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Fright Fest 2018: Fright Night (1985)

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Fright Night (1985)

Written & Directed by Tom Holland

Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowall

The Gist: A horror-obsessed teenager discovers that his next door neighbor is a murderous vampire. He attempts to convince the police, his family and friends to no avail. Seeing no other option, he takes matters into his own hands.

The Review (ish):

It was 1985. I was twelve going on thirteen, finally I was about to be taken seriously as a teenager! If you believe that I also have a vampire living next to me. In 1985 when Fright Night was originally released I would still consider myself a fledgling horror fan well on my way to a lifetime trudging through the wonderful world of blood and guts. It was a time when many local stations all over the country had some sort of Horror Host on late night usually on a Friday or Saturday night who did goofy gags, related movie trivia and usually showed low budget, B Horror movies. Horror Hosts kind of died out for a while though they’ve made a nice resurgence in recent years thanks to the internet where any horror fan can get a show started provided they have a camera or hell, just a phone these days. Why bring this up? Have you seen Fright Night? If you answered no and consider yourself a horror fan then you may want to just stop here and go correct that. Seriously, stop reading dimwit! Go watch Fright Night! Then grab some coffee and we’ll talk. Go on… I’ll wait. 

** Annoying Hold music plays the muzak version of “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” by Culture Club – this is just to annoy me not you **

Oh, fantastic! You’re back! Do you feel less ignorant now? Good though you’re probably still ignorant. Sorry not sorry. Anywho… Now that you’ve finally watched this classic, don’t you agree it’s much better than that remake with Anton Yelchin (RIP) and Colin Farrell? Nothing against it but it pales in comparison to the original or am I just being nostalgic? I don’t get nostalgic so yes, the ’85 original is a superior film.

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The idea of a killer moving in next door isn’t new, it’s been done a million times but Tom Holland was the first to carry it into the horror realm (at least that I can think of, though I’m sure some horror nerd out there is already getting their snarky “well, actually in the 1955 blah blah blah” comment all warmed up – fuck you buddy, fuck you!). Fright Night is a thoroughly 80s horror movie in that it’s a very good snapshot of the time. Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) is a not totally uncool nerd who is trying to ride the border between normal and complete nerd – the line is a very fine one. He’s also a bit of a tweener, he has one foot planted in his childhood fantasy and the other not quite planted in the adult world because he’s like sixteen and not quite an adult yet. That’s something we should all be able to relate to unless you’re reading this and you’re under sixteen. Do your parents know you’re here?! Oh well, you’ve come this far so no point in kicking you out now. You should be ashamed though.

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So back to Charley and Fright Night… So Charley loves terrible old horror movies (I mean who doesn’t) and his favorite are the vampire movies starring his favorite local Horror Host Peter Vincent (McDowall). For the horror geeks out there Peter Vincent’s movies look astonishing similar to old Peter Cushing vampire slayer movies or even some old Christopher Lee flicks. Charley sees his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon), sprout fangs and kill a woman though his mother thinks it’s his overactive imagination since he does happen to be watching a vampire movie at the time. Eventually the cops get called but some things never change… the cops are no help at all. Charley’s girlfriend, Amy (Bearse), and best friend, Evil Ed (Geoffreys), want to believe him but if one of your friends said, “hey there’s a vampire living next door to me” you wouldn’t believe them either. Wait… you would? Damn, wanna buy some ocean front property in Nebraska? The rarity is what makes it so expensive!

Moving on… Charley sees Peter Vincent as his only hope. If he can convince Peter then everyone will believe him because who wouldn’t believe a creepy late night horror show host who once made some truly bad, though classic, vampire movies? I mean it would be like Jesus himself speaking (your eyes should’ve rolled there. I also shouldn’t have to tell you that.) Simply to shut Charley up and as a favor to Amy since she’s sooo sweet (if only any of them knew she was a lesbian), Peter accompanies Charley, Amy and Evil Ed to visit the vampire! Peter secretly visits Jerry ahead of time to arrange the meeting so, of course, Peter “proves” to Charley that Jerry is no vampire. I guess you could call Peter the Dream Crusher rather than Vampire Slayer at that point. Hahaha, I kill me. Anyway the whole ruse goes smashingly well until dumbass Peter decides to actually test Jerry for himself finding that Jerry casts no reflection in a mirror. Peter, like any grown man realizing such a truth, shits his pants running away like a woman from Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room. Too soon? Too bad.

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Wait… why in the F am I telling you all this? I told you to go watch the damn movie! Did you not do as you were told?!? Y’all suck! Go watch friggin’ Fright Night! Anyway… it’s all downhill from there. Jerry has but one choice… kill them all! Oh, and this is a vampire movie so of course Charley’s girlfriend Amy looks like Jerry’s long lost true love from eons ago so that battle dating back to the original Dracula must be waged. Some of the themes of Fright Night are over the top but Tom Holland manages to pull them off in a non-over the top way while including a character, Peter Vincent, who is over the top all by himself. Is this original classic a little dated? Slightly, as I mentioned this movie is thoroughly 80s from the music to the clothes to the… WTF did girls do to their hair back then? Damn! But Fright Night has frights and lots of horror humor. The humor is what makes this a great film and that’s what they missed when it was remade though they also turned Peter Vincent into an even more ridiculous character… just not a very good one.

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In this humble horror fans opinion Fright Night is every bit as classic as Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween and is essential horror viewing. I would also tell anyone who really wants to deep dive before watching to check out a few of those terrible old Peter Cushing vampire movies from the 60s or even some of Christopher Lee’s flicks from back then. There are plenty of little homages throughout Fright Night that you won’t see or get without a deep horror background but doing so is up to you. There is also a very good documentary to accompany your viewing pleasure called “You’re So Cool, Brewster!” that you should check out if you dig this movie as much as most of us horror fans do. Fright Night is one of the best vampire movies ever made but to fully appreciate it you have to go back and watch some classic vampire movies. In 1985 I probably would have said Fright Night was a 7 or 8 out of 10 but it has withstood the test of time taking its place in horror history as a true classic making it a pretty much perfect 10 out of 10. Now if you didn’t listen earlier, listen now – GO WATCH FRIGHT NIGHT! NOW!

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Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror writing, metal loving award winning horror author. Currently Feind has stories published in six anthologies with several more awaiting release. In 2017 Feind placed in the Top Ten in The Next Great Horror Writer Contest sponsored by then later won the 2017 Vincent Price Scariest Writer Award from Tell-Tale Publishing with his story Vacuity which will be featured in TTP’s 2018 horror anthology scheduled for a Halloween release. 2018 marked a milestone for Feind with the publication of his first solo published work with the unleashing of his novella, Essence Asunder, by Hellbound Books. Lastly, Feind won the Dark Chapter Press Prize 2016 novel writing contest with the first draft of his first novel, Piece It All Back Together, which is currently being edited for a late 2018/early 2019 release from Stitched Smile Publications.

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2 responses

  1. Joan MacLeod

    Great review and I’ve watched it twice already on AMC’s Fear Fest and i still love it.

    October 27, 2018 at 3:36 pm

  2. Gosh I love Fright Night. It’s such a great homage to the Silver age Hammer films. The “You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night” is awesome as well.

    October 27, 2018 at 6:34 pm

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