Nightlife (1989)

Nightlife “After a hundred years, she could really use a drink!

Nightlife, not to be confused with the Scott Grimes zombie flick of the same name (easily doable – they were both released the same year) is a made-for-TV vampire-comedy that can only be described as light hearted fun with the added bonus of a few cracking one-liners. The film, set in Mexico, begins at a museum, where a tour guide is jovially leading tourists around a generous display of mummies. He explains that the soil in the area does a great job of speeding up the mummification process, and that many more are yet to be added to the collection. While exhuming a few more bodies, a couple of archaeologists stumble upon one particular coffin that inside reveals the incredibly well-preserved corpse of a beautiful woman. One of the men remark that “she’s in better condition than my wife” (I bust a gut over that one, believe me), but that’ll be because Angelique (Maryam d’Abo) is, actually, a vampire.

It turns out that Angelique buried herself alive (I’m guessing that takes quite a bit of skill) a hundred years ago to escape the clutches of her possessive lover, who has spent the past century searching for her. Much has changed, and now that it’s 1989, Angelique has to figure out where to find her food. It’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick when you’ve been asleep for a hundred years and stumble upon a “blood bank”. Unfortunately for Angelique, who is completely mystified that this isn’t a place where hungry vamps gather to make withdrawals of jugular fluid, she becomes hysterical, and is carted off to the hospital, where they can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with her. Least of all, admiring Dr. Zuckerman (Keith Szarabajka), who is so taken aback by her unique blood type that he falls in love with it – and in turn, in love with Angelique.

The bad news is that jealous lover Vlad (Ben Cross) is lurking around with his sights set on eternity with his lost bride (to-be), while Angelique herself has discovered the art of the pawn shop, and trades her now antique jewellery for a smart new apartment complete with feisty Spanish-speaking maid. Oddly enough, she is about the only Latin American in the film, making this the Cocktail of vampire movies. But if Tom Cruise can get away with it, a USA network-made movie most definitely can, too. Maybe the cast and crew just fancied a vacation, because there really isn’t any particular reason for the setting, save for the mention of the magical Mexican mummifying soil. But hey, let’s brush that aside and dance the rumba, shall we?

Still unaware that she is a member of the undead, Dr Zuckerman attempts to figure out Angelique’s strange “disease”, while performing unsuccessful blood transfusions and blaming her deteriorating health on her “severe anaemia”. Downtown, some poor victims are being sucked dry by Vlad’s suited vampire sidekicks, who transport him around in the trunk of their car in a bed of soil. Sending his henchmen to retrieve his bride, Vlad is seriously pissed after watching his woman – how can I put this? – SUCK ON SOME OTHER GUY’S FINGER. Dr Zuckerman mistakenly interprets this as Angelique trying to very blatantly seduce him, whilst Angelique wrongly assumes that modern society readily accepts vampires, and the technical terminology concerning her “disease” implies that he knows she’s a bloodsucker. It makes for a funny little mix-up – but not quite so funny for Vlad.

The movie does begin to drag and at times feels like it could have done better as a half-hour episode of Tales From The Crypt, but it does manage to redeem itself with the help of characters like Rosa the (dancing) Maid, who takes no shit whatsoever when Vlad confronts her and demands to see his bride – even in the most threatening tone. Eventually, despite his extreme scepticism, Dr Zuckerman twigs that Angelique and her menacing stalker ex are vampires and figures a way to give successful blood transfusions. His discovery is halted when he is kidnapped by some of Vlad’s gang, who snack on him briefly before he passes out, drifting into a farcical nightmare where he’s ordering “Blood Light” in the middle of a crowded vampire bar.

At times, a little lifeless (pun unintentional) and dull, at others great fun, Nightlife is a pleasant enough vampiric diversion, which with its dusty, desert setting and vampire humour vaguely reminded me of Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. Although Sundown is far superior, Nightlife has some especially smart-assed moments and quotable lines, for example, a scene where a bumbling vampire explodes under ultra-violet light, to which an unfazed hospital janitor responds “..i’m not cleaning it up”. Dr Zuckerman, however, is the source of many of the laughs, particularly during a scene prior to him discovering Angelique’s immortality where she tells him she can’t enter a church because she’s “not Catholic”. At the heart – or should that be neck? – of it all, Nightlife is a saccharine love story where humour and sarcasm are the vampires’ best weapons. Surprisingly watchable (but a little unsure of itself) Nightlife is undemanding fluff, where the only time I’d suggest steering well clear of it is if you really, really despise the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song “I Put A Spell On You”. Although, even if you don’t, there’s a good chance you will by the end of the movie.

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