Fright Night (1985)

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“When a teenager learns that his next door neighbour is a vampire, no one will believe him.” — IMDb

Oh man, guys. GUYS. This is one of my FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL-TIME so you’re about to get quite an earful. I grew up watching this movie and it still gives me the warm fuzzies. The first time I re-watched it as an adult was like zooming right back to being 10 and watching it at my parents’ old house with my brother. I have since re-watched it maybe 4 more times.

Fright Night was director Tom Holland’s directorial debut inspired by a thought he had about a kid who was a horror movie/TV fan becoming obsessed with the idea that his neighbor was a vampire. He fleshed it out a bit more and then went to work on casting and getting his team together. Part of what I love about the back story behind this movie is how many people weren’t initially super intrigued (including Chris Sarandon, one of the leads), but once they saw just how enthusiastic Holland was and how solid the story was in his mind, they jumped on board and ended up loving the process and the finished product. He couldn’t get Vincent Price to agree to star, though. The Peter Vincent character was supposed to be a mash-up of Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, but Price had stopped acting in horror movies at that point, unfortunately (though he apparently saw Fright Night and told Holland at one point that he loved it and thought Roddy McDowall did “a wonderful job”).

ANYWAYS, the basic plot follows a teenage Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) as he becomes convinced that his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is a vampire. His girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) think he’s nuts, so he contacts the host of a local series entitled Fright Night, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), former “vampire hunter” who has been demoted to nighttime TV host for help. But soon everyone starts to realize that Charley was right all along…

** SPOILERS! **

This isn’t so much a critique as just an all-around praise because THIS MOVIE CAN DO NO WRONG but here goes.

Firstly, Jerry Dandridge is the coolest vampire ever. He’s so smooth with his super smart sweaters and his perfectly coiffed hair, his calm demeanor and his dry sense of humor. Seeing him in Fright Night was a huge sexual awakening for me — I remember having a MASSIVE crush on Jerry Dandridge (still do), especially in the night club scene when he dances with Amy, or the final seduction scene with him LITERALLY shirtless on a furry rug in front of a fire. Just… be still my heart. I’ve never wanted to be bitten by a vampire so badly.

Jerry’s seduction of Amy in the club in particular is just… oof. So much chemistry. I think they made his desire for her slightly less of just a sexual drive or even a drive for vampiric feeding and more of an almost heartbroken, romantic yearning by showing the painting of his past love (girlfriend? wife?) who looked just like her. There’s a few moments in the movie where we see how wistful he is, so while you don’t condone him capturing Amy, you see that it’s a deeper drive than simple passion.

The soundtrack is just perfect, particularly the instrumental version of “Come to Me” by Brad Fiedel, “Good Man in a Bad Time” by Ian Hunter, and “Give It Up” by Evelyn “Champagne” King.

The entire movie is just such a perfect combination of that classic 80’s kids on an adventure that is over their heads vibe with some genuinely scary horror aspects mashed up with some pretty hilarious comedy and satire. It pays homage to horror and vampire movies without making a mockery of them. The whole movie just feels GOOD.

I loved Peter Vincent as a character. He’s so sad and washed up — he makes a comment about how he had been fired from his show because kids don’t want to see vampire killers anymore: “apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins”. He’s desperate for attention — “what could be more important than my autograph?”, he incredulously asks when Amy and Evil Ed show up at his apartment. He’s desperate for money — he only agrees to help Charley when Amy finally offers him a $500 savings bond. He’s desperate to make one last show of himself — he shows up to Dandridge’s house fully equipped in his vampire hunting outfit with his kit full of crucifixes and holy water. But when he starts seeing evidence that Jerry may be a real live vampire, he panics. He runs. He tearfully refuses when Charley begs him to come back and help them. But right before Charley goes into Jerry’s house to kill him, Peter shows up, ready to go — though he never gives up that air of nervousness, that hesitation. He’s broken in many ways but he craves this humanity.

Again, while it’s meant to be a satire of sorts, it is also scary and quite gory at times. They show Billy (Jonathan Stark) melting into a puddle of green goo on the staircase in great detail. And the scene with Evil Ed transforming back from his wolfen state is… intense, emphasized even more by Peter Vincent’s amazing facial expressions.

I just can’t get enough, really. This movie is clever, it’s well-acted, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s consistently interesting and engaging… it is just THE BEST. If you’ve missed out on it for this long, do yourself a favor and GO WATCH IT TODAY. Seriously.

Rating: 10/10 | Director: Tom Holland | Writer: Tom Holland | Cinematography: Jan Kiesser | Music: Brad Fiedel | Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark

 

 

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