I have known Dementia von Grimm for almost a decade now. I find myself a little bewildered by that statement as it surely doesn’t feel like that long.

Dementia is a veteran costumer, as well as a veteran of the convention circuit. She now uses her experiences to educate and enlighten those new to both scenes with her Facebook page, Dementia von Grimm – the ConMother.

For her 1st (and hopefully not last) Halloween Horrors entry, Dems takes us back to the late-80’s with her look at a true sleeper title from producer Roger Corman. On a personal level, she caught me off-guard with the intimacy of this piece. For that, I salute her.

 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enthralled with vampires and vampiric mythology. I know how cliché that sounds, but for me, it’s the truth. From the very first time I watched Blacula in 1972, I was spellbound. I won’t bore you with tales of how that played out throughout my childhood, but it does set the stage for our story.

1989. South Miami. I was assistant manager of a video store. I’d come to be that employee that the customers would come to nightly for recommendations of horror films to check out. I was that completely pretentious horror nerd that would marathon the new releases so I’d be able to condescendingly educate the regulars on what was worth $3 of their time.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of friends, having moved to Miami only a year prior (yeah, that was the reason). I had my fiancée, and my fellow annoying assistant manager, a snooty gay guy named Fernando. So, after finishing a shift on the eve of Halloween, Fernando had approached me and asked what I would be watching that night. I had forgotten to pick something, so I went to skim the new release shelves. It was then that the cover of a vampire flick caught my attention, Dance of the Damned. Executive produced by Roger Corman? Complete with sexy and erotic cover art with a hot guy?  Psh, count me in (see what I did there?)!

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My fiancée was working a double shift, and having no friends, my Halloween would be spent alone on the couch with whatever movie I chose. What better way than to spend it with an attractive vampire, right?

Dance of the Damned proves you don’t have to be a slave to FX work when working inside the realm of horror.  Written by Katt O’Shea and Andy Ruben, and starring  Cyril O’Reilly and Starr Andreeff, the film is basically a night-long conversation between a self-destructive, fatalistic stripper and a brooding, world-weary vampire, and the ensuing evolution of their relationship. However, it’s so much more than that. Skillfully directed with remarkably understated grace, it still has all the elements we’ve all come to love about 80’s horror. Cheesy effects, lots of neon, great hair, sax solos, and flamboyant clothing. And stripping (and we’re not talking Demi Moore stripping). The unexpected pleasure came from the actual story. I’m a sucker (ha!) for good character development, and this was the first underground vampire film I could remember that was along the lines of what Anne Rice had done, making the vampire not only an attractive and powerful figure, but a sympathetic and touching character, not just a cold monster.   What struck me about this movie (and is often true of well done, low-budget films) is that it feels like something you’d see onstage.

If you are into a deep psychological brain yank, it’s hard to find this piece (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), but it was that Halloween in 1989 that I began this life-long love affair with this hauntingly regretful, melancholy and brooding erotic goth sleaze, with serious aspirations. I couldn’t be more surprised, and films like this are very few and far between. It’s something I’ve recommended to every vampire fan ever since, especially now, when vampires have become such pussified fodder for emo glitter and teenybopper product placement.

I did buy this movie on DVD, but sadly my copy is lost to time, as it was borrowed by my twin brother (who coincidentally has fangs of his own), and disappeared much like Cyril O’Reilly did. Otherwise, I’d be continuing the tradition of popping it in every Halloween night. It is, hands-down, one of my favorite vampire pieces to date, and definitely worth the search.

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