Back in my Fangoria fanboy mania, I kept seeing the Pittsburgh-made Heartstopper get listed and it supposedly had tons of Savini gore, as well as a role for him as a police detective. Every con Savini was at, I asked, “Is Heartstopper coming out yet?” And he’d laugh and say, “I hope so.”
It took me 33 years to see it.
Pittsburgh has seen more than one vampire movie get made here, from the lo-fi Fist of the Vampire to the big budget Innocent Blood and perhaps one of the best vampire movies ever made, Martin.
And oh yeah, Heartstopper.
Benjamin Latham (Kevin Kindlin, The Majorettes) was a doctor back around the Revolutionary War who was experimenting with blood when his sister-in-law and brother proclaim him a vampire. He’s hung and not just lynched, but held down by her, his heart has a stake put through it and he’s covered with garlic. And two hundred years later, he rises in Pittsburgh’s Point State Park. Unlike your run of the mill vampire, he lives by day and has poisonous saliva that either kills or brings people to his side, such as his lover Lenora Clayton (Moon Unit Zappa!?!), who introduces him to our modern world while having a tie to the past, as she’s a museum curator.
Meanwhile, one of Benjamin’s descendants has become a serial killer himself and he’s conflicted over saving him or destroying him. There’s also the matter of Lt. Ron Vargo (Savini), whose daughter was killed by someone who had a very vampiric MO, so all he does is talk about it and refuses knocking up his wife again because he’d rather work out down in the basement, so if you want to watch Savini grunt it out and do sets, trust me, this is your movie.
It also has a tremendous metal soundtrack and by that, the kind that will earworm you. The band N.M.E. (metal is not always clever) is a power/thrash band from the City of Bridges made up of David Paul Snyder on drums, C.E. Robinson on bass, Brian Keruskin and Michael Weldon on guitars and Jirus on vocals. They had two songs in the movie, “The Gates of Hell” (“Walk On”) and “Heartstopper” (“Eat Me Alive”) and they’re pretty decent, along with a solo Jirus song called “Killer In the Park” and two songs by The Sound Castle, “What Kind of Love Is This?” and “In Principio,” which sound like progressive metal by way of Meat Loaf and I’m all for that, too.
“Heartstopper” (“Eat Me Alive”) was released on the VHS Horror Rock, which also has Hurricane’s “Over the Edge,” Wrath’s “Children of the Wicked,” The Pandoras’ “Run Down Love Battery,” The Dickies’ ” Booby Trap,” Elvis Hitler’s “Hot Rod to Hell” and The Del-Lords’ “Judas Kiss” all playing over clips of Night of the Living Dead, The Majorettes, Midnight and Heartstopper, which as you may have put together are all movies owned by this film’s writer and director John Russo (or public domain, as is the case with Night).
Heartstopper is an interesting film at the level of The Majorettes in quality. It tries to be a different take on the vampire story and for that, it succeeds, while also being a great time capsule of 1989 downtown Pittsburgh. And of Tom Savini’s workout. Seriously, the dude made gains while making this.