Title: Fright Night
Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding, Art J. Evans
Plot: When Charlie (Ragsdale) discovers that his neighbour Jerry (Sarandon) is a vampire he dismayed to find that no one believes him, leading him to recruit Peter Vincent (McDowall), a former movie vampire hunter turned TV host to help him stop Jerry.
Review: Another film from my childhood whose memorable VHS cover I still remember scaring the hell out me back when I used to spend many a misspent hour looking on the shelves of the Video store, at the same time knowing that I would never have the guts to ever watch it. Even as the film in later years has gone on to become regarded as a cult classic, meaning that it has been a source of some dismay for some of my friends that for one reason or another it’s taken me until now to actually watch it. Perhaps one of the main reasons (outside of the aforementioned minor childhood trauma the cover caused) is that it’s a vampire movie. One of the few horror sub-genres which hardly fills me with the most excitement, especially considering how like Zombies it has been so overworked, with vampires long being the inspiration for countless dire paranormal romance let alone the whole “Twilight” fiasco, so when you tell me it’s a vampire movie it really has to be something special to hold my attention.
The directorial debut of Director Tom Holland who would previous to this film has written the surprisingly good “Psycho 2” and would go onto follow this film with the equally cult “Child’s Play” and the underrated Stephen King adaptation “Thinner” and while he is a director whose better known for his films rather than being the one who directed them. A fact only further highlighted by the fact that I didn’t realise how many of his films I’d seen till I started doing the research for this review.
Charlie is your regular teenage kid who likes horror movies and making out with his girlfriend as highlighted by the opening were he manages to combine the two (something which never works out in real life). He then manages to achieves what I assume to be a horror movie first by blowing off his girlfriend Amy (Bearse) offering to finally sleep with him, as he’s too busy spying on his neighbour after he notices a coffin being moved into the house. It’s worth noting at this point Jerry is still be to proven to be a vampire, so essentially he’s blowing off his girlfriend because of an overactive imagination.
While there is little doubt over whether Jerry is a vampire or not, even though it would have been epic if he hadn’t turned out to be one. The fun is watching Charlie trying to convince those around him that he’s right, much less the fact that he bases all his knowledge on vampires from what he’s learned from the movies or even more questionable advice from his best friend Evil Ed (Geoffreys). This perhaps might go some way to explaining why he believes a movie vampire slayer would be the best person to assist him with dealing with Jerry. Peter Vincent is a great character and possibly the one character that goes on the biggest journey here as he starts off as a sceptic only to soon find himself having to battle his very real fears to step up and become the man he played in the movies. It has to be questioned though if all the vampire hunting paraphilia in his apartment was all props from his former movie career or if he actually has any real experience? The answer to this question alludes us even if some of his equipment such as his pistol does come with links to his films, making it only all the more confusing.
A great mixture of comedy and horror runs through this film with Sarandon providing the right combination of charm and threat to make for a suitable villain here, more so when he plays things so close to his chest in terms of his plans. More so when he throws in a real twist by seducing Amy which while its hinted that its due to her resemblance to his former lover, I couldn’t help but think that this was another way to screw with Charlie, more so when he also turns Evil Ed into a vampire one of those rare examples of a good character turning evil and in turn even more awesome than he originally was!
While the film was released back in the 80’s making up an unholy trinity of vampire movies alongside “The Lost Boys” and “Near Dark”, like those films the old school effect still hold up even now, with Richard Edlund and his special effects team when the film was made coming in fresh from “Ghostbusters”. It’s also great that the vampire transformations are more monstrous similar to those seen in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” than the more traditional pointy teeth variant which still continue to plague the genre now, only without any of the charm of the horror legends which originally portrayed these characters to make these more simple vampires work. At the same time we do get some gooey death scenes and an equally astonishing reverse transformation to rival “An American Werewolf In London”.
While for the most part this is a fun ride, it does sag slightly in the third act was the focus shifts to Jerry and his attempts to corrupt Amy with the help of his vampire powers, though taking the focus away from Charlie means that the film loses momentum, but ultimately this is a minor complaint as the film is still a lot of fun with healthy dose of splatter to add to the thrills to ensure it holds its own against its contempories especially when it falls squarely between the worlds of “The Lost Boys” and “Near Dark” making it the perfect companion piece to either film, while being one of those rare vampire films which even the usual haters of the sub-genre like myself can enjoy.