“Oh, you’re soooooo COOL, Brewster” – Evil Ed Thompson
Having been a fan of horror films ever since I was allowed to stay up late and watch them, so, I guess about forty five years now – I guess I’m kind of a dinosaur - I like my vampires traditional. I’ve never quite taken with the whole Twilight sparkly vampire thing. I never really got the whole teen angst vampire thing either. I mean, come on – we’re food to them. They’re hungry predators, looking for their next meal. You don’t fall for your food – so basically, take your True Blood, your Twilight and shove ‘em.
Buffy, however is a totally different matter and really was the last word on proper, traditional vampires. It also was the first and last word on teenage vampire romances. Buffy and Angel – never was that dynamic equalled, let alone bettered.
But as a Buffy fan, I always felt that ingenious as that series was, it owed something to the genius of Tom Holland who wrote and directed Fright Night. Yes, Buffy owed something to The Lost Boys as well, but Fright Night came first.
In fact, even the Scream film owe a debt to Fright Night when you think about it. The characters of Scream are aware of what’s happening around them because they watch slasher movies and thus, they know the rules and conventions of the slasher genre. In Fright Night, exactly the same concept is true – nine years earlier.
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a kid in his late teens, he is a huge horror movie fan. He’s a little bit nerdy, an outsider and mixes with another outsider “Evil” Ed Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys). He has a girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and pretty much, all is well in his world. He’s watching his favourite TV show, Fright Night - a horror movie programme hosted by his favourite star, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) – a fading horror movie actor.
As he looks out of the window, he sees a coffin being carried into the deserted house next door. He tries to tell Amy, who doesn’t believe him because a similar graveyard scene of a coffin being carried is being shown on the TV.
Charley is instantly suspicious of the new neighbour being a vampire – and his suspicions seem founded when some prostitutes go missing, one of who Charley recognises as a visitor to the house next door. Screams are heard at night, Charley sees his neighbour seduce a young woman through his bedroom window….it all points to a vampire next door.
Charley knows exactly what to do, because he’s watched all the old movies. He can handle a vampire. He seals his windows, knowing that a vampire can’t enter a property unless invited – right? As he’s driving the last nail into his window frame, he’s called downstairs by his mother to meet……the new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) – the vampire. As he’s invited – he can now come and go as he pleases.
Charley’s miseries go from zero to sub-light when he calls in the police and is ridiculed by both the cop and Dandridge’s henchman to the point where Dandridge attacks him in his home that night.
Now desperate for help, he approaches Peter Vincent, the famed vampire hunter of the movies he loves so much, who has just been fired from his job as host of Fright Night because, as he puts it: “Nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.” But Vincent doesn’t want to know – he has problems of his own, such as paying the rent now he’s out of work.
It's when he receives an eviction order that Evil Ed and Amy call, desperate to elicit his help with Charley, who they believe to be delusional. Accepting the offer of $500, Vincent agrees to perform a staged “vampire test” with Dandridge’s co-operation where a bottle of holy water (in reality, tap water) will be drunk thus proving once and for all that Dandridge is NOT a vampire.
Well, the best paid plans of mice, men and phoney vampire hunters – Vincent realises by accident that Dandridge doesn’t cast a reflection in a mirror. He’s actually dealing with a real vampire.
Dandridge starts taking Charley’s friends one by one, turning Ed into a werwolf who attacks Vincent, and Amy into one of his vampiric brides, along with long blonde hair, inexplicably, as she was a brunette with short hair previously.
With the odds stacked against him, Charley faces the vampire in a deadly showdown, with the resolute vampire hunter heroically, if a little ineptly by his side.
On reflection – I think this is one of my all time favourite vampire movies. It’s a fantastic story, well written, well performed and superbly executed with a great deal of knowing affection for the genre it celebrates. I didn’t mind the sequel, but haven’t seen the remake/reboot. I don’t really feel the need to. The story was told to perfection by Tom Holland back in 1985.
You can buy the film by following this link.
Copyright © 2010 - 2016 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.