Film Title: Fright Night
Starring: William Ragsdale as Charlie Brewster, Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent, Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge, Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson, Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed Thompson, Jonathan Stark as Billy Cole and Dorothy Fielding as Judy Brewster
Written and Directed by: Tom Holland
Charlie Brewster (he’s so cool) is an all-American teenager. He has a cute girlfriend, a quirky best buddy and a loving mother. His biggest worry is how to convince his girlfriend that it’s well past time to have sex with him.
Charlie’s carefree life doesn’t last long, however. Just when his girlfriend, Amy, is about to give him what he wants, he spies his new next door neighbors lugging a huge coffin into their basement. Charlie’s curiosity in events outside his window douses Amy’s interest and starts a chain of events that will lead to death and destruction.
Unable to help himself, Charlie continues to spy on his neighbors. He hears screams in the night and witnesses beautiful women visiting the Dandridge house. His luck runs out, however, when Dandridge catches his peeping Tom of a neighbor just when he has finished with his evening meal – another beautiful woman.
Charlie, uncertain if he has really been seen, sneaks out and watches as Jerry Dandridge and his manservant Billy Cole dispose of the body. Dandridge lets Charlie know that he is very aware of his presence but Charlie makes it back to his house before any harm can come to him.
After the police dismiss Charlie’s concerns, Charlie goes to his friend ‘Evil’ Ed for some vampire advice. Although Ed doesn’t believe Charlie for even a second, he reminds his best friend that he’s in no danger since a vampire can’t come into his house without being invited. This relieves Charlie – for about thirty minutes. When he gets home that night, he finds the vampire chatting away with his mother. After a few not-so-subtle threats (that Mrs. Brewster is completely oblivious to) Dandridge leaves, but Charlie knows he’ll be back.
That very evening Dandridge pays a visit to Charlie, but fails to kill him due to bad timing and a pesky number two pencil. However, he vows that he will return to finish the job.
Desperate for help, Charlie visits the local television station’s horror host, Peter Vincent. Peter quickly dismisses him as a lunatic. However, when Charlie’s girlfriend and Ed talk to Mr. Vincent – and some money is waved in his direction – Peter agrees to help prove to Charlie that Dandridge is not a vampire.
After a faked ‘vampire test,’ everyone is set to leave Dandridge’s house but Peter happens to pull out his little prop mirror and realizes that Charlie is right – Jerry Dandridge does not cast a reflection.
From this point on, Charlie and his friends are on the run as Dandridge hunts them down one by one. Evil Ed succumbs first and helps Dandridge capture Amy.
Although reluctant at first, Peter Vincent joins Charlie to help save Amy. After a run-in with Evil Ed in Charlie’s house, he and Charlie vanquish Dandridge and his creepy manservant, thereby saving Amy from ‘life’ as a vampire.
There are many things that I like about Fright Night. First of all, in this day and age of heroic blood-suckers, it’s nice to watch a movie that remembers that vampires are supposed to be frightening. Chris Sarandon plays Jerry Dandridge with equal amounts of charm and menace and although he’s exceedingly handsome, you still don’t want him to actually win.
Before I was even aware of Peter Cushing or Vincent Price, I liked Peter Vincent. I grew up with Roddy McDowall, seeing him in many Disney films and the like. His cowardly hero was all the more convincing because he never completely ‘manned up’ and his fear is apparent all the way to the end. I always found him even more admirable because of this – he did what needed to be done even though he was terrified.
I’m not sure if I noticed it back in 1985 when this movie was released, but the sexual tension in this movie is palpable – and not completely straight. There’s a closeness between Dandridge and his servant Billy Cole that feels more than platonic. I don’t know if this was intentional but it’s there and adds a layer to the movie that makes it even more interesting. And of course there’s the whole thing between Dandrige and Amy.
I’m not a big fan of the makeup effects in this movie. I think Sarandon is scarier without the prosthetics and the only makeup effect that unnerves me at all is Vampire Amy – but I find exaggerated human features scary. By the end of the movie, Sarandon is covered with makeup and I honestly believe the whole thing would have been much more effective without it. Look at Billy Cole – he’s pretty damn creepy and he doesn’t require any kind of special effects until his very last scene. Sarandon was a good enough actor to pull that off.
Despite my misgivings about the makeup, I highly recommend this movie. The characters are likable, the villain menacing and it reminds us all that vampires are for frightening us – not for lovin’.
Rating: Nine Screaming Pumpkins out of Ten