Saturday, May 11, 2013

To Sleep With a Vampire

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, however sometimes re-visiting a fond memory can be less than wonderful. That's kind of my feeling after watching To Sleep With a Vampire for the first time since it's release back in the early 90s. To Sleep With a Vampire is a remake of Dance of the Damned from 1989 by Katt Shea Rubin. Both of them about a vampire who ends up in a strip joint looking for conversation and a hot meal, and both films follow the same basic path.
To Sleep With a Vampire cover art with Charlie Spradling and Scott Valentine

I was lucky enough to have seen both films not long after release. While I fondly remember Dance of the Damned as being a very well written, decently acted film that rises above it's somewhat sordid pretense.  However I also had those same feeling about To Sleep With a Vampire and considered it a better, and indeed my favorite of the two films. So when I found a DVD copy of To Sleep With a Vampire at Texas Frightmare Weekend, I had to have it.  Sadly watching it has somewhat tarnished my memories of it, and honestly made me feel a little more like a sexist pig.

I have never denied that the main reason I first watched To Sleep With a Vampire was because it starred the stunning Charlie Spradling. I had first seen the brunette beauty in the Full Moon movie Meridian, which also starred Sherilyn Fenn. Meridian, at least as I remember, was a damn good movie, back when Full Moon actually made really good movies. Charlie was gorgeous and incredibly hot and I quickly feel in love with her and Sherilyn. So when I heard she was the lead in a vampire movie, playing a stripper, I had to see it.
Meridian poster with Sherilyn Fenn

At the point I saw it I had no clue it was a remake, but I quickly realized it was similar to Dance of the Damned.  Being a fan of Charlie, the movie knocked me off my feet. The strip scene was, and still is one of the sexiest and most realistic I have seen in an R rated film. Spradling was no stranger to nude scenes, being topless in most of her film appearances, and she doesn't disappoint here.  She strips down to G-string and writhes seductively across the stage.

All that is still there, and Charlie is still as beautiful as ever. However there's no way I can say this is a good movie in any other way than as a testament to her beauty. The acting is pretty much horrible all around. Spradling's most believable scenes are when she is rolling around on stage, but even that seems wrong for this film. Charlie's character is supposed to be a woman on the verge of suicide, but her performance is full of power and strength.  I don't remember a lot about the original, but it seems Starr Andreeff (as the lead stripper) did a dance that was much more melancholy and sad. Now Andreeff can't physically compare to Spradling, especially when it comes to cup size, and sadly that may be why I have always considered To Sleep With a Vampire to be it's equal in quality.  So OK, I'll admit I can be swayed by a great rack.

Still the bad acting can't be limited to Charlie, Scott Valentine from TVs Family Ties gives an absolutely ludicrous performance as the vampire. Seriously what is that twisting your head and snarling thing you keep doing? And every line you deliver is like a mockery to anyone who has ever played a vampire seriously. It looks and sounds like you are doing a Bela impersonation on Who's Line is it Anyway?

The dialogue is cheesy and sleazy throughout and totally ruins any compassion for either character. I simply couldn't believe any character in the movie. Bad dialogue, delivered by bad acting and the story, no matter how compelling on paper falls apart.  Even the little kids acting was horrible.  Plus there is so much lack of logic through the film.  Why do the characters take a taxi when the vampire, can apparently turn into a ball of energy and zoom around? Why does the vampire starve himself as long as possible while looking for a suicidal victim, then attempts to kill the victim when they decide they aren't suicidal. Just seems really strange to me. Hell everything about this film is just off. Except Charlie's body of course.

The effects are really cheap.  The fight scenes are so horribly telegraphed and fake.  Thugs fly through the air like a new jobber on an independent wrestling circuit. The ball of energy that Valentine can turn into is nothing short of something you might expect in a Duran Duran video. If Duran Duran were on a  strict budget.

The only real reason to watch To Sleep With a Vampire is to watch Charlie Spradling dance. And as beautiful as she is, even that seems off.  Why is a girl as beautiful as this dancing at a club this sleazy?  Why is the club nearly empty? Even the other girls we see seem way to classy for a dive like this. Even  as much as I love Charlie, her make up was so cheap and sleazy it kind of disappointed me. Maybe that was the only real attempt to show her as someone who belongs on a cheap dance stage. The fact is the scene is totally out of place in the movie.

In a movie that is supposed to be about desperation, about a person fighting to regain the will to live, the dance scene is just way too erotic and sexy.  Maybe it was because To Sleep With a Vampire was directed by a man while Dance of the Damed by a woman. Vampire was made to just be a showcase for Spradling's voluptuousness, and Valentines sleazy bad boy sexiness.  It's sad the director couldn't make a film that combines beauty and desperation.  That he couldn't squeeze some bit of realistic acting out of two people who have done better. Too bad he thought tits and fangs could carry the film.
Charlie Spradling topless from Puppetmaster 2

So I'm a bit sad that my memories have been tarnished.  That I can no longer look back fondly on this film. I'd love to be able to recommend this film, but I can't. Charlie Spradling fans will enjoy her stripping, but she has been topless in much better films. Valentine fans should stick to Family Ties where he's much more believable.  Final assessment, To Sleep With a Vampire will probably put you to sleep. After the strip scene at least.

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