Fright Night

Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall Directed by: Tom Holland

Some people say certain movies have to be watched when you are young to be truly appreciated. Such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and the The Breakfast Club. Presumably because they really capture the essence of the coming of age struggles of the time and if you watch them too late in life you just don't 'get it.'  (At least that's what I have been told after revealing that I do not particularly like either of these movies).

Perhaps other movies were best watched as a child of the '80s due to the now-dated special effects and music…or maybe because you were a kid and wouldn't have known good acting from bad.

This seems to be true of the 1985 movie Fright Night. I'm pretty sure at least four people told me how awesome this movie was when they saw it as a kid. As a jaded 31-year-old, I thought the movie was quite silly.  However, I did have fun watching it because many moments in the film lent themselves to MST3k-style commentary.

The movie opens on a clearly second-rate vampire film, which our hero Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is watching.  Well, actually he's not watching, he's trying to get to second base with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse). However, our easily-distracted hero notices two men carrying a coffin into the house next door, this being apparently more mesmerizing than his girlfriend baring her training bra.  This, of course, causes Amy to storm off in a huff.

(It is around this time in the movie that I realized Amy looked/sounded familiar.  Ryan informed me that she also plays Marcy, the Bundy's next door neighbor, on Married With Children. I knew I recognized the whiny voice…)

As the neighbor is conveniently using the room right across from Charley's for his nocturnal activities (and with the window open no less), our hero hears a female scream one night and witnesses the neighbor extend his fangs and nearly bite the neck of some unsuspecting woman shortly thereafter.  Fortunately the neighbor is just as easily distracted as Charley, and realizes he is being watched just in time to pull the shades.

Charley's suspicion grows, but no one believes him.  Not his mother, not Amy, and certainly not the police.  So Charley has to take matters into his own hands.

Things would be a lot simpler if Charley could just stroll over and kill the alleged vampire (who, by the way, has his own synthesizer-heavy theme song) during the day.  But, the vampire's lackey prevents this plan from working.  And to make matters worse, Charley's mom invites the vampire neighbor over to the house for a drink (a Bloody Mary, of course) – which now means he can come in at any time.

At this point in the movie I realize the neighbor/vampire (Chris Sarandon) has a passing resemblance to the Happy Gilmore character Shooter McGavin.  So for the rest of the film, whenever he was strolling around like the handsome, self-assured devil he was, I felt compelled to yell "Shoota!"

Of course, it's on like Donkey Kong between Charley and the vampire after that.  In desperate need of help, he decides to turn to B-movie star and host of Fright Night (the 'creature feature' show he is constantly watching throughout the movie), Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell).   Of course he refuses at first, but is persuaded by Charley's friends "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and Amy to at least make a show of going over to the neighbor's house to prove he is not a vampire. However, the actor doesn't quite get the results he expected.  He flees, leaving the kids to fend for themselves.

If you are ever being hunted by a vampire, there are two places it is very unwise to travel.  Down a dark alley is one.  Into a disco is another. Apparently Amy reminds the vampire of former love; he seduces her on the dance floor and kidnaps her. Of course Charley's last hope is persuading Peter Vincent to return, help him save Amy and slay the vampire.  You all know pretty much what happens from here.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the glorious makeup and special effects. First, the fangs.  Typically when vampires change, you might expect to see red eyes, longer canine teeth, maybe a slight change in the face (as do the vamps in the Buffyverse).  The Fright Night vampires sport a mouthful of sharp teeth – the angrier and hungrier they get, it seems the more teeth they have.  Very bizarre. At one point I thought I might have accidentally switched over to watching Pirhana. Second, I suspect the effect of flesh supernaturally melting/burning off, leaving a bare skeleton behind, was cutting edge in the mid-80s. (in addition to this movie, I believe it has also been used in Raiders of the Lost Ark and at one of the Gremlins movies).

Oh one last favor.  Please don't burst my bubble by telling me you hated movies like Last Action Hero and the first six Police Academy movies.  When I was a pre-teen, those were comedy gold.  I guess you would have had to see them as a kid to understand.

Written by Jennifer Venson