A Review by Jason L. King
Starring: Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, Amanda Bearse
Directed by: Tom Holland
Movie Released: 1985
The summer months have been whisked away and we are now heading into autumn with leaves turning colors and people’s doorsteps sporting jack-o-lanterns and skeletons. October is Halloween, month of the monsters, hence why many of the reviews you are seeing are horror films or monster movies. Throughout the month of October 2009, I will be focusing at least a solid portion of my reviews on various movie monsters each week. Week #1’s movie monster is Vampires.
What would you do if your next door neighbor was a vampire who wants to kill you and steal your girlfriend? Well, if you were Charley Brewster from the film Fright Night, that would be your dilemma. Fright Night is such a tale, nosey teenage neighbor Charley begins to suspect his charming night owl neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, is a vampire. In fact, he’s seen the vampire haul bodies out of his back door. The problem is no one believes him, after all vampires are fictional–right? Taking matters into his own hands, Charley turns to a TV horror show host and movie vampire killer, Peter Vincent to slay his neighbor before he claims his next victim.
There was a very fun, lighthearted side to this film despite being a horror film that has plenty of 80’s gore and special effects. You find yourself sucked into the plot quickly because the story is so much fun. It’s mixing a teenage dramedy (that’s comedy and drama mixed… I know… not that clever) with a horror film. The frightful thought of having a vampire that knows you know his secret plotting to kill you is chilling. On the flip side you have Charley’s antics and Peter Vincent who add to the film’s comic relief.
What I really enjoyed about this film is it didn’t take it self too seriously. It knew exactly what it was, and just had fun with the thought of it all. As a viewer, you just disengaged your brain and had fun. It had something for everyone. It had comedic moments, it had suspense moments, it had a love story and of course it had horror as well. What more could anyone ask for?
Where this film I think fell apart is it is a product of a genre that has a hard time holding up to the times. The film reeks of the 80’s with all of it’s cheese. The special effects, soundtrack and even the set and costumes all reek of 1985 and it’s hard to get that out of your head, especially when the film basks in it with pride. Being a child of the 80’s myself, I have learned to laugh about it and overlook it but I think for many viewers of a generation that wasn’t part of 80’s it will be much harder to do. For those of you not well versed in 80’s cinema, the special effects in Fright Night actually do look pretty good for the time. It’s not the gore you see in films like SAW 1-18 today but it gets the point across and frankly, I like it better.
The other problem I had with the film was the vampire, Jerry Dandridge. Chris Sarandon, who plays the seductive, charming, bloodsucking Dandridge give the character a strange persona. While Dandridge was supposed to be a suave vampire, he didn’t always pull it off. Many times in the film I felt like he was a hip Full House Dad, Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) that sported a swagger that you would see in an David Bowie music video. His partner in crime and “room mate” also sported the same strange look- but instead channeled Dave Coulier. —Obviously I must have had the sitcom Full House on my mind for some reason–who knows why. And while we are on the subject of the the room mate- I never quite figured out if he was a vampire or not. He can’t be killed by mortal weapons, but he doesn’t seem to follow the same vampire rules that Dandridge does….
Which brings me to my last point…Vampire rules suck. Not just in fright night but in every vampire film. Each film has a new set of rules. Can garlic stop a vampire? Who knows anymore! How about a cross? Can a vampire enter your house if he hasn’t been invited? Can a vampire run fast, turn into a bat or leap tall buildings in a single bound? I’m really not sure. Over the years every director and writer has taken great liberties with vampires to make them fit the movie. As a movie goer that means you have to re-think all the rules each time you see a film. I find that annoying!!! None the less, Fright Night does make a very subtle jab at this amidst a conversation in the film. At one point, Peter Vincent turns to Charley and shrugs and says “well, everything else from the movies seems to be working…let’s keep going!” It made me chuckle a bit.
In the end is Fright Night worthy of your next movie night? I say yes! I think the film was a lot of fun. It’s hard to find a really solid “Dracula” film in Hollywood (despite many attempts) and sure there are a ton of Vampire films out there so I am not going to say this is the best of the best but I certainly enjoyed it. Embrace the 80’s cheese of the film, pop some popcorn and and pepare for a “Fright Night” at the movies!