FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Fright Night is a fun 80s horror flick written and directed by Child’s Play‘s Tom Holland. The story is simple…teen and avid horror movie fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) gets a new neighbor next door, the charming and handsome Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), who Charley quickly comes to believe is a vampire, but obviously, no one believes Charley. As he tries desperately to convince his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and weird friend “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) of his neighbor’s deadly nocturnal activities, he also turns to horror movie actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who is the closest thing he knows to a vampire killer. But even if he can convince them, can this motley bunch stop a real vampire before he turns his fangs on them? Obviously it’s no spoiler to say that Sarandon’s Dandridge is quite the bloodsucking fiend and Charley and Co. are in for the fight of their lives…and a fun and suspenseful fight it is.
As with the 1988 Child’s Play, Holland takes his story seriously, but gives us plenty of humor to go along with the chills and thrills, of which Fright Night has plenty, as we watch Charley first trying to out the fiend then incurring his wrath. This movie is so delightfully 80’s now, too, with it’s clothing, hairstyles and synthesizer filled music, but it is still a lot of spooky fun under Holland’s guidance and his cast is one of the reasons. Ragsdale plays the lead role perfectly, he’s a nerdy teen with the same urges and active imagination as most boys his age, but he finds the hero within when faced with a horror from out of one of his favorite films. The legendary Roddy McDowall couldn’t be better as cowardly horror star, Peter Vincent, who is forced to overcome his fears and become the vampire killer he’s played for years, to battle a frighteningly real monster and save himself and his new friends. Chris Sarandon makes a delightfully sinister, yet charming villain as the vampire next door, playing the role with equal parts sexy and scary. He is very convincing as a powerful and lethal predator, but you also have no problem believing he can charm Charley’s single mom, or his girlfriend Amy right out of Charley’s protective arms. And while on the subject, Bearse is fine as Amy being virginal and sweet at first and then getting to vamp it up under Dandridge’s influence. And Geoffrey’s is amusing as “Evil” though he does go a bit over the top at times in a flick that’s played mostly straight. He does provide some comic relief and the character is endearing despite his overeager performance and by no means disrupts the film. The SPFX in this decently budgeted flick are top notch, as far as the abundant make-up and visual effects go and while the end is a bit overblown, it is in a Halloween spook-house kinda way and is an entertaining, if not slightly bombastic finish.
An entertaining horror flick that’s become a bit of a classic and now has some added 80s nostalgia to bring to the spooky mix and is a Halloween season favorite of mine as well. Spawned a Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III) directed sequel in 1988 featuring Charley and Peter Vincent battling Dandridge’s vengeful sister, played by Julie Carmen. The sequel is pretty entertaining on it’s own, though, for some reason, was shown little attention by the studio and audiences when it was given a limited release before going to VHS and later DVD.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs!