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Film / Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat

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There are two kinds of folks in Purgatory: vampires and lunch.

Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat, a horror-comedy-western film from 1989 follows Purgatory, Utah which is home to some of the last vampires in the modern world. Led by their founder Jozef Mardulak Striving to abstain from killing humans for their blood in the hopes of atoning for their past. Scientist David Harrison and his family arrive to town to help work on the blood plant, while a bumbling Vampire Hunter and an army of more bloodthirsty vampires who see Purgatory as a threat to their lifestyle and culture prepare to attack the town. Actors include David Carradine, Bruce Campbell, and M. Emmet Walsh


Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat contains examples of:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: The Harrison sisters.
  • Analogy Backfire: The Big Bad Jefferson says that vampires are the superior race for how they live off humans and is reminded that so do hundreds of parasites, such as tapeworms.
  • Attempted Rape: Shane tries to get Mrs. Harrison back rather... aggressively.
  • The Atoner: Most of the vampires in Purgatory. the fact that they aren't burned by a cross implies that they have succeeded.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Many of the vampires in Purgatory fight back well enough once they’re under attack or get insulted, with Nigel the diner cook, sandy and Mardulak himself being notable examples.
  • Big Bad: Jefferson is the film's main antagonist, desiring to wipe out Purgatory due to hating them as 'domesticated abominations' to his Fully-Embraced Fiend.
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  • Big Bad Friend: Shane to the Harrison's, luring them out to Purgatory in an attempt to kill David and take his wife and the daughter Shane suspects is his.
  • Big Good: Mardulak, who founded Purgatory and doesn't allow drinking on human blood.
  • Cassandra Truth: Gwendolyn Harrison trying to tell her family how she's seen signs of vampires (although to be fair she was always obsessed with vampires).
  • Chainsaw Good: Ramon (a technician at the blood plant) uses one to attack some of the evil vampires and take their guns during the early stages of the climax.
  • Creepy Gas Station Attendant: the movie has this role filled by three bearded old men, Milt, Mort and Merle, who sit on a rocker all day in their thick hats and gloves, dark glasses and thick sunblock, commenting dryly whenever a customer shows up and generally trying to steer them away from the nearest town of Friendly Neighborhood Vampires. The three are on the side of the heroes but give of a literal Retired Monster vibe, as the second scene of the movie has Mort punch an unruly customers head off in a fit of temper (which is witnessed by his terrified friends nearby), then wearily clean up the mess as Merle drives into town to report this lapse in their pacifistic new lifestyle.
  • Don't Tell Mama: upon realizing she's been turned into a vampire Alice wonders how she'll break the news of what's happened to her mother.
  • Dracula: Count Mardulak reveals at the climax that he's actual Count Dracula under a different name.
  • The Dragon: Shane serves as one for Jefferson and also comes across as a Dragon with an Agenda.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Mardulak beats and wounds the villain in a Quick Draw fight, only to be out of bullets when he tries to finish him off with another shot.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The Jerkass customer Mort ends up killing is seen snorting cocaine.
  • Familial Foe: The Van Helsings (yes, those Van Helsings), have spent over a century trying to kill Count Mardulak, who they view as an Always Chaotic Evil figure. Actually, Mardulak is The Atoner, although he's willing to admit that once he gave them a reason to chase him. When Robert Van Helsing finds him, he ends up being turned into a vampire and becoming a part of Mardulak's community, which is portrayed as a good thing.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Everyone in Purgatory except for Jefferson, Shane and Bailey Most notable is Mardulak works to make the vampire townspeople forgo human blood, proving that the premise of True Blood a is Older than You Think. He feeds them with a less-tasty blood substitute made by his team of chemists and spruced up by the local diner staff, while working on mass production to keep up with the demand. That being said, there are some in the town express a wistfulness towards feeding, like in the old days, with one man secretly building an army of petty criminals and such turned outside of town to wipe out Mardulak and all who support him. When he does lead his forces against the town however, only one of the local vampires rallies to his cause, while the rest remain firm in their path and willing to fight against him.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend: Jefferson and his army all fully embrace their vampiric status and relish feeding on people.
  • God Is Good: When Harrison and his wife erect a giant cross, it destroys Jefferson and his men, but Mardulak and his surviving benevolent vampires are unaffected. Mardulak realizes, to his joy, this is because God has forgiven them and is actively preventing it from hurting them.
  • Grumpy Old Man: All three gas station attendants, who gripe at how they have to actually pump the gas for their customers (although to be fair going out into the sun to do so causes them pain even with their sunblock, hats and gloves) and argue about whose turn it is to do so.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Jack and Alice, a pair of campers, witness their friend being killed by the local Creepy Gas Station Attendant and go to report it to the local sheriff, only to find he's already locking the guy up. As they try to tell their story, the sheriff listens in interest, and asks who else knows they came to town. The two quickly wise up and realize this isn't a good question to answer, but end up getting locked up in the adjoining cell as the killer, having witnessed a "lapse" in one of the Friendly Neighborhood Vampire's. Said vampire is being locked up as a threat to public safety and they're being locked up because You Know Too Much.
  • He Knows Too Much: Mort tells Jack and Alice that with what they know, they have to either be drained of all their blood or turned into vampires.
    Jack: Letting us go-
    Mort: Ain't an option.
  • Hidden Depths: Mort is introduced punching a mans head off after being insulted by him, but makes no attempt to drink any of the guys blood, agrees to turn himself in afterwards, eventually explains what's going on to Jack and Alice and offers to turn them to save them from getting killed ultimately doing so and proves to be an effective loyal fighter for Mardulak's faction during the final battle.
  • Holy Burns Evil: and only evil, to the relief of the surviving Friendly Neighborhood Vampire's and the detriment of Jefferson and his men.
  • Innocent Bystander: Alice and Jack, who witness a murder and get roped into things trying to prevent another one, as well as the Harrison's.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Bailey is the vampire most eager to go back to human blood, but another side of him is referenced when Mardulak talks about how he found Bailey weeping over the body of a boy he had drained and wanting to change, only for Bailey to end up siding with the evil vampires, resisting a You Are Better Than You Think You Are plea form the chef who turns the blood substitute into food (who then ends up throwing Bailey through a window) and then ruthlessly takes part in attacking his former friends.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Shane claims to be the father of one of the Harrison girls.
  • Monster Lord: Mardulak and Jefferson are the leaders of Purgatory, as well as the two oldest and strongest vampires there. Or rather, that's what Jefferson thinks. In actuality, Mardulak is Count Dracula.
  • Monster Town: Purgatory, which is trying to find a way to make enough blood (and make it taste good) to transition into peacefully co-existing with humans.
  • Mauve Shirt: Many of the vampires, most notably Shane's fellow scientists at the blood plant and Mardulak's bodyguards With not many of them from either group surviving, although all of them last a while.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Mardulak outdrawing the Big Bad turns into one when his guns clicks empty when he tries to finish off Jefferson with a second shot.
  • New Old West: Nearly a third of the film has a gunfight between the two factions, with plenty of characters dressed up in cowboy garb.
  • The Older Immortal: Jefferson and Mardulak or should we say Count Dracula.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Sunblock keeps them from burning up in the sun and their souls being redeemed can save them from some traditional weaknesses.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: storekeepers Otto and Anna say their children (who presumably weren't turned into vampires and died of old age) died long before they did.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Gwendolyn has some, although no one pays attention to her until Mardulak hears about them.
  • Quick Draw: Mardulak and the Big Bad face off this way in the climax.
  • The Quiet One: Mardulak's head bodyguard, Dan.
  • The Reveal: Mardulak is actually Count Dracula.
  • Retired Monster: Most of the vampires. Many of them mean well and want to live happily, but seeing humans as food for years is a hard habit to kick.
  • Sassy Secretary: Mardulak's secretary Madge has a bit of snark to her.
  • Shaming the Mob: When a crowd of vampires unhappy with their diet nearly storm the jail to attack Alice and Jack, Mardulak arrives in his limo, and sternly talks them down.
  • The Sheriff: Quinton Canada, a laid back Rastafarian vampire, but one who does have a decent amount of power, given his age, and isn’t completely clueless.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Van Helsing, and vampire Sandy.
  • Stronger with Age: The older the vampire is, the stronger it becomes. This is also based on their chronological age as opposed to the age they were turned into a vampire at. Most of the townsfolk could handily defeat Jefferson's army up close despite the former including a lot of people who look elderly or middle aged and the majority of the latter being youthfuls in their physical prime when turned. Jefferson think he and Mardulak are roughly on par as 200 something years old despite Jefferson looking much older. Mardulak, being Dracula, is actually the strongest one by a country mile.
  • Vampire Hunter: Robert Van Helsing, in the memory of his distant ancestor. He does have the right tools for the job, but isn't that good at actually recognizing vampires right in front of him.
  • Weird West: A modern example, given the western trappings of town and the vampire presence.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several Recurring Extra townspeople vanish during the climax.