Vampires and Other Stereotypes Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 24, 2022
Video: 1.33:1/1080i (SD master)/Color
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 87:29
Directors: Kevin J. Lindenmuth
A pair of paranormal investigators are making their nightly rounds on the seedy streets of New York City when they encounter a group of party-hopping girls looking for a warehouse rave, who have also just accidentally opened a portal to hell. (From Visual Vengeance’s official synopsis) When Patrick Ripoll and I first set out to watch all of the shot-on-video horror movies that miraculously made their way into retail rental outlets during the ‘80s and early ‘90s for the Genre Grinder podcast, we didn’t appreciate the impossible scale of our undertaking. It didn’t seem conceivable that so many amateur-made movies could’ve possibly been seen by more than a handful of people in the pre-internet streaming era and, yet, our to-do list just kept growing until there was too much to cover in the planned three, then four, then six episodes. One title we were aware of, because it had a surprisingly wide rental market release for an SOV film, but were unable to locate and watch in time, was prolific Z-movie auteur Kevin J. Lindenmuth’s debut, Vampires and Other Stereotypes (1994), an apocalyptic, homemade, mixed-genre movie with a blue collar X-Files twist and surprisingly deep lore.
Whether or not Lindenmuth even was even inspired by X-Files (and he probably wasn’t, though it’s crazy to consider that the original airing of The X-Files actually overlapped with the pre-digital SOV horror era), the supernatural police concept shows ambition well beyond that of most SOV horror movies, which tended to be DIY attempts at already low-budget ideas, usually slasher movies. Another possible conceptual inspiration, given the personalities of the female leads, was Fran Rubel Kuzui’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), but its visual and tonal influences are largely of the comic book variety, including the palette of a four-color EC anthology and, at its best, the energy of a Sam Raimi movie. Lindenmuth’s skill level isn’t up to that level, especially not for his first time behind the camera, but, again, comparatively speaking, the full complexity of the filmmaking here exhibits truly grand ambitions, especially when the characters enter hell and have to get creative with their compositions, lighting, and production design. Amateur horror can often be unintentionally funny, but amateur horror movies designed to be funny on purpose can really be a drag, to the point that many of the most unwatchable films ever made fall under the category of SOV horror-comedy. Fortunately, Vampires and Other Stereotypes takes its story and characters pretty seriously, which gives the silly moments a solid foundation. In fact, I’m kind of surprised that it’s sold as a comedy, because the jokes are just flavoring. There’s a nice contrast between early ‘90s girls’ nite antics (“He wasn’t exactly her boyfriend – he was a Friday night activity.”), monster movie shenanigans, and hard-boiled paranormal investigator scenes that help balance the more over-the-top Evil Dead-esque gags and leaves us with more reasons to laugh with, rather than at the film. The splatter effects, by Ralis Kahn, Scott Hart, and Scott Sliger, are hit & miss, running the gamut between chintzy store-bought body parts, unconvincing but appropriately gross gore, super charming creature puppets, and some genuinely good monster make-up. Highlights include a wall of chatty, laughing severed demon heads, a giant rat with blinking eye mechanism (!), and a squirming, bat-winged worm baby.
Vampires and Other Stereotypes was, like all SOV horror, made for the VHS/Beta market (via E.I. Video). A no-frills DVD was released by Film Castle as recently as 2013 and was made available to rent or buy digitally at some point before this Blu-ray version from Wild Eye imprint Visual Vengeance. According to specs, this 1.33:1 transfer is taken from a standard definition master of the original 1-inch tape and the grading was supervised by Lindenmuth himself (this isn’t one of those SOV movies shot on consumer grade equipment, for the record). So, short of some miraculous new upconverting technology, this is the best the film will probably ever look. Lindenmuth and cinematographer Tullio Tedeschi really try to push the low-res format beyond its limitations with gels, backlight, pinlight, soft focus, et cetera. At some points, the heavily stylized photography actually does disguise the analogue artifacts and general fuzziness of the transfer or at least make it seem like it was done on purpose. The lack of digital compression artifacts is another plus, as is the relative deepness of black levels.
Unsurprisingly, but perhaps a bit disappointingly, Vampires and Other Stereotypes is not presented with an uncompressed audio option. Instead, we have a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. The mix comes with all the limitations of a DIY, SOV horror movie, meaning that everything is already inconsistent and muffled enough that the compressed qualities aren’t particularly noticeable. Dialogue is typically clear enough to understand, though dependent on the environment. The production probably could have been improved with a bit more ADR clean-up, but that’s not the DD track’s fault. Ambience is minimal, but credited composer Paul Aiuto’s looping synth parts (including a melody ripped off from The Doors’ “When You’re Strange” and a short, uncredited metal blast beat) help to fill the void.
Commentary with Kevin Lindenmuth – The first of three new commentaries features the writer/director solo chatting about the making of the film in remarkable detail. He discusses technical aspects, like special effects, production design, and cinematography, casting (at one point, he quickly runs down all the cast & crew that died since the film was released), and the many, many ways he saved money (the opening titles are stock footage he recycled from his day job, for example).
Commentary with Mick McCleery and Kevin Lindenmuth – The second track has Lindenmuth team up with actor and collaborator McCleery, leading to a more lively, interview-like conversation, as McCleery poses questions and generally acts as a moderator. He’s also a teacher these days, so he offers his own perspective on budget filmmaking and how it has changed over the decades. If you’re looking for more fun and personal anecdotes from behind-the-scenes, listen to this track first.
Commentary with Tony Strauss – The final commentary features the Weng's Chop Magazine author, who fills in facts about the cast & crew, their careers, their work, and their collaborators. There is information overlap with the other two tracks, but Strauss’ approach is so different that it doesn’t really matter. It’s also notable that he ends up covering more of Lindenmuth’s inspirations, mythology, and industry connections than the director does on either of his own tracks.
Director Kevin Lindenmuth (25:22, HD) – Lindenmuth discusses early friendships with up-and-coming comic writers, including the late Dwayne McDuffie, developing his skills, writing the script, casting, networking with effects people at horror cons (he really wanted to work with the people who made Rolfe Kanefsky’s There’s Nothing Out There ), hiring his uncle to run craft services, planning, filming, effects/make-up tricks, and struggles with budget, carpal tunnel, and the language barrier between him and Tullio Tedeschi (who was Italian).
Actress Laura McLauchlin (3:20, HD) – McLauchlin briefly recalls being cast (it was her first film), making independent films, and how her career blossomed after she moved to Los Angeles.
Actor Mick McCleerly (9:56, HD) – McCleery looks back on his own early filmmaking and effects work, having access to his dad’s workshop, which became the main location, the rest of the cast, and acting through make-up.
Actress Suzanne Turner (3:01, HD) – Vampires and Other Stereotypes was also Turner’s first film and she briefly discusses her experience on the film, which included using her own apartment for the introductory scenes.
Actress Sally Narkis (7:18, HD) – Narkis remembers the casting process and talks about getting along with the rest of the cast, donning prosthetics, and generally having fun on set.
Make-up effects artist Ralis Kahn (17:31, HD) – Khan chats about his own networking in the effects industry, working on location, his fellow effects artists, and learning on the job.
Special effects artist Scott Sliger (7:23, HD) – Sliger breaks down some of the effects process, his cameo as one of the talking heads on the wall, and some of his post-Vampires and Other Stereotypes movies.
Photographer Sung Pak (9:09, HD) – Pak recalls his relationship with Lindenmuth and his various behind-the-scenes responsibilities aside from shooting stills.
Publicist Joe Mauceri (23:46, HD) – Mauceri rounds off the interviews with a look at selling independent horror in the pre-internet, pre-digital era.
Behind-the-scenes image gallery
Kevin Lindenmuth early films (26:26, HD) – A reel of nicely shot Super 8 high school and college shorts that demonstrate genuine skill with cell and stop-motion animation. Titles include Wake the Dead (1981), War (1981), The Check-Up (1983), and Helping Hand (1984), and there is an option to watch with commentary from the director.
Visual Vengeance trailer and trailer reel
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.