Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Stream to Scream: “BEVERLY HILLS VAMP”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Fred Olen Ray’s fanged farce BEVERLY HILLS VAMP.
For those who adore the golden age of direct-to-VHS horror, Fred Olen Ray is a filmmaker who needs no introduction. For the unfamiliar, Ray’s brand of low-budget horror put entertainment over scares, but delivered some of the most memorable video shlock in the process. And there are few titles as perfect a gateway to Ray’s oeuvre as the infectiously fun horror comedy BEVERLY HILLS VAMP, which is luckily available to stream on our Hulu channel.
Balancing goofy stupidity with biting (pun definitely intended) satire, BEVERLY HILLS VAMP tells the story of a bloodthirsty brothel in the heart of Beverly Hills, and a group of aspiring horror filmmakers who find themselves falling prey to the vampiric vixens. Of course, the film takes advantage of all the tools available in ’80s low-budget horror: practical make-up effects, abundant nudity and a script ripe with one-liners.
BEVERLY HILLS VAMP is more clever than one might give it credit for, however. Ray fills the film with a surprising amount of meta humor and even some witty twists on the vampire mythos. The filmmaker also makes the most of the low-budget situation: the film is confined to few locations and any character in heavy make-up is limited to one or two scenes at most. And Ray knows that the moments of horror are only as strong as the concept, which is inherently buried in comedy. So while BEVERLY HILLS VAMP does have occasional bloody goodness and even some impressive direction, the film is still too funny to be taken seriously. Luckily for the audience, the humor lands more often than not, and horror fans will appreciate the subtle spoofs of horror tropes throughout.
This also comes as a credit to the cast of BEVERLY HILLS VAMP, who know exactly what kind of film they’re making. Comedic performer Eddie Deezen steals the show with his signature brand of nerdy naiveté, which fits the film like an anxious, self-deprecating glove. Jay Richardson is also a highlight, playing a sleazy yet ultimately heroic film director who tries to save his bitten nephew ( Tim Conway Jr., who offers a hilariously indifferent take on his affliction). And the film even has some wonderful smaller roles by horror veterans Robert Quarry and Britt Ekland, who both embrace their spot among the silliness.
While you’re unlikely to find any Oscar-worthy performances or spine-tingling terror on display, BEVERLY HILLS VAMP is an undeniably fun and surprisingly lean horror comedy. Despite being a film of its time, BEVERLY HILLS VAMP resonates with its balance of splatstick and self-aware camp as well as its respectful understanding of vampire tropes. And thanks to Fred Olen Ray’s eccentric and economic directing style, as well as Ernest D. Farino’s sharp script, you just might find yourself falling for the endearing charm.