Fright Night (1985) and the Near Perfect Horror Film

chris-sarandon

Contrary to popular belief, Fright Night has never been, nor will it ever be, remade.

Tragically there exists a tasteless rumor, believed by many to be fact, that some very misguided soul took it upon himself to remake this near flawless gem of a horror-comedy, and in his endless detachment from rational thought, cast Colin Farrell as the villain.

Ludicrous really, and I for one refuse to believe that such an affront in the eyes of God (and myself) would ever be perpetrated in my lifetime.

It may be obvious at this point that I absolutely LOVE this movie. Love it madly, deeply, obsessively and I have committed most of it to memory; although that doesn’t stop me from re-watching it…often. My best gay Paul and I have seen this movie, at the very least, a hundred times in the last 15 years. Why, you ask? Well, if you’re asking why, then you have obviously not experienced the magic and wonderment of Chris Sarandon, and his gorgeous feathered hair, elevating the vampire genre to heights that have yet to be surpassed in almost 30 years since it’s release. At this point, I’ll have to insist you stop reading and go watch the movie…go on, we’ll wait.

Well then, let’s move on now, shall we?

Released in late summer of 1985, Fright Night tells the tale of young Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), an avid horror fan, who has the misfortune of drawing the ire of a real, live vampire, a suave bloodsucker that also happens to be his new next door neighbor. The villain, Jerry Dandridge, is portrayed with a confident swagger and sinister charm by Chris Sarandon. His timeless performance as the seductive vamp is so perfect, that it not only makes the character of Jerry a legendary villain, but, in my opinion, also sets him up as the standard by which all other modern vampires are measured.

And no, I’m not going overboard, he really is THAT good; but to be fair, so are all the supporting actors.

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Rounding off the cast are Amanda Bearse (Married with Children) as both Charley’s and Jerry’s love interest Amy, Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) as Peter Vincent the actor/vampire killer and Stephen Geoffreys (976-EVIL) as Evil-Ed, Charlye’s doomed best buddy (and my personal favorite character).

Note: Thanks to Evil-Ed, “You’re so Cool Brewster”, is to this day, what I say automatically when someone cuts me off or acts like a flaming dick (yes dicks have flames).

Anyway…

Charley antagonizes the vampire by calling the police after witnessing Jerry and his ghoul disposing of a large, corpse shaped, bag of trash. The police investigate and Charley goes along, snooping through some of Jerry’s belongings; among the paintings, Charley finds a portrait of a woman who looks exactly like his girlfriend…and then he promptly forgets about it. Eventually Charley tells the cops that he believes Jerry is a vampire and instantaneously loses all credibility with the police.

So having no other alternative, Charley drapes himself in garlic and begins plotting the pointy demise of Mr. Dandridge. Amy and Ed, fearing for their friend’s sanity, enlist washed up actor Peter Vincent to help convince Charley that Jerry isn’t a vampire…instead Peter accidentally discovers that vampires do, in fact, exist.

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In case the reference is lost on you, the character of Peter Vincent is meant to be a send up of Peter Cushing, while the name comes from both Cushing and Vincent Price (for whom the role was written).

So, from here on in the story is simple enough; the vampire begins to pursue our heroes with the type of unhurried relentlessness that quite honestly brings to mind Pepe Le Pew. Well, if Pepe Le Pew was gorgeous and effortlessly sexy…and also not a cartoon skunk. I think you get the point.

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Predictably, Evil Ed is the first to go, having set off on his own down a dark alley (like a moron who’d never seen a horror movie…or even a cautionary after school special…about vampires and alleys). Cue spooky music and Jerry emerges from the shadows, and although young Ed makes a heck of an effort to get away, he’s cornered in less than a minute. The vampire does not attack, and there is no need to force himself on his victim, Jerry only need hold out one monstrously elongated hand and offer Ed a new life. No one will ever pick on him again, he will be protected, he will be given strength to replace his weakness and a place at the vampire’s side. Ed, of course, does not hesitate. And no, that’s not a spoiler, Ed’s vampy face is on the back of the DVD case.

I won’t give away too much more, but suffice to say that Jerry’s pursuit of Amy and Charley leads to one of the cheesiest/sexiest nightclub scenes between Sarandon and Bearse. It makes one wanna have Mr Sarandon’s babies, while simultaneously hoping that Charley would just bow out gracefully and allow Jerry to have his wicked way with Amy.

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I’m re-watching it as we speak. Sweet lord, who knew a sweater and pleated pants could be so fucking hot…but I digress.

Fright Night, despite being a true masterpiece of the genre, is a pretty simple story at heart. As simple as, boy meets not-so-nice vampire, vampire takes girlfriend, boy and vampire killer enter vampire’s lair in the middle of the fucking night to rescue said girlfriend, hilarity ensues. The plot is simple, the concept uncomplicated, and the stellar results are achieved with minimal gore and barely any special effects. Plainly speaking, the movie rests heavily on the strength of an excellently filmed script and its absolutely fantastic cast, and the results are no less than perfect.

One viewing is all it takes to fall in love with this flick, and when that happens, you’ll totally understand why the whole Colin Farrell thing is just a hallucination.

2 thoughts on “Fright Night (1985) and the Near Perfect Horror Film

  1. “Contrary to popular belief, Fright Night has never been, nor will it ever be, remade.” What a great opening line, and I couldn’t agree more. The original Fright night was a perfect little film, and one that deserves a bit more recognition not only as a darn good fright film, but a homage to the whole genre it simultaneously spoofs and reveres. The remake (that you assert simply never occurred) was okay for what it was, I suppose, but should have simply been a stand-alone vampire film that liberally stole ideas from Fright Night. As if idea-bankrupt Hollywood producers would have any ethical quandaries about that.

    Great review and post!!

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