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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for me to talk about one of my favorite movies of the ‘80s. I discovered Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat on VHS and it was one of the first legit tapes that I bought for my collection. The movie has everything you could want and stars a plethora of genre actors. David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, Deborah Foreman, M. Emmet Walsh, and John Ireland are just a few familiar faces you will see. If that cast doesn’t get you excited you aren’t a horror fan. But before I gush too much let me discuss the plot.

Best VHS tape I ever owned!
David and Sarah bring their daughters to the town of Purgatory so that he can fix an issue with the production of a blood substitute he has sold Count Mardulak. The Count, played by the always awesome David Carradine, owns the town and is hoping to revitalize it with the new factory. Or so he says. The truth is the town is populated by vampires hoping to break away from their old lives of hunting and being hunted. Thus, the creation of the factory and the production of the blood substitute. There are complications when Mardulak’s second in command, Jefferson, decides to build his own army of vampires to destroy the town and the factory. One of his co-conspirators is Shane, who is in love with Sarah and has his own agenda to win her back. And if that isn’t enough for you there is also a Van Helsing in town looking for the Count!

This is another great movie that has only in the last few years been given a proper release on DVD. The story is a solid mix of horror and comedy wrapped into a nice western package. There are some scary looking vampires, bat/human hybrids, some transformation scenes, and plenty of fangs. The obsession that Shane has with Sarah also leads to a creepy bit with him straddling her naked on a bed. Mixed in with the horror are some very funny lines, the bumbling Van Helsing played perfectly by Bruce Campbell, and an amusing umbrella kill. And while it is set in modern times we still get cowboys, shootouts, horses, and of course the showdown where two vampires draw on each other at high noon, or I guess midnight…

I’m not going to rehash all the dialogue that I enjoyed, but I will mention one bit. When Jefferson and Mardulak are having their big showdown and the Count out draws him Jefferson is surprised. To which the count replies, “Did you really think we were the same age Pilgrim?” Not only is that a reference to John Wayne, but Jefferson is dressed as and probably was a Pilgrim. Come one that’s funny! Speaking of comedy there is a lot more going on than just witty one liners. The highlight of this has to be Campbell and his ability to do physical comedy. From dumping more sand out of his shoe than it possibly could have held to being unable to navigate a simple wall, to the hollering and flailing when he is “converted” this is comedy gold.

Comedic gold!
The end of Sundown has a nice twist. Spoilers Mardulak is actually Dracula who changed his name because he got too famous. Even though he beats Jefferson it is actually a cross erected quickly by David and Sarah that save the day. Jefferson and his followers are toast, while Mardulak and his are unaffected. He sheds a tear and announces that they have been forgiven. This might be the first time that Dracula is the hero of a movie. I can’t think of another.

Watch Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat. It is worth your time and money. It fits nicely with any of director Anthony Hickox’s flicks like Waxwork I and II or Warlock: Armageddon. This guy made some damn good horror movies over a five-year period.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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