Fright Night (1985)
Director: Tom Holland
Roddy McDowall/Peter Vincent
Stephen Geoffreys/Evil Ed
Teen horror buff Charlie (Ragsdale) believes that his GQ-looking next door neighbor (Sarandon) is a vampire. He turns to his friends and a recently canned horror movie star (McDowall) for help, but of course, nobody believes his whiny ass. Will he become a human “Martini”?
“Welcome to Fright Night…for real.”-- Jerry Dandridge
Fright Night’s intentions are not really to scare the crap out of you, although the flick does have its "brrr" moments (all about the Jerry in Charlie’s bedroom scene). The film doesn’t want to make you uncontrollably roll on the floor in laughter either, but this daddy-o definitely has its humorous moments as well (2 words: Evil Ed). So what does Fright Night really want out of its blood-lusting audience? It just wants to entertain and give horror fans all that they crave. Boy, does it ever!
What makes this vamp flick so unique for me is that it borrows the classiness of the old-school vampire figure and slaps them in a hipper than “Max Headroom” eighties environment. Where the vampires in "The Lost Boys" were teen delinquents with fangs, the bloodsucker in this flick retains all of the charm, sexiness and panache of the vampires of old while being very "now" (80s that is). How refreshing! In my opinion, Jerry Dandridge played to a T by Chris “I look great in tight long sleeve shirts” Sarandon has to be one of the more suave and memorable vamps to ever grace the horror screen. Every time he popped up, I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and I’m straight yo! He redefines the term “kool” and for me, was the glue that held this flick together. With a lesser actor the movie wouldn’t have worked as well.
The flick was obviously done by a man that has a lot of love for the genre (Tom Holland) and that shines through constantly. If it isn’t the nods to “Rear Window” at the beginning of the film or the constant winks at the old Hammer films, it was the classic settings (got to love that smoked surrounded house), the use of the basic “vampire rules” (that are sometimes taken a step further) and the endearing character of Peter Vincent (an obvious homage to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) who brings with him all the style and winks to the old horror oeuvres. I loved the cheesy horror movies within the movie that Peter Vincent starred in; they were freakin', bubbalisciously hilarious! Gotta love that Fearless Vampire Killer!
The flick does sport a few harmless boo-boos that I feel I should point out. On a script level, why the hell does Charlie (a horror fan) need to consult Evil Ed for vampire advice? Isn’t he a HUGE horror fan? The scene is an obvious device so that the “vampire rules” can be stated out loud for the audience. We also get the predictability factor that kicks in a few times. You know how it goes; a character states that he doesn’t believe in vampires and then enters a dark alley (for no valid reason). Take a wild guess as to what happens to that duder. I also thought the already way slick club scene could’ve been milked more (remember "Terminator") and that a certain death scene dragged on for a little too long but that’s just me nitpicking.
Overall, “Fright Night” is a genre treat that gives us everything we enjoy about the older vampire films but it also adds its tacky yet very groovy 80’s flavor into the mix. It has enough hip dialogue, wacky effects, gay undertones (what’s really going on between Jerry and his Day Watcher?), scary moments, memorable sequences, fine performances and full-out energy to entertain the most jaded of horror viewers. This one’s just fun times for all the RIGHT reasons. Bite into this apple...
We get some gooey goods here. A slashed throat, a pen stabbed in a hand, some good old staking and some really impressive visual effects (werewolf transformation, decomposing body, the works). We can all thank special effect dude Richard Edlund for the neato stuff he slaps in here. Fun freaking stuff!
Chris Sarandon (Jerry) really bites into his part and you can tell the man is having a blast with it! And even though I’m straight as an arrow, I can safely say that the dude is one sexy motherfucker. You go boy! Roddy McDowall (Peter Vincent) is a treat as the horror host with the most, he brings a touch of class to the flick. William Ragsdale (Charlie) handles his whiny part well, and never becomes overly irritating. Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed) makes the weirdest acting choices in terms of his performance and that’s what makes him so interesting. Talk about wacky! I couldn’t warm up to Amanda Bearse (Amy) as the innocent girlfriend. Her delivery sometimes felt awkward and she physically didn’t do much for me. Jonathan Stark (Billy Cole) works as Jerry’s enigmatic roommate. He’s very threatening in a quiet way.
T & A
We get a nice pair of breasts early on from one of Jerry’s victims, Amanda Bearse in a bra (not my type) and the ladies will rejoice in seeing Chris Sarandon shirtless and being an all-around sexy bastard.
Tom Holland keeps the pace tight, offers a couple of nice shots, slaps in mucho atmosphere, handles suspense very well and keeps that smoke machine working overtime.
The score by Brad Fiedel is dead on (especially "Come to Me") and we also get a couple of slick 80’s tunes such as: "Rock Myself to Sleep" by April Wine, "Let's Talk" by Devo and "Armies of the Night" by Sparks.
"Fright Night" has to be one of the more entertaining vampire flicks on the block. It sticks to old school rules but it's wrapped in a delicious, colorful eighties coating. If the tight dialogue, the dead-on special effects, the overall sexiness of the film or the sharp dialogue don’t bite into ya, Jerry “too kool for school” Dandridge will. Welcome to Fright Night dudes and dudettes! You’ll want to re-visit this one on a regular basis.
Stephen Geoffreys was listed as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1985" in John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 37. He eventually went into gay porn appearing in titles like: “Cock Pit”, “Buff and Gay” and “Gay men in Uniform” under the alias “Sam Ritter”.
Amanda Bearse came out of the closet: she’s a lesbian.
Chris Sarandon was married to Susan Sarandon at one point. He’s straight.
On October 3 1998, Roddy McDowall died at home at the age of 70. The big C. RIP Fearless Vampire Killer.