Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy
McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys

Directed by: Tom Holland

Story: When a teenager learns that his next door neighbour is a
vampire, no one will believe him


1985 had been a year of déjà vu for horror fans, with lesser sequels
appearing for the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Hills
Have Eyes franchises, and a return to well-worn themes with competing
zombie films Return of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead. Then,
rewarding the genre faithful, Columbia Pictures released Fright Night, a
totally original vampire yarn from writer-director Tom Holland. It was his
first project as a director, but Holland was a well known writer within
several genres, with script credits like Class of 1984 and Psycho II to his
name, and his ear for credible dialogue helped Fright Night (and later
projects like Child’s Play and Thinner) earn and keep a major fan base, as
well as numerous awards, including three Saturn Awards. Fright Night
starts off in comfortable and seemingly predictable territory: an excitable
student, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), suspects that his polished,
well-off new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire.

Charley’s story is ridiculed by his peers (notably the wildly overacting
Stephen Geoffreys as “Evil Ed” Thompson, the horror geek who explains
vampire lore to Charley—and to the audience) and ignored by the police.
He has to take matters into his own hands and only narrowly overcomes
the strength of the monster, and his zombie-like henchman, Billy
(Jonathan Stark) to save the day, as well as the life of his vampire-bitten
girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse). Nothing remarkable there, and nothing
that hadn't been made any number of times by the time Holland and his
actors started work on the film. But there is one thing that makes Fright
Night a horror classic, apart from the solid work by Sarandon as the
metrosexual bloodsucker-next-door Jerry Dandridge, and that’s the
character of Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), the horror actor and self-
proclaimed vampire slayer turned host of the local midnight-movie series
Fright Night Theatre, whom Charley and his friends enlist as the most
unlikely protagonist in their quest against the vampire.

Vincent (a tribute to Hammer Horror icon Peter Cushing and American
genre vet Vincent Price) is a has-been who never was, a down-on-his-
luck actor who can’t get a break and is about to lose his house as well as
his movie hosting gig. He wants nothing to do with Charley or the
monsters who are after him. When Charley tells Vincent he believes in
vampires, Peter replies, “That’s nice”—but when Charley’s friends offer
the aging horror star cold, hard cash to humor the excitable young man,
Vincent decides to play along—until it turns out Charley knows what he is
talking about. It takes the death of “Evil Ed,” transformed into a
werewolf-like monster by Dandridge’s dark power to make the horror
star a believer, and McDowall’s credible performance makes Vincent’s
transition from a grubby cynic to a dedicated, real-life hunter of vampires
an absolutely credible one. Fright Night also benefits from F/X work by
the Richard Edlund workshop, Boss Films.

Edlund, whose Oscar-winning career has included the original Star Wars
films, the Ivan Reitman horror-comedy Ghostbusters, and the action
classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, was careful to keep the monstrous
elements of Fright Night realistic: even when Dandridge loses his cool—
and his control over his appearance—and morphs into a more animal-like
version of himself, the F/X never seem over the top. Although some
scenes (and soundtrack selections) inescapably dated the film as a
product of the mid-‘80s, the F/X hold up remarkably well, more than
twenty years later. The horror genre has gone through many changes
since the original release of Fright Night, and the vampire-movie sub-
genre has evolved considerably as well, from day-walking creatures to
vampires who prefer those lengthy Alaskan winters. But the urbane Jerry
Dandridge, and the relentless Peter Vincent, will always hold a place of
distinction in the pantheon of vampires and slayers.

Overall: 8/10
Genres: Comedy, Horror,

Rated: R

Country: USA

Year: 1985

Runtime: 106 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures


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