Good Vampire Films: Fright Night

I love this film. It’s that rarest of beasts: the comedy-horror that doesn’t suck. Thus I am inspired to review it far earlier than I was intending to due to the horrible news of that impending remake that seems to be turning it into the bastard lovechild of Disturbia (which is terrible) and Twilight (the less said about that the better), and sports a script that insists on doing stupid things such as Dandridge having killed Vincent’s family in the past. Why does Hollywood keep insisting on doing cretinous things like that? Wasn’t it enough that Dandridge was a, you know, bloodsucking creature of the night? Does he really have to have a tie to Vincent’s family? I bet Murphy’s producing.

Anyhoo, point missing cretinous remakes aside, Fright Night is one of the finest Vampire films of the 1980’s (a decade that sported many an iconic vampire film). Looking back at this, I’m struck by what a good year for Horror 1985 was- there are a truly surprising amount of genre films that are all classic (in their own way) and are all worth watching. If I compare the garbage that passes as horror 25 years later to films such as Return of the Living Dead or Fright Night then I’m saddened by the fall of the genre.

Fright Night takes a simple premise and runs amok with it. Charlie (William Ragsdale) is an oversexed teenager attempting to slip his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) a length when he spies something suspicious out of his bedroom window. Closer investigation unearths that suave vampire Dandridge and retainer (Chris Sarandon) have moved in next door. Soon enough dead hookers start turning up in the town, and Charlie knows that the vampire is behind it, except nobody believes him because vampires don’t exist. Eventually Amy and “Evil” Ed, his best mate, (a demented Stephen Geoffreys- more on him later) hire cowardly horror movie actor Peter Vincent (McDowell) to attempt to break Charlie’s delusion. Vincent stumbles on to the fact that the Vampire is real, and shenanigans ensue.

As said above, Fright Night is superb, and a lot of this derives from the performances. You may know Beales nowadays from sitcom dreck Married with Children, but back in 1985 she made a cute victim. Sarandon is oiler than the Gulf of Mexico as Dandridge, and it’s really an iconic vampire performance. The club scene in itself is gripping stuff as Dandridge seduces Amy effortlessly leaving an impotent Charlie gaping like a fish. Ragsdale is good as Charlie, but a bit overshadowed by the rest of the cast, particularly McDowell who sets the screen alight as the useless and cowardly Vincent, but more particularly Geoffreys who is simply magnificent as the iconic and deeply annoying Ed (he now makes a living in gay porn- which is only slightly less acceptable than Married with Children). Fright night is a really, really well acted film.

The script itself is a joy. By treating vampires in a ludicrously po-faced manner writer/ director Tom Holland manages to milk the comedy for all it’s worth. Evil Ed gets many a great line (the sarcastic “you’re so cool Brewster” is a touch overplayed and seems to be all over the internets), and Dandridge isn’t shy of a slimy one-liner either. The characters are all well drawn and convincing and the film absolutely sticks to its well-defined rules. It’s good stuff- and I particularly like Vincent’s lament on the state of Horror films that could well be true today:

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.

The effects, as is to be expected, are all practical and of variable quality. The vampire effects themselves aren’t that great, but there is a brilliant reverse-werewolf transformation as a staked Ed turns back from wolf to human. The odd melting head or two never goes amiss, and Fright Night adds a couple of perfectly competent examples. I think the best description of the effects is that they still, for the most part, stand up today, and because it was the 80’s there is nary a drop of CGI.

The thing is, though, Fright Night is genuinely funny. McDowell in particular does sterling comic work as Vincent. He’s such a weasel of a human being, and that his first instinct is always to run away makes him a hilarious character for a Vampire movie. When he is eventually forced into action to face the vampire McDowell portrays him as on the verge of soiling himself. To be absolutely fair, if I had to go into a vampire’s lair then I’d be on the verge of alcohol induced unconsciousness. So I can’t say I blame him.

Overall, I throughly recommend both this and its sequel. Fright Night is a superior vampire movie and one of the very few genuinely successful Horror-Comedy hybrids out there. It takes a fairly simple and well-worn story, laces it with enough postmodernism to make even Kevin Williamson think twice and serves it up with lashings of humour, dollops of gore and some genuine scares and excitement.

If you haven’t seen Fright Night, then do so- you won’t regret it: 3.5 Changs.

Until next time,

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

60 responses to “Good Vampire Films: Fright Night”

  1. Jarv says :

    Peter Motherfucking Vincent would nail those Twilight Cunts to a wall.

    Just so we’re clear on it.

    • spud mcspud says :

      Hell yeah.

      You know who Blade checks under his bed for every night? PETER MOTHERFUCKING VINCENT.

      FRIGHT NIGHT is so many flavours of awesome. Just the name Peter Vincent – from Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, two fucking ICONS of the horror genre. And the fact that FRIGHT NIGHT is so much sweeter if you’re old enough to remember Hammer Horror – it’s an 80s horror movie lamenting the end of the late 60s/early 70s vampire. I honestly think it’s Tom Holland’s love letter to the Peter Cushing / Christopher Lee Hammer movies of the 70s, and his way of saying that even in the style-over-substance movies of the 80s, a classic Hammer vampire would kick some fucking ass – and then he casts Chris Sarandon, who effortlessly proves him right. Roddy McDowall couldn’t have been more perfect, and all the kids as leads bring their A games as well.

      I absolutely LOVE FRIGHT NIGHT, and FRIGHT NIGHT II – though trying more for the humour than the horror – is still worth a watch too. Nice one Jarv, and fuck that sequel, which started to sound promising until they cast Colin Fuckin’ Farrell as the vamp (??!!?) and then David fucking Tennant as a Vegas magician style Peter Vincent. Fuck this remake, and fuck them for even thinking they could do justice to such a towering example of how to get it RIGHT as FRIGHT NIGHT was. Love this movie…

  2. Droid says :

    I haven’t seen this. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    • Jarv says :

      This is an absolute cracker of a film. I’m doing the sequel next for it- which is not as effective a horror film, but is even funnier.

      • Droid says :

        I’ll be looking for it when I get home tonight. I don’t mind a good horror comedy.

      • Jarv says :

        There’s so few of them. I was trying to think of some and I’ve got Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, Fright Night 2, Shaun of the Dead and that’s about it. Most of the time they suck. Hard.

      • Droid says :

        Zombieland, Bride/Seed of Chucky, Eight Legged Freaks, Tremors, The Frighteners, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Gremlins 1 and 2, Toxie

        And I haven’t seen them but you liked stuff like Killer Klowns, Evil Bong and Black Sheep didn’t you?

      • Jarv says :

        I barely classify Evil Bong as a horror film- it’s a stoner comedy.

        Black Sheep and Klowns for sure, good shout,

        Still, it’s hardly an extensive list.

  3. Continentalop says :

    You know what makes this movie really work for me is that it is an obvious parody AND tribute to Hammer films. In fact, what makes it so great is that they don’t try to reinvent vampires, but instead present the same type of vampires that were in Horror of Dracula or Lust for a Vampire and say “you know how scary these things would be if they really existed?”

    • Jarv says :

      Yup. I could have said the obvious things such as Peter Vincent= Peter Cushing+ Vincent Price, and talked about his ridiculous Van Helsing costume that he hunts Dandridge with.

      There are a few inconsistencies (what the fuck is that henchman for example), but it’s a really well thought out homage to hammer films etc.

      • Continentalop says :

        The Henchman I think is taken from Salem’s Lot and not Hammer. Think James Mason in the TV mini-series.

        Of course, King’s Salem’s Lot vampires were heavily influenced by Hammer vampires, so it kind of still fits.

      • Jarv says :

        Yeah- I know he’s from Lot, I just meant what sort of monster is he? Best guess I have is some kind of ghoul

      • Continentalop says :

        I think he is a familiar.

      • Dustin says :

        I came to figure that he was a homonculus.

        Ghoul may be a good term for him too, if we’re going by White Wolf standards.

        When we were young, and the movie was fresh in my VHS collection, my Uncle and I talked about it, and his theory was that the hench was a mummy, like Imhotep after he’s reached human form.

        …really, its not a bad idea. Crams one more classic monster into a film with vamps and… kinda werewolves.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s not a bad shout. I’ll take that in this excellent film

    • kloipy says :

      have either of you guys seen the Salem’s Lot remake? It’s actually quite good. Nothing as creepy as the kid at the window but it is worth a rent

  4. Continentalop says :

    80s did some decent vampire movies, but what they really rocked at was actually making a couple of decent werewolf movies.

    • Jarv says :

      Vampire films from the 80’s: The Hunger, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Fright Night 2, Lifeforce, Monster Squad, Innocent Blood, Near Dark.

      That’s a pretty impressive list compared.

      • Continentalop says :

        Yeah but name another decade with actually two or three halfway decent werewolf movies. The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, Monster Squad, In the Company of Wolves, Wolfen, Teen Wolf.

        They might not all be great, but compared to any other decade that is the highest caliber of werewolf movies ever.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing.

        It’s more the decline in the quality of horror that I was thinking about.

        This decade has had some fucking good werewolf films-

        Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, for example.

      • Continentalop says :

        True, but it also put out Twilight and Curse.

        Of course the 80s had some bad werewolf movies as well, just not as many, for lack of a better word, gay ones.

      • Jarv says :

        Yup. No arguments there.

        Twilight, True Blood etc will be the death of the Vampire movie and are severely damaging werewolf films.

  5. xiphos0311 says :

    Great movie absolutely hit’s on every cylinder and most of all it’s just entertaining as hell, Seriously pound for pound it’s one of the funnest movies to watch.

    I finally Saw Ginger Snaps back around the beginning of the year and it was great. I was surprised just how good, smart and insightful it was all the while being entertaining. I took me about half the movie and trip to IMDB to realize the lead chick was Ava from season 2 of Supernatural.

    • Jarv says :

      Katherine Isabella?

      One of the many crimes of Freddie V Jason was wasting her so badly.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        She was in FvJ? I don’t remember. I only saw it once and was bored to tears by it.

        She talented I wonder why she doesn’t get more work.

      • Jarv says :

        I’ve wondered that about her as well.

        I think there’s another Ginger Snaps sequel coming. They really should have stopped that at 2.

  6. Lb says :

    “now he works in gay porn”-I had no idea about that. Luckily jarv can be relied on to keep me up to date on the movers and shakers of that particular industry…
    I agree fn is a classic.

    • kloipy says :

      bronco, a quick trip to imdb will confirm. Here’s just a sample of he ‘work’ he’s been in
      wish i was kidding with this
      Mechanics bi day, Lube job bi night
      Cock Pit
      Transexual Prostitutes 2
      and
      Leather Intrusion 2: Spider’s Kiss

    • Jarv says :

      Ha!

      What happened is I was curious as to what he’s doing now so googled him. A very unpleasant experience.

  7. kloipy says :

    Yeah, everything in this review is true. FN is just a classic movie all around. The climax of this movie is just fantastic and you are correct about the acting. It really is top notch for a horror. They do well by fleshing out the characters and making them real people.

    • Jarv says :

      I could go on for ages about this, but I reckon there’s a telling moment when Dandridge turns Ed- reveals all of Eddie’s character in one line. That I can’t go in to because Droid hasn’t seen it.

  8. Droid says :

    Somewhere Koutch is knocking one out.

    They’re splitting the last Twilight movie into two parts.

    • Jarv says :

      How?

      There’s nothing to it.

      • Droid says :

        Summit Entertainment has made it official — it’s splitting the final “Twilight” film in two.

        Studio announced early Thursday evening that “Breaking Dawn” would be released as two movies, with the first set to open on the previously announced date of Nov. 18, 2011. Summit didn’t disclose the second date.

        In recent months, Summit has closed its deals for helmer Bill Condon to direct “Breaking Dawn” — the final tome in author Stephenie Meyer’s four-book vampire series — and for the supporting players to return.

        It was widely expected that Summit would split “Breaking Dawn,” the last chapter in the love story of bloodsucker Edward and mortal Bella, into two films.

        Summit gave no other details in the announcement other than disclosing that production on the pics will start in the fall.

      • Jarv says :

        It was widely expected that Summit would split “Breaking Dawn,” the last chapter in the love story of cocksucker Edward and abused wife Bella, into two films making one ginormous waste of time for the mentally deficient

        There. Fixed it for you.

    • koutchboom says :

      Isn’t Twilight being split in two really old news?

  9. koutchboom says :

    I guess I’m the only one that doesn’t love this movie. It was on a while back and I tried to watch it, just couldn’t get into it for whatever reason. May have to give it another shot.

    • koutchboom says :

      Wait I remember why I didn’t like it. I saw it like soon after I rewatched Monster Squad and I was just like…this movie sucks compared to Monster Squad.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        Koutch, you really need to give Fright Night another watch.

        Although I’m suspicious of whether or not you’ll like because of the ‘sucks compared to Monster Squad’ comment.

        I own both movies, but have to say that MS really only holds up in the monster costumes arena. It’s still a fun movie, but like The Goonies, it’s mostly valuable for the nostalgia value.

        The plot is nonsensical at best, the kids actually get rather annoying and I know it was cool to have kids mildly curse in 80s films (penis breat in E.T., Chunk exclaiming ‘shit!’) it’s sort of another thing entirely to have kids saying things like “I’m in the godamned club aren’t I?” and Dracula choking out a six year old girl while saying ‘You bitch!!’

        I’m definitely a proponent of Monster Squad but it’s another one that depends upon our memories of it to make it valuable.

        While Fright Night is dated some, yes, I think it still holds up for people who never saw it all those years ago. I showed my wife MS and FN and she just looked at me weirdly over MS and really dug Fright Night.

        For one thing, it’s that homage/send-up thing Conti was talking about. There’s as much sexiness, creepiness, imagination and black humor in FN as is there is in any Hammer horror you could name.

        There were original, well thought characters, suspenseful moments (Charlie locked in with Amy towards the third act), poignant moments (Ed under the stairs in the Brewster house) and some very clever little bits, including Vincent looking at Dandridges house with the fog piling up in the front yard and saying “Oh, yes, I see what you mean” or Dandridge’s excuse for not allowing real crosses or holy water into the house; he tells Peter he’s a born again Christian and he would consider it blasphemous.

        Main difference is this. MS is just a fun time, but FN is good (in my opinion great) horror movie.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah I’m not dissmissing it. I think I just went into it thinking Fright Night was something else. I thought it was some fun zany romp like Monster Squad. Plus I think I was watching it in the middle of the day I just wasn’t getting into it. Also the effects weren’t as good as Squad either.

        Squad is still great, it was one of those I thought I had built it up too much in my head but it holds of really well. The movie isn’t long enough for the kids to get annoying, if anything I thought the friend in Fright Night was more annoying then any of the kids in Squad.

      • Echo the Bunnyman says :

        fx are better in Squad? maybe some of the suit fx, but there are, in my mind, better transformation fx in FN and overall the designs are more original. Maybe not so much now, but Amy’s design towards the end and the Dandridge bat, as well as that wolf scene are classics.

        I don’t want to get into a comparison of them since I like both, but if you are gonna compare something like MS to something else, probably better doing so with The Gate or House II or something equally zany.

        Man, gotta say, do love the 80’s horror flicks.

        Great review Jarv.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah like I said, probably unfair to compare them. I had it in my mind though that they were similar movies so I was dissapointed when Fright Night was an actual horror movie. I’ll check out out some day.

        Echo have you seen The Rocket?

      • kloipy says :

        Jonah, I’d say the only thing that looks dated in FN is the dance club scene. Other than that it’s still fine as the day it came out

      • Jarv says :

        No, the Club Scene is of it’s time, There’s no FX in it so it hasn’t dated.

        I love Monster Squad, but have to say that FN is a better film

      • kloipy says :

        yeah don’t get me wrong i LOVE Monster Squad. Probably more than Goonies ( i was always more of a monster kid than a pirate kid). But FN is pretty much one of the best horror/comedies of it’s time

  10. koutchboom says :

    Married with Children started in 1987…..so I guess she had a short live career?

  11. Stuntcock Mike says :

    My Wife’s favorite film.

    Yeah, I know……

  12. ThereWolf says :

    I’m in total agreement. It’s been far too long since last seeing Fright Night. Nice review, Jarv(is).

    Strangely, though I’ve tried, I cannot conjure a single image of Fright Night 2 in my head.

  13. tombando says :

    *Great review Jarv.

    *I haven’t seen this in AGES–remember loving it when I saw it in Farmington Maine back in ’85 and it held up nicely the last time through, years back.

    *Roddy McDowell rocks in this, don’t he?

    *I liked the dragging claw-nail along the railing causing sparks, the ‘You Gotta have FAITH—‘ line, and of course, the blonde chick in blue. She was quite a sight.

    *Never saw the sequel.

    *I remember thinking this hit on the balance between satire, horror and comedy very very well, and as you said that is so difficult to get right. They did it here.

    • Jarv says :

      The sequel is fucking good but not on the same level, and there are some bits of it that are laughably bad. The final battle, though, is aces, as are the Vincent being banged up for being a loony scenes.

      Not to mention that the bad vampire is top notch, McDowell and Ragsdale are better, there’s a truly repulsive image, some bizarre things, a crap werewolf, and it features Tracy Lind who really should have had more of a career.

      • spud mcspud says :

        Ah, Traci Lind. She is fucking luminous in that movies. For weeks after seeing FN2 at the cinema, I just stared into space thinking about that woman. That HUGE fountain of spectacular 80s hair. The oh-so-cute upturn on the nose, the full, innocent ripeness of her lips…

        WTF HAPPENED TO TRACI LIND??!?

      • DocPazuzu says :

        Don’t forget the hotness of those thick glasses veiling the animal within, spud…

      • Jarv says :

        Tracey Lin. See also Class of 1999, which I reviewed yonks ago. She retired in the early 90’s.

  14. DocPazuzu says :

    Absolutely wonderful movie. I’ve seen it so many times that I know the movie by heart. I was absolutely appalled when I heard about the remake.

    Besides all of the things you guys have mentioned, there’s so many great little details in the film, like the fact that Dandridge genuinely seems to love a nice crunchy apple every now and then. I don’t know why, but that little glimpse of his un-life always struck me as particularly charming and adds yet another layer of character to the guy. Sarandon’s is truly one of the silver screen’s greatest vampires.

    I also enjoy Fright Night 2 quite a bit, even if the horror/comedy balance is a bit off compared to the original. Brian Thompson’s fastidious bug eater is a standout.

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