Before there was ever a Team Edward, before Sookie fell for Bill and Eric - hell, before Buffy picked up her first wooden stake - there was a vampire craze that sunk its teeth into popular culture during the 1980s*. There was the good (1987's sexy-awesome The Lost Boys), the bad (Grace Jones's Vamp) and the artsy (David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon in The Hunger).
And since that Fright Night remake is upon us (don't let me down, Colin Farrell), I'm going to rev up the Nostalgia Machine once again and revisit some lesser-known titles I grew up with and still cherish to this day. In fact, their VHS copies are collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. It's about time they come out of storage...
Once Bitten (1985)
A fresh-faced, pre-In Living Color Jim Carrey plays Mark, a high schooler who just wants to lose his virginity to his smokin' hot girlfriend. His two horndog friends decide to take him to The Big City (in this case, Los Angeles) where they can have a memorable encounter with some ladies of the evening. But as luck would have it, Mark becomes the target of a 390-year-old temptress (the cougarific Lauren Hutton), who must take three bites from a virgin before All Hallows Eve in order to keep her youthful beauty. Needless to say, hijinks ensue, horrific 80s fashion is put on display, and Cleavon Little pops up as what may be Hollywood's first out bloodsucker. Oh, and look for a blink-and-you'll-miss-her scene with Will & Grace's Megan Mullally (that's right) and a choreographed Halloween dance-off that is simply - ridiculously - awesome. In short, totally radical:
My Best Friend Is A Vampire (1987)
This movie is all kinds of cheesy awesome. Before he played a doctor on TV (House) Robert Sean Leonard played Jeremy, crushing on a girl (the androgynously nerdy-sexy Cheryl Pollack, the chick who would go on to play the sax on The Heights four years later) while balancing an afterschool job delivering groceries to the elderly. And as luck would have it, Jeremy becomes the target of a centuries-old hottie (Celia Peck, daughter of Gregory) who bites him right before she's killed by vamp hunter Professor McCarthy (the scenery-chewing David Warner). Now, with the help of his vampire mentor (Hello Rene Auberjonois from TV's Benson and Star Trek: DS9!), Jeremy must adapt to his new lifestyle and learn how to "come out" to his friends and family. And playing his mom? Fried Green Tomatoes author Fannie Flag. I know: Shut. Up.
Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)
More monster mash-up than straight-up vampire flick, this Mel Brooksian comedy stars Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum as tabloid journalists who travel to the fictitious country to investigate the reappearance of Frankenstein's monster. What they get instead are several run-ins with a variety of boogymen (and women) who, by the end, just turn out to be misunderstood outcasts. A camped-up Geena Davis, sporting enough cleavage to give any Hooters waitress a run for her money, appears as the movie's sole bloodsucker. Other familiar faces to namecheck: Michael Richards as a prankster butler, Carol Kane as Dr. Frankenstein's kooky aide, and Norman Fell as the boys' cranky editor at the paper. A fun romp:
The Monster Squad (1987)
It's as if someone went to Tri-Star Pictures and said, "I got your next Goonies. Just replace the pirates and bad guys with Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolfman." To which Tri-Star might have replied, "But we're not Universal. It's gonna cost us a lot of rich stuff to get the rights to those names." And there you have it. $12 million and a few obligatory Pepsi and Burger King placement shots later, we have ourselves a movie that taught us that werewolves indeed have gnards. All this from the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And is it me, or is it now a little unsettling to see a 12-year-old lock and load a shotgun?
Updating my Netflix queue as I type,
*The 1980s: Those ancient times, back when rotary phones were still in use, people played vinyl records and tape cassettes, and your mom and sister went through a can of Aqua Net in one week.