Nightmares on Netflix: Fright Night

“Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” ~ Peter Vincent, Vampire Killer

Keeping with the 1980s theme of our podcasts and with the news of a remake in the works, I decided to take a look at Fright Nights. It was released in 1985, was written and directed by Tom Holland.

Original Movie Poster

Synopsis:

Charlie Brewster’s next door neighbour is a vampire. The only problem is that no one will believe him. Not his mom, his girlfriend, his best friend and certainly not the police. Regardless of the sudden string of murders that has surfaced since the arrival of the charmingly handsome creature of the night, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), Charlie (William Ragsdale) is alone in his fight against evil. It’s not until he’s attacked and his family and friends are threatened that things start to get serious. The closer Charlie gets to revealing Jerry’s dark secret to the world, the more the vampire targets all of the people closest to him. In the end, he enlists Peter Vincent, Vampire Killer (Roddy McDowall) from the popular Fright Night late night movie series to do battle with the big, bad bloodsucker.

Thoughts:

When you first start watching Fright Night, there’s this feeling that you’re watching a spoof of horror movies from the 1980s. A teenage boy notices something strange happening next door, no one believes him, so he goes off on his own to uncover the truth. It all seems very stereotypical. In the beginning of the film, there are very few scares (beyond the tragic costume choices and fluffed up hair), so it might make someone wonder why it is that it seemed to gain such accolades upon being released.

Care to Dance?

Well, I can answer that. The script is clever and entertaining, offering a fine balance of humor with the real life drama and angst of growing up. The acting is well above the usual horror movie – the teenage trio were able to avoid being overshadowed by Chris Sarandon, who is captivating on the screen. What could have been a horribly cheesy dance/seduction sequence near the halfway mark in the film should anyone else have had the role, was sensual – I was convinced that Amy (Amanda Bearse) was being won over by the vampire. In fact, the whole intimate relationship between the two of them (even over a such a short period of time) was quite believable.

The best part of the film? The special effects. No amount of computer created effects now could ever replace the creativity and talent of the make-up and FX-artists of back then. When the film finally bares it’s fangs and shows us that it is in fact, a real horror movie – they don’t hold back. There are a few glimpses of protruding teeth, creepy contacts and elongated fingers, but it gets serious when Charlie’s friend, ‘Evil’ Ed and girlfriend are taken into the vampiric fold and turn on him. Evil in particular takes a nasty turn, chasing down the famed Vampire Killer throughout Charlie’s house in the climax of the movie, turning himself into a wolf. There are several transformations that take place throughout the movie which are remarkable to watch – I can’t even imagine how much time it took to make them look as incredible as it does.

I’ve included one of them below, check it out.

\'Evil\' Ed Transformation

The Verdict:

The special and visual effects were enough for me to recommend this film to anyone and paired with the well-above acting, I can understand why this movie is still praised by fans of the genre.

Netflix Rating: ***1/2
My Rating: ****

While the film didn’t offer anything ‘new’ to the vampire mythos, or even to the horror movie genre, it was enjoyable.

How About a Kiss?

Frightening Facts

-It was a surprise hit at the box office, making making $6,118,543 on opening weekend which helped make it the second highest-grossing horror film of that year

-It won three Saturn Awards, a Dario Argento award and a critics’ award-special citation at Fatasporto

-On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 93%

-In 1985, a novelization, Fright Night, by Craig Spector and John Skipp, was published by TOR Books.

-In 1988, Fright Night was also spun-off into a comic book series by Now Comics. It ran for 22 issues until July 1990.

-An arcade-style computer game was released in 1988 for Amiga computers. In the game, players assume the role of Jerry Dandrige as he attempts to turn his victims into vampires before sunrise.

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