Friday, June 01, 2007

Vamp or Not? Masters of Horror – Dance of the Dead

DVD set

This Tobe Hooper produced episode of the first season of Masters of Horror (aired 2005) isn’t really a vampire episode, but there is enough derivative lore that I felt it deserved a ‘Vamp or Not?’ It is more a zombie or, perhaps, an unclassified undead story and yet it does contain a use of blood and it is based on the short story by Richard Matheson. Matheson, of course, was responsible for the seminal novel I am Legend, which definitely blurred the lines between vampire and zombie and spawned the modern Romero type zombies.

bliss attackThe film takes place in post-apocalyptic America following the third world war. During the war, and afterwards with terrorist attacks, chemical and biological weapons were used such as Bliss. We see the effect of Bliss during the memory of a birthday party.

Robert Englund as the MCThe episode follows Peggy (Jessica Lowndes), an innocent young girl who falls for Jak (Jonathon Tucker) who is from the wrong side of the tracks. He takes her to a club called the Doom Room but what she sees in there turns her world upside down. Special mention to Robert Englund who shines in the role of the Doom Room’s MC.

The main entertainment in the Doom Room is the LUP show, or the dance of the dead. During the war certain chemical weaponry caused dead soldiers to remain standing and jerk spasmodically – some even continued to fight. In this post apocalyptic world the chemicals have been distilled and LUPs are used in the club as entertainment and kept frozen between shows.

LUPTo revitalise the LUP fresh plasma is injected and the LUP is electrocuted to encourage the spasmodic dancing. When revitalised, however, these creatures are not the flesh-eating zombies we are used to in the modern zombie genre – the MC revitalises one and uses the spasms to make the LUP orally satisfy him. It is the use of plasma in the animation process that prompted me to ‘Vamp or not?’ this. However, whilst plasma revitalises them they do not hunt for blood themselves, presumably decaying without the blood and the freezer storage, a combination of none sentience and none aggression preventing the hunt. It would have been, intellectually, nice to examine how some continued firing weapons during the war, was it just an automated reaction?

LUP disposalWe do see, during the running time of the film, the disposal of some LUPs. Three are thrown into a dumpster and then burnt inside it. It is a none story specific scene but marvellously captures the ‘spirit of the age’ of the world we are watching and is an engrossingly disturbing sequence. One of the burning LUPs seems to reach out of the dumpster, imploring help, this might have just been a pavlovian reaction but it does open a little doubt.

There is, perhaps, another vampiric creature featured within the film, the youth of post-apocalyptic America. Jak and his friend Boxx (Ryan McDonald) mug an old couple at gun-point. They do not take money, however, but siphon blood to sell to the MC in order that he might use it in one of his shows.

Jessica Lowndes as PeggyThis is a fantastic episode, perhaps my favourite in the first season of the show. As I said at the head much more zombie but, in a genre blurred sort of way, deserving of some interest from students of vampire lore. Ultimately it is not vamp though.

The imdb page is here.

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