Fright Night (1985) review

Fright Night posterDirector: Tom Holland

Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding

“I have just been fired because 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.” (Peter Vincent, Fright Night)

The classic Dracula films aside, my favourite vampire movies are the ones set in the present day, taking an ancient monster thats often hundreds of years old and putting them in a modern setting.

No, I’m not talking about that. You wash your mouth out.

I’m talking about stuff like The Lost Boys, Near Dark and Vampire In Brooklyn. Okay, not that last one either.

The point I’m struggling to make here is that Fright Night is great. Well, that could have gone better.

Charley Brewster is a teenage lad who’s obsessed with two things: horror movies and trying to get into his oddly old-looking girlfriend Amy’s knickers (he was 14 at the time of filming, she was 27. I’ll let that sink in for a moment, and that’s definitely not what she said).

"Don't worry darling, I'll keep you away from those horrible Operation Yewtree investigators"
“Don’t worry darling, I’ll keep you away from those horrible Operation Yewtree investigators”

Charley’s a big fan of Fright Night, a local TV horror show in which Peter Vincent, a movie star famed for playing a vampire killer, introduces a weekly scary movie.

Shit gets a little more real, though, when Charley gets new neighbours: the somewhat charming Jerry Dandrige and his ‘housemate’ Billy Cole.

Fright Night pic 5
Duncan regretted making that refried bean salad for his girlfriend

It soon becomes clear to Charley that all is not well next door when he looks into Dandridge’s window and sees him doing the no-pants dance with an attractive woman, before biting her in the neck.

Surely Dandridge can’t be a vampire? They can’t be real, can they? Charley isn’t in danger, is he?

Yes he is, yes they can and yes he is.

At first Charley struggles to get help. Amy thinks he’s talking out of his ring and their mutual pal ‘Evil’ Ed (who’s so annoying Katie Hopkins’ anus would clench watching him) just thinks the whole thing is hilarious.

And so, Charley decides to kick things up a notch by visiting Peter Vincent and asking him to fight the vampire – not realising, of course, that he’s only an actor who thinks vampires are about as real as Arsenal’s chances of ever winning a Premier League title while Wenger’s in charge.

The resting expression on any District Line commuters who start at Wimbledon Station
The resting expression on any District Line commuters who start at Wimbledon Station

Does Charley manage to convince his friends and Peter Vincent he’s telling the truth? Does everyone come out of it alive? Aye right, as if I’d just spoil it.

I love Fright Night. It’s got that unexplainable ‘80s neighbourhood horror vibe you’d get in the likes of The Monster Squad, Gremlins and Deadly Friend, where everyday youngsters who weren’t just cast for their looks work together to restore order to their street.

All Bert had to do was add the D-pad and his enormous home-made SNES controller would be complete
All Bert had to do was add the D-pad and his enormous home-made SNES controller would be complete

Much like the above mentioned films, there’s that lovely realistic vibe flowing through the entire film, where the dialogue feels natural (that annoying prick aside) and their concerns – not just vampire-related, but in terms of just growing up too – are believable.

It also helps that the rest of the cast is great too. Chris Sarandon (aka the cop from Child’s Play) does his best to be a charming vampire, and takes great pleasure in dominating any scene he’s in.

Special mention should also go to Dorothy Fielding as Charley’s mum, who is a bit ahead of her time. While most parents in ‘80s teen movies were stuck up and authoritative, Fielding’s role feels more like the “hey guys, I’m your friend” parents you get in a lot of today’s films.

She’s perfectly fine with Charley and Amy bumping uglies in his bedroom (even though he’s naturally painfully shy about it), and when he claims to have a nightmare in one scene, she offers him a valium(!) to settle him down.

“Looks like you’re feeling A LITTLE CROSS! Hahahaha! Seriously though mate, fuck off”

The film’s pacing is spot on. Most horror comedies of this ilk are essentially split into two halves – the funny opening half as we meet the characters and things start to get weird, then the “seriously though, this needs to stop” half at which point the action kicks in.

Often, this second half is where the film dies on its arse a bit, as it slowly dawns on us that just because the screenwriter and director can do comedy it doesn’t mean they’re as accomplished at handling action.

"Those fucking Mormons won't take a telling"
“Those fucking Mormons won’t take a telling”

Fright Night doesn’t suffer from this. When the jokes are abandoned for drama it continues at a strong pace and doesn’t start to feel like it’s dragging.

Set-pieces are swift and the pre-CGI special makeup effects are decent, particularly during one particularly toothy transformation.

Fright Night has gone down as a classic ‘80s horror-comedy alongside the likes of Re-Animator, The Return Of The Living Dead and Night Of The Creeps, and for good reason.

Now over 30 years old, it’s still thoroughly entertaining and should have you chuckling away throughout its entirety.

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Fright Night’s rating earns it a place in the hallowed That Was A Bit Mental Hall Of Fame. Click here to see what else made the grade.

HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Surprisingly, despite its reputation, Fright Night is only available on DVD in both the UK and the US. The only Blu-ray release is this Swedish one, which at least is region-free.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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