It seems that every horror fan living in small-town Nowhere, U.S.A. yearns for excitement. No matter how unbelievable, our imaginations run wild with what it would be like to be a real person placed in unreal scenarios. Whether it's trying to survive a zombie outbreak, an alien invasion, residing in a town where a killer monster lurks, or living right next door to one. Director Tom Holland seems to have, at one point in his life, had that state-of-mind and it shows in his 1985 feature, Fright Night.
Like many movies from the same decade, Fright Night is loaded with 80's cheese, but it's done in such a nostalgic way, that it hardly turns sour. It also helps that they cast some great actors, including Chris Sarandon; a flawless choice as the antagonist and Roddy McDowell, whom was the perfect choice to portray the film's horror movie television show host.
Fright Night begins with an introduction into what's becoming the not-so-typical world of the typical high school teen Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a teenage horror movie geek and our story's hero. Charley's relationship with his girlfriend is on the rocks, and it's not getting any better due to his growing obsession over the recent arrival of shady new next-door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon), a charming enigma with a taste for beautiful women. Not too long after the arrival of the new neighbor, Charley begins to suspect that Jerry is not only responsible for a recent series of murders, but may also be a bloodthirsty vampire as well.
This movie ended up being loads of fun. It often made me think of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window mixed with Dracula. Some people might be annoyed with William Ragsdale as Charley for having such a geeky/wimpy demeanor as a protagonist, but I think it works perfectly with the feel of the story; he is a horror fan everyman that you may have known at some point in your life, if you are not one yourself. They can't all be badass, and besides, who would want them to? Sometimes, too much badass is not a good thing. Sometimes rooting for the underdog just feels so right, and this is one of the movies where it does.
Tom Holland's direction was above average. The make-up and special effects were done magnificently; one transformation scene near the end was on a surprisingly epic scale and especially top-notch. The fog and smoke effects were equally exceptional, helping to create an atmosphere reminiscent of old-school horror. In the few occasions gore is shown, it is plentiful, but not tasteless.
I had only a few bones to pick with the film, but they were minor. One small scene where Charley goes to his best friend Evil Ed for advice on how to defend himself from a vampire, I found to be somewhat unnecessary. I don't know if I'm alone on this, but it just felt like something Charley's character should have known already. I mean I've known those little details before I hit the double digits (You know; garlic, holy water, crosses, etc.). My only other problem with the film was that it wasn't scary or creepy at all, aside from the looks of the vampire's different transformations. Sure, its intentions seem to be a bit comical and not be taken seriously, but the film altogether has so much more of a horror feel to it than a droll one and perhaps that's what disappointed me.
My favorite scene in the film is when they are in the nightclub and Jerry overpowers Charley, boasting over him. It felt like such an 80's teen archetype, yet with a supernatural twist, which pretty much defines Fright Night as a whole. Another reason I love the club scene so much is because, personally, it's just feels so damn great hearing new wave 80's music blasting in a horror film. I'm not saying its great music, but altogether, there's just something about it that feels so right.
Overall it ended up being a fun 80's horror flick, which I'm sure is what it originally set out to be. I definitely recommend it to anyone in the mood for a good vampire movie, or just some quality horror from the 80's. It isn't exactly a movie I'd run out and buy after seeing, and probably not want to watch again, at least not for awhile, but it still was an overall fun, entertaining and nostalgic vampire film. It's definitely one of the better ones I've come across.
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