Fright Night has often been lauded as one of the best films in the vampire sub-genre and for very good reason. Fright Night was released to audiences in 1985 becoming a hit and the second highest grossing horror film of the year (The highest grossing was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). The popularity of the film speaks for its self spawning a sequel released in 1987, a 2011 remake and a sequel to the remake in 2013.
Fright Night story is about a teenage boy named Charlie Brewster (played by William Ragsdale) who learns that his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Played by Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. None of his friends or family believe him. So he does what any other person would do call the police. When that fails he changes his tactics and tries to recruit Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowall) a washed up horror film star who’s now the late night host of Fright Night. Eventually his friends and Peter Vincent come to believe him and are caught up in his fight against his undead neighbor and save his girlfriend.
Now for a bit of honesty. I only recently seen this film for the first time. How recent, well today recent. I’ve been well aware of this film quite a few years. Fright Night had been spoiled for me from friends, television and other media growing up. So I never made the time to see it. Oh I saw the terrible sequel late one night on television growing up. Fright Night 2 was slow, boring and came off as cheap when I saw it. This colored my perception of that films predecessor for years to come. After numerous occasions when friends became against upon learning I had never Fright Night, to then go on almost undoubtedly to tell me what a great movie it was and how I was missing out. So frustrated with this I decided that I would put aside everything and give this movie the shot it seemingly deserved.
I wasn’t surprised at all by the film, after all how could it knowing the entire plot before it ever entered my dvd player. But that didn’t matter at all I came to find out. The mood, visual effects, acting all served well to pull me into the film, suspending my disbelief. Chris Sarandons performance is the best I’ve seen from him and that’s saying allot. He graced the screen as Prince Humperdinck in the Princess Bride to the delight of my childhood. Every time I see him on the big screen or on television in the back of my mind I think “So this is what Prince Humperdinck is up to now.” His only role that I didn’t think this was with his voice work as Jack Skellingtion from The Nightmare Before Christmas. In this film the only thought I had been “man this vampire is a douche bag” and I stand by that thought. His character is a giant douche making the ending just that much sweeter.
The films fake show Fright Night seems to me to be modeled directly after the show Fright Night. That aired late night low budget horror and sci-fi films through the 1970s on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles hosted by Sinister Seymour (played by actor Larry Vincent). I was only aware of this connection due to Larry Vincent being the predecessor to one of my favorite television personalities Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Even Roddy McDowalls character Peter Vincent shares his last name. The character is actually named after two different actors famous for the work in horror films Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. To hell with that I refuse to believe that the Larry Vincent connection is in any way a coincidence.
The special effects in this film are top notch in my opinion. Do they hold up today given the film was released nearly 30 years ago? Well yes I think Fright Night still does. The films use of practical effects really made this film age well. Fright Night supposedly spent 1 of its 9.5 million dollar budget on special effects. I can’t corroborate this information. But I have no problems believing it.The make up on the vampires is of particular mention due to the grotesque direction that was taken. The horrific nature of vampires comes off as well… horrific.
So whats my final say on this film. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have, watch it again. I know I will be. This film gets a solid 9/10. At points the acting pushes to far into campy but never stays long enough to weaken the film and a few small continuity errors that are in no way impacts the film unless you know where and when to look. Which unfortunately I did.