawn. Questions like "what does the day feel like?", "what does
the sun-light on your skin feel like?", "what does it feel like to have
a friend?",... Questions that the stripper has a hard time answering to
the vampire's satisfaction and she's rather reluctant to put much
effort into her answers given that she knows that he wants to kill her
in a few hours.
It's really just about those two characters, not much else. The vamp has got plenty of cool powers, wants to eat her but also wants her company and the experiences of her that he can't have. Also the woman contemplated suicide before meeting him so she repeatedly goes from wanting him to kill her and to trying to save her skin which makes for interesting inner conflicts and thrilling drama.
It very much has this early 90's B-movie kind of look and feel to it that I like so much. Man, this thing is so underground, I'm tellin' ya. Erotic goth sleaze with serious aspirations. Forget Anne Rice? No, but this is just as good. It was directed by a woman which, I think, is very noticeable, in a good way. The vamp is a romantic tough guy with cool contacts, he has super powers, taste in art and is rich because of some "long term investments" (makes sense, huh?). And yes, the woman is way more sickly looking than him, actually, but then he isn't the one who's the smoker (makes sense, yes?). Sounds groovy? It is. Unfortunately although the movie has something that feels like a proper ending I personally wasn't satisfied with it, I could have easily gone for another "chapter" to get some real closure on the story.
A rare little gem that transcends its genre to portray some interesting
angles on suffering, the nature of good and evil and death. The
stripper who believes her life isn't worth living until death looms, the
remorseful vampire who needs to feed but feels compassion for his victims
are both convincingly played. For my money this film is worth fifty of
pretentious, self-important overblown vampire-chic films like 'Interview
with the Vampire'. For a "horror" film this movie is quiet and even a
little plodding at times but the understated performances, taut scripting
and interesting story (with nice twists on the myths of vampirism) make a
A needless remake "To Sleep with a Vampire" made by Roger Corman in 1992 doesn't nearly live up to this movie's quirky originality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A vampire becomes infatuated with a troubled stripper who just wants to
speak to her child and is unable to do so. Thoughts of suicide having
crept into her mind, but never quite able to go through with it, she is
selected by the vampire because he feels she desires death and this
gives him a reason to drink from her to sustain his hunger. But once he
kidnaps her, wanting to know what daylight is like, this vampire finds
there's more to her than what he had believed.
You know, this was not what I had imagined it to be. That is not a slight against the film in any way, though. Katt Shea's DANCE OF THE DAMNED is more of a melodrama, with the two principles engaged in conversation, where the meaning of life plays a substantial purpose in the story of a vampire(Cyril O'Reilly)and his chosen victim, a stripper named Jodi(Starr Andreeff). It goes without saying that you discover just how much life means to you when confronted with death.
Andreeff is a striking presence on screen. She has this depth(not just in her performance, but of her character) I wasn't expecting. Granted, I've only seen her in something like THE TERROR WITHIN, but there's a disappointment that I'm not more familiar with her. It's not just that she's sexy, but her character is also complex, and there's meat on the bones(as is in the movie, which was probably the most pleasant surprise)that becomes more apparent the longer we spend time with her.
O'Reilly's vampire is also an enigma, which I found exciting. He absolutely wants to understand the human experience and finds Jodi to be an unwilling participant at times..and who can blame her since she's only got until 6 o'clock to live? He picks her brain for information regarding what it is to be human, and this actually aggravates Jodi at times, because what she might find mundane(and take for granted)he wishes to assimilate.
What I especially found rewarding is how the film develops the relationship between Jodi and the Vampire. Both are lonely and seemingly rejected by their own species(she because of her profession; he because his kind consider him repulsive).
Jodi has a son, but is not granted access to him. She loathes her profession, but the bills have to be paid and there are just so few opportunities out there at the present.
I think Katt Shea is one of the few filmmakers out there who has spent a career conveying the lives of strippers(mostly in the 80's)and that those involved in this profession are not just whores worthy of our ridicule. That's what I think adds value to DANCE OF THE DAMNED. Starr Andreeff is provided with a part she can bring to life because her Jodi is a person who rediscovers how precious every moment is when viewing the pitiful existence of the vampire. O'Reilly, I felt, is her equal as the vampire who seems to hate the fact that he has to feed in order to gain sustenance..he was born this way and the blood of animals just aren't as nutritious as drinking from the free flowing well of a woman who no longer wishes to live. Something about feeding from a creature with a soul contributes to the vampire's taste for human blood.
I was astonished at the times where it seems both have a civility that exists between them, until a remark or deed by Jodi, in an act of defiance against him, enrages the vampire to the point that he almost harms her. We see that he has a limit, a button you can push that unleashes the animal. And, she has quite an ability to poke at his ego, to needle at a sore spot which inflames an anger she'd soon wish to see remain dormant. But, again, this act of defiance is justified since her alternative is to die. I think the suspense derives from the fact that he could attack at any moment and Jodi could do little to escape. She is at his mercy, but the vampire does have a soft side to him.. he's certainly affectionate in regards to her love for a son she so wishes to spend time with. The vampire even takes Jodi to see her son, and this is a very touching scene with Andreeff really transcending the stripper stereotype.
Throughout the movie, Andreeff's Jodi bares her soul to us, acknowledging that each passing hour brings more heartache, sadness, and regret. As time seems to pass at an alarming rate, Jodi becomes more aware of her own mortality..and the lack of passage to an exit. The vampire, however, falls more and more in love with Jodi, until he even lets her taste from his blood, willing to feed from a paperboy in order to spare her. That's the conundrum, the vampire must satiate his bloodthirst and yet his willingness to feed from Jodi wavers. I think that's the success of this movie. We know why he falls in love with her because we also spend time with Jodi and see there's much more to her that just some beautiful young woman who dances in a striptease for a leering male audience. Kudos to Katt Shea for crafting this low budget character drama which takes a refreshing approach to vampires and strippers.
Not your average run-of-the-mill vampire movie, so at least that's something. Don't expect vampire-action, bat-like facial transformations or bloody killings in general from "Dance of the Damned" or you'll be disappointed. What we get here is more like a TV-drama play, with a bit of 80's cheesiness and nudity added for good measurement. Pretty much a 'doomed romance' type thing about a non-vampire stripper and a vampire-yuppie. One wants to die, the other one will have to die if that other one doesn't die. Something like that. Starr Andreef is damn sexy in this one (and she shows plenty of skin - yes, the top comes off) and it has an ending that will leave you hanging in there (in a neither-here-nor-there kinda way). Certainly worth a watch if you're into offbeat vampire movies (more like the cheesy romance ones, not the edgy arty ones). And it's at least about 5 times better than that awful Andrew Stevens vampire-vehicle "Red Blooded American Girl" from 1990 (I've said it before & I'll say it again: avoid movies with Andrew Stevens playing the leading role in them). Anyway, he's not in "Dance of the Damned", so you're safe to watch it.
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