Every time I see a movie that I think is the most 1980’s movie ever committed to film, another one comes along and blows that one out of the water. This is the case with the original 1985 Fright Night. Fright Night exists in a universe where it’s ok for a girl to wear two different colored butterfly clips that hold barely any hair. Before now, I’d never actually sat down and saw the entire movie. I’d only ever caught parts of it on TBS and USA. Now I’m just so grateful that this movie exists in all its glorious eighties cheesiness.
William Ragsdale stars as Charley, a teenager living with his single mom. He’s a devoted horror fan who becomes suspicious one night when he sees a coffin being moved into the empty house next door.
Charley is convinced that his new neighbor is a vampire after seeing a woman go into the neighbor’s house who later turns up dead. Charley tells his mom and his friends, he even tries to get the police involved, but they all dismiss him. Charley’s ex, Amy (Amanda Bearse) and best friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffries), finally enlist horror host and washed-up movie star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) to convince Charley that his neighbor isn’t a vampire.
Peter Vincent realizes that the neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) really is a vampire.
Not only does Jerry now have access to Charley’s house since Charley’s mom invited him in, but he has his sights set on Amy, who resembles a lost love (Don’t they always?)
First, Jerry turns Evil Ed into a vampire.
Then, he stalks Charley and Amy in a nightclub. Jerry seduces Amy and they touch butts. A lot.
It’s up to Charley and Peter to rescue Amy, using all the knowledge that they’ve accumulated from watching and starring in horror movies.
This movie is 28-years-old so the effects are a mixed bag. I liked the vampire effects on Jerry and Amy.
Evil Ed turning into a wolf was also pretty cool. Some are less good, like when Jerry turns into a bat and it looks like he turns into a giant claymation flying dog.
What I like about this movie is that it’s kind of like Scream before Scream existed. The characters get their information from horror movies and their are lots of little nods to past horror canon. The mysterious stranger moving into town with his toadie reminds me of the novel of Dracula. Actually, in this movie, it feels like ‘Salem’s Lot with Barlow and Straker, especially when Jerry tells Peter that his crucifix won’t work unless he has faith. I especially liked the name “Peter Vincent,” a shout-out to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Chris Sarandon’s performance is particularly good. He makes a character that doesn’t have a lot of lines or back-story interesting.
Okay, since I’ve gotten the good parts out of the way here’s the bad info. There are plot-holes you could drive a truck through. If Charley is such a big horror fan, then why does Evil Ed have to explain how to protect yourself against vampires? The movie doesn’t say how old Jerry is but shouldn’t an experienced vampire now how to move from town to town without leaving the longest trail of corpses? Some parts of the movie also felt heavy-handed, like Jerry’s wall of cuckoo clocks. And what was Billy Cole (Jonathon Stark) supposed to be? He could go out in the sun but crumbled to dust when staked in the heart. He also had Hi-C Ecto-Cooler blood.
The ending of the movie leaves it wide open for a sequel. Fright Night 2 actually exists but it doesn’t follow Evil Ed as a vampire, since Stephen Geoffries was working on 976-Evil at the time. What I ended up taking away from this movie is that if I have vampire problems, I should call Anthony Stewart Head.