The Tie-Ins That Bind: Vamp by Christian Francis

As this column goes into a new year, I have a lot planned. I’m finally looking at the Planet of the Apes 2001 Expanded Universe for a month. I’ll cover at least two Get Smart novels. On the spinoff site I hope to cover two more anthologies this year. I want to really get to covering Buffy for its 25th anniversary. More Black Flame awaits. And I have so much more coming.

But for right now I need to get back to looking at one of my favorite publishers, Encyclopocalypse Publications. Watching them right now is thrilling. They’re issuing works by legends in the field like Gary Brandner and Omniplex guest Peter Atkins while handling the tie-in game like pros. The very idea of the retro novelization is a brilliant one. Why not fill in gaps in the tie-in record? We should have had Wishmaster in a cheap MMPB. Now we do!

That brings us to March 1st’s release of Vamp. This should exist. Vamp had a premise made for a cheap grocery store paperback. College students go looking for a stripper and land in a strip club run by vampires. They get picked off. Slap a St. Martin’s Press logo on it–I’m due to examine their output–and it would have been logical in 1986. However I’m reviewing this in 2022. That’s kinda cool.

Since the plot is so easy to sum up I got all of it in my intro, how is this book? Well I do have the plus of having seen the film. It’s very good and actually stayed with me hard. I remember really caring about the main relationship between Keith, the everyman hero, and Amaretto, the rather likable stripper. I even remembered how they knew each other, a fun mystery. And yeah this nails the adaptation.

It’s interesting to compare this to Scared to Death. That was by necessity lean and tight. Matt Serafini could take us inside the characters but there wasn’t much fat to that story. Christian Francis would seem to have an even tighter story since this follows the single day and mostly night at that formula. But because the key relationship of the book/film hinges upon a past connection, the book proves a shockingly dense journey into every character’s past.

Seriously, every character from the main characters to the minor gets a back story. And those scenes are the literary equivalent of guitar solos. Francis clearly feels free to invent whatever he wants. I mean I’m assuming this, maybe director/cowriter Richard Wenk gave him the material. Whatever the case, the result is a one of a kind journey through a string of fascinating people set against an 80s punk nightmare. We love every story we get.

Francis also takes advantage of what a deliciously atmospheric film Vamp is. The book drips with 1980s neonoir. You live inside this book and you feel it. It’s a real book. Not a translation.

I look at this and Scared to Death and I get genuinely excited about the state of horror nostalgia. These books take these films and let them live again. This is what we should hope for. The book comes out 3/1 with an introduction by Wenk, the shooting script, and photos. Check it out.

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