Fright Night (1985)
Film: Fright Night
Director: Tom Holland
Writer: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse
This film was one that I used to watch part of when I was growing up and would go to my grandmother’s house with my cousins. I know that I finally watched this film all the way through right after college and then rewatched it at my local theater. The synopsis is a horror obsessed teenager discovers that his next door neighbor is a murderous vampire. He tries to convince the police, his family and friends but to no avail. He decides to take matters into his own hands.
What I took away from this film this time around was how many of the elements were taken from Dracula. Examples of this are that the vampire, Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon), falls in love with the young woman who is dating the hero. Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) is the young lady and our hero is Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale). We also have all of the old rules for the vampires in that they have to be invited in, holy water, they don’t cast reflections and they’re afraid of crosses. I do like bringing this to the suburban setting as is makes it scarier that something like this could happen.
Something else I never noticed until this time was the homosexual undertones the film has. Now I know that Jerry falls in love with Amy. He also invites a couple of prostitutes to feed on, but there is this odd relationship he has with Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark). They never explicitly do anything, there are just some interesting looks and interactions they have. Going along with this as well, I also know that Jerry is a vampire and probably has been alive a very long time, but he is attracted to someone who is underage and still in high school. It feels weird.
As I kind of touched on was the setting is good, but I was really confused by the size of this town. It was weird that when Charley is walking home Amy that they go into a really seedy part of town with a nightclub. I also find it odd that Charley who watches and loves horror movies, but doesn’t know the rules about their powers and limitations. I find that quite odd. Going from that, I like that Fright Night is not only the name of the movie itself, but it is the name of the television show he watches that shows horror movies. It is hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) which the name is a play on Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.
I think that the editing of the film was also very good. It really gets into it from the opening scene, where Charley sees a coffin being moved into the basement. The tension builds from there all the way to the climax. There are also some quite tense scenes throughout which help as well. I could have done with the very last image that is used, but I’ll let it slide.
The acting of the film is pretty good in my opinion. Sarandon is great as the vampire. He is suave and very seductive. Bearse and Dorothy Fielding, who is Charley’s mother, fall in love with him almost immediately. Part of that is being a vampire, which makes sense. Ragsdale is good as the boyfriend, except I don’t like that he doesn’t know the rules of a vampire even though he’s a horror fan. Bearse is actually quite attractive in this film and did good. McDowall was good as the horror film host who is a fraud. I do like his change of character and internal struggle he deals with. Geoffreys is very annoying and I don’t really care for him, even though he does have the more iconic lines in the film. He is good as vampire though. Stark was pretty solid as was the rest of the cast.
Effects of this film are good for the most part as well. I’m not a big fan of the vampires turning into monstrous looking creatures like they do. I prefer to see them with just their fangs. I did like that they could become wolves and bats, which goes back to Dracula and the look of these were fine for me. I especially like the transformation from the wolf back to a vampire. The film is shot very well also. I did like the look of the house and as things proceed, it becomes much creepier.
Something I did really enjoy is the soundtrack of the film. It has a great 80’s vibe to it and it just fit what the scenes were going for. It also does help to build tension as well. This would be a soundtrack I would revisit while I’m doing things personally as well.
Now with that said, this film is a classic. I think the story is a solid retelling of Dracula by converting it to the suburbs, much like Salem’s Lot did as well. I think it is great to have a teenager, who is a horror film fan thinking that a vampire moves in, only to have it really be true, but no one believes you. It does have some interesting undertones of pedophilia and homosexuality, but this is just undertones of it. I thought the film progresses very nicely and the tension builds all the way to a satisfying climax. The acting coupled with it was very good for the most part. I thought the effects are pretty solid across the board as well. I personally had some issues with the look of the vampires, but it doesn’t ruin the film either. The soundtrack of the film was really good and fit the scenes when it was needed. It does help to build the tension as well. Overall I would recommend seeing this film, especially if you are a vampire fan. I think this is a good film.
My Rating: 8 out of 10