[31 Days Of Horror ’22] Mini Reviews: Vamp (1986) and The Face Behind The Mask (1941)

Mini Review
Day 05: ‘Catch Up’
Vamp (1986)

There are memories ingrained into my brain of seeing Vamp (1986) at the video store as a kid, the cover was so mysterious and a little scary. Back then there was not enough courage to try to rent it out and then the film just disappeared off shelves as newer films took over and for this humble horror fan it just didn’t come up to actually watch the film with the awesome VHS cover until now, thank you 31 Days Of Horror.

Vamp is quite a simple story, two best friends AJ (Robert Rusler) and Keith (Chris Makepeace) in college agree to hire a stripper for the big frat party to ensure their pledge into the fraternity. They find an ad for an intriguing place, bringing along fellow student Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) in order to have transportation. Once they reach the Strip Club, not everything is as it seems as the mysterious performer Katrina (Grace Jones) gets AJ under her spell.

This is a fun film, the chemistry and fun performances from Robert Rusler and Chris Makepeace lead the film forward, Gedde Watanabe’s silly Duncan is good comic relief and anytime Grace Jones is on screen is hypnotic. The writing is great, the low budget goes a long way with impressive vampire make up and the neon visuals wrap everything up nicely. There are a few missteps along the way, which can easily be forgiven with a film that’s extremely enjoyable and a great slice of 80’s horror.

Rating:

Mini Review
Day 06: ‘From the 1940s’
The Face Behind The Mask (1941)

The great Peter Lorre was truly a gift to cinema, the many performances he did are all unique and at times endearing. When looking for a film from the 1940s for the viewing list, the second I saw his name on an interesting title I added it to the list and checked a few sources to ensure it had horror. The Face Behind The Mask (1941) is a noir/drama/thriller/horror that works on those levels and captures a very sad look and realistic look at immigrant and disability discrimination.

Janos Szabo (Peter Lorre) first appears as he arrives from Hungary to New York as a very optimistic immigrant eager to find work and make enough money to bring his love over. At first things seem to be going well for Janos, a kind detective finds him a cheap hotel to live, he gets a job at the hotel, but a fire at the hotel he’s living in burns his face sadly. With his face burned, Janos faces discrimination whilst trying to find work and get back on his feet, no one will hire him. Ashamed and feeling hopeless, Janos goes to end his life when an encounter with a man Dinky (George E. Stone) who talks him out of it, leads him to a life of crime in order to make money to get surgery to change his face. Due to the scarring, Janos cannot have surgery and instead is given a face mask to wear, on the same day he meets a blind woman Helen (Evelyn Keyes) who changes his life for the better, but is the criminal life truly behind him?

The horror element in the film could be argued about, is it Janos burned face? Is it his treatment after being scared? Is it getting caught up with criminals? Or the reality of what the ‘American Dream’ really is? It could really be all those things, however Janos’ face is something that barely gets seen and it shouldn’t be considered horror because he is a man with a burnt face. The real horror and how it is conveyed in the film is the horror of other people, the failure of the ‘American Dream’ and the desperation to go into some dark places. Peter Lorre is excellent as Janos, a genuinely lovely man who goes through tragedy and his motivations are completely understood. There is a strong sympathetic factor with Janos, there is empathy to be found within him that Lorre brings forth naturally. A story told in The Face Behind The Mask is as relevant now as it was back in 1941, this is a must see film for all.

Rating:

Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea

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