Play It Again: Fright Night

Fright Night
By Jess Lomas
October 8, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. (Hey, whatever. It fits!) This month, we herald Halloween with horror movies!

Before vampires sparkled they wore skivvies and cruised around town to an awesome eighties soundtrack in Tom Holland’s highly enjoyable – and definitely not chilling – Fright Night.

Teenagers-in-love Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) have their hot and heavy make-out session interrupted by Charley’s wandering eye for the new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). Sure, it’s unusual that he’s moving in at night, but what really piques Charley’s curiosity is the coffin being carried into the basement.

Thanks largely to Jerry’s exhibitionist nature of making out with topless women in front of an open window (before revealing his fangs and gnarly nails), Charley comes to the conclusion that Jerry is a vampire. When Jerry learns that Charley has uncovered his secret, he offers him an ultimatum: keep the secret or face death.

Fright Night

Of course, no one believes Charley’s story about the local vampire, especially the cops and Charley’s pseudo-friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, armed with possibly the most annoying laugh ever committed to celluloid). Thankfully, Charley’s long-time hero – Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), host of television show Fright Night –  has just been fired, leaving an opening in his schedule to help Charley expose Jerry’s true identity.

The key performances all deliver. McDowall’s out-of-work actor turned real-life vampire killer is delightful and hammy, and Sarandon’s suave vampire is much more enjoyable than Robert Pattinson’s pouting any day of the week. Jonathan Stark as Jerry’s “live-in carpenter” Billy provides the only truly creepy character; a seamless mix of a high school jerk with a crazy overprotective mother, their relationship complete with homoerotic undertones.

If you’re seeking thrills and chills from a horror flick, sadly, you won’t find many here. Fright Night is the horror film that teenagers in horror films are watching; cheesy and predictable. Despite this, it’s a fun feature that perhaps unintentionally has captured the spirit of the 1980s teen movie and mixed it with The Burbs, offering us romance, mystery and impressive prosthetics and special effects for the time.


Fright Night is available on Quickflix.

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