Why I Love: Fright Night Chris Faers October 9, 2020 Editor's Choice, Features, Why I Love 3481 When I was a kid, my sister and I would have weekend sleepovers at my aunt and uncle’s every year on our Birthdays. Luckily, they were young, insanely cool and would spoil us rotten: get in all kinds of goodies for us to stuff our faces, set-up their Sega Mega Drive, play board games and then take us to Lakeside Shopping Centre for the day. These are fond memories, but the thing that sticks out most about them was their passion for film. They would often pop round and take us to the cinema (My earliest memory of going to the flicks is them taking us to see Back To The Future Part II) and they had an extensive VHS collection. When we stayed over, they would often put a horror film on for us before we went to sleep, because like I said, they were cool, and there’s one film in particular I remember them introducing us to… Fright Night. Recently remade starring Colin Farrell and the late Anton Yelchin, the original is one of those films on the fringes of cult scene with the potential to break out into wider recognition. Directed by Tom Holland, who is no stranger to the horror genre, Fright Night follows, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a horror fanatic who suffers from typical-80s-movie-teen-syndrome: dealing with an prudish girlfriend, the joys of high school, an overbearing mother, and a new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), who just happens to be a vampire… y’know, everyday stuff. Despite his convictions, no one believes Charley and put it down to his love of horror, so he attempts to enlist the help of his idol, Peter Vincent (played by the always enjoyable, Roddy McDowall), a throwback to the likes of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price (see what they did there?), in the hope he can help stop Jerry, who by now is aware that Charley is onto him. Fright Night moves at an enjoyable pace, has a great cast who bring a charm and likeability to what should simplistic, stock characters, good practical effects and make-up (although the rear projection, green screen and the like don’t quite hold up nowadays), and keeps the plot simple, yet engaging. Despite all of this, Fright Night was released at a time when vampire movies were far from the peak of their popularity, as well as being lost in the mire of slasher films that flooded cinemas at the time. The film is over-the-top in places, epitomised by Charley’s quirky, geeky best friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), who chews every bit of scenery he can sink his teeth into (no pun intended) and, for as good as he is, there are moments Sarandon needs to downplay his performance when he goes all Bela Lugosi on us. But for the most part, Geoffrey’s is having so much fun in the role, it becomes a pleasure to watch and Sarandon oozes menace, charisma and intelligence; you always have an unsettling feeling when he’s on screen. At its core, it’s just a fun movie, but it takes itself seriously when it needs to, getting the balance between laughs and scares just about right. The soundtrack is as you’d expect for a film coming out in 1985, with Brad Fiedel’s score being handled sparingly throughout, but to great effect when it is used, often adding an eerie, threatening, yet seductive feel, especially to many of Jerry’s scenes. Watching it now as an adult, what really sticks out is how the film is a forerunner to the Wes Craven’s horror resurgence in the 90s. Many would argue Scream started the use of horror conventions in a self-referential, satirical way, while others may argue Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, but once you see Fright Night, you cannot help but notice the little nods to other films and clichés of the genre. For instance, expecting Jerry to attack him later that night, Charley visits Evil Ed for help on how to protect himself, which leads to Ed listing off all of the vampire conventions he knows from classic movies, such as garlic, crosses, holy water, a vampire needing permission to enter, and so on… sound like anyone you know from Scream? It even takes the time to kick itself in the teeth with some witty dialogue between Charley and Peter, stating how it’s all about killers in masks nowadays and no one is interested in vampires anymore. Fright Night is a mixed bag in the best possible way, serving as a product of its time whilst being ahead of the curve. However you like your films, there is something here for everyone; be it Peter Vincent evoking the Hammer Horror era, the 80s comedic tone or the contemporary feel hindsight has now given it… welcome to Fright Night.