31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #22 – Fright Night (1985)

FRIGHT NIGHT - American Poster by Peter Mueller 2

Director: Tom Holland

Writer(s): Tom Holland

Studio/Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Budget: $9m

Box Office: $24.9m

Release Date: 2 August, 1985

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Chris Sarandon – Jerry Dandrige

William Ragsdale – Charley Brewster

Amanda Bearse – Amy Peterson

Roddy McDowall – Peter Vincent

Stephen Geoffreys – Evil Ed

Jonathan Shark – Billy Cole

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

When a teenager learns that his next door neighbour is a vampire, no-one will believe him.

Inertia’s Insight

Welcome… to Fright Night!

A welcome throwback to the classic Universal horror pictures of the 40’s and 50’s, Fright Night perfectly captures the legend of the familiar vampire whilst catapulting its relevance to the neon glamour of the 80’s.

Charley Brewster, typical horny teen with a passion for the late night Peter Vincent programme Fright Night, believes that his new next door neighbour is a vampire. Trouble is, no-one believes him. No-one except the neighbour himself, Jerry Dandrige, who sets out to ensure that his secret never gets out.

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It’s blindingly obvious that Jerry is a vampire. There’s no mystery for the audience, instead we’re given the tell-tale signs of his mythical title. Creepy detailed coffin with fresh soil? Check. Creepy long fingers? Check. Only see him at night? Check. Two big pointy teeth about to sink into a beautiful woman’s neck? Check check.

Holland balances the sexual attraction and chemistry of the mythical vampire with its hideous true colours. Jerry Danridge is a fine looking man, using his physical presence to charm his way into Charley’s house via his gullible mother, and even seduce his girlfriend. Yet when exposed to those pesky crosses, Dandrige turns, his hideously disfigured face showing his true colours. It’s true 80’s OTT prosthetics but it’s effective, conjuring up some genuine visual scares.

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Brewster’s attempt to get anyone to believe him leads him to cross paths with his idol Peter Vincent. Director Tom Holland once said that the character of Peter Vincent is the heart of the movie, and he’s right. An icon from an era that time is forgetting, allotted a late night gig with dwindling viewing figures, Peter Vincent is a man on the edge and with the firm belief that his time is up. Desperate for the money, he agrees to help Evil Ed and Amy convince Charley that there are no such things as vampires, leading him directly in to the path of Jerry’s wrath.

Vincent’s heroism in the face of all he believes is what grounds the film, also allowing for some suitably British stiff-upper-lip heroism that ultimately saves Charley and his family. He also has one of the best lines in the film (bar Evil Ed’s excited ‘You’re so COOL, Brewster!’), nailing 80’s audiences’ blood thirst during the slasher heyday and subsequently realising the generation gap between him and Charley: “Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. Apparently all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” Oh but Peter – we do.

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This where Fright Night finds itself apart from other 80’s entries. It fashions a love for classic horror cinema with the blood thirst of the modern generation, leaving us with a tale as old as time but told in a completely new way. The visuals are incredible. The prosthetics on Dandrige are one thing, but when the wolf gets it and begins its transmogrification, there’s an obvious nod to an American Werewolf in London that’s impossible to overlook. And then there’s Billy Cole’s unfortunate end, with a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel to his demise. These moments exemplify the leaps made in 80’s cinema with prosthetics and practical effects, something that current films are crying out for.

Fright Night is one of those perfect 80’s movies – quotable, re-watchable and full of enough fear and frolic to keep you coming back for more.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • It was Chris Sarandon’s idea to have Jerry eating apples throughout the film. While researching vampire lore, Sarandon looked at information on bats and concluded that Jerry had a lot of fruit bat in his DNA
  • Peter Vincent was based upon and originally written for Vincent Price – named after him and other legendary horror actor Peter Cushing
  • Charlie Sheen auditioned for the role of Charlie Brewster

Quotes

EVIL ED: Oh you’re so COOL, Brewster!


Tomorrow: Night #23 – V/H/S/2 (2013)

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