10/23/08

The Halloween Top 13: Number 9: Fright Night

With four down and nine to go, Halloween draws even closer and tonight we visit the eighties again. Since I grew up in the '80's; there are a lot of films that I really love from the era. It was a time when horror flicks were dominated by slashers like Jason and Freddy and wee beasties like the Critters and C.H.U.D., but it also spawned a film that brought the vampire solidly into the modern time. It did so while still tipping it's hat to all the classic horror that had come before it, and the classic convention of the late night horror host. By the time the decade ended, late night horror movies were no longer hosted by people like Elvira and Zacherlie and instead they became the fodder of the pay cable networks. I'm proud to bring you a movie that hearkens back to this time. So allow me to be your host with the most as I bring you....

Fright Night (1985) starring Roddy McDowell, Chis Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale, and Stephen Geoffreys. Directed by Tom Holland.

It's late at night, and in his room Charlie (Ragsdale) and his girlfriend, Amy (Bearse) are making out beneath the soft glow of the TV playing the late night horror show. Peter Vincent (McDowell), the great vampire hunter, is hosting another of his movies, but the teens are totally distracted. That is until Charlie hears some commotion at the house next door. While looking out the window, Charlie sees a coffin being taken into the basement of the house. Naturally he is bothered by this idea; in fact, so much so that he ignores Amy who is finally ready to go all the way. She storms out of his room, and the befuddled Charlie has missed his big chance.

The next day Charlie sees a beautiful woman going into the house next door and soon thereafter sees her picture on the news. She has been murdered and found in the city. Charlie tries to poke around and investigate the house next door, but he is run off by one of his neighbors. That night Charlie spies a naked girl in the window across from his bedroom. She is soon embraced by another man, but this one has fangs. Unfortunately for Charlie, the vampire sees him as well. After trying to convince his mom and Amy that the neighbor is a vampire, he goes to the police with information on the murders that keep being reported. A detective accompanies him to the vampire's home. When nothing strange is found, Charlie tells the cop about his true suspicions and of course he looks crazy.

Charlie goes to his friend "Evil" Ed for help. Ed runs down the classic weaknesses of the vampire, and Charlie prepares himself with tons of garlic and crosses. The main thing Ed tells him is not to worry because a vampire can't enter without being invited. That would be all fine if Charlie's mom didn't invite her new neighbor Jerry (Sarandon) in for a drink. That night Jerry visits Charlie and tries to convince the teen to forget all about him. When Charlie resists, Jerry attempts to throw Charlie out the window, but the vamp gets fended off with a pencil staked into his neck.

With nowhere else to turn, Charlie seeks the aid of TV host Peter Vincent, but he is rebuffed. After Amy pays the freshly fired host, he goes with them to Jerry's house to perform a fake vampire test on the man by having him drink "holy" water. Charlie is shocked when nothing happens to Jerry, but he reluctantly accepts Peter's proof. However, before Peter leaves the house he notices that Jerry has no reflection in his pocket mirror. Peter makes a hasty retreat, and the teens set off to walk Amy home. After splitting up, Ed runs afoul of Jerry and gets turned into a bloodsucker. Then Jerry stalks Amy and Charlie to a nightclub where he seduces Amy and manages to get her away from Charlie. After his own confrontation with the newly vamped up Ed, Peter and Charlie must go once more into the vampire's den to destroy the creature of the night and rescue Amy from his clutches.

Film Facts
--Peter Vincent's name was a play on the classic horror stars Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

--The Peter Vincent film that Charlie watches on TV is actually Hammer Film's The Scars of Dracula.

--Tom Holland who directed the film would go on to direct Child's Play next and later the Steven King adaptations Thinner and The Langoliers.

--Chis Sarandon had a long career spanning from Dog Day Afternoon through perennial favorites such as The Princess Bride and lending his voice to Halloween icon Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

--Stephen Geoffreys abandoned mainstream cinema to star in gay porn under the name Sam Ritter. He appeared in such films as Manhunt and Gay Men in Uniform. In 2007 he returned to the horror genre in Sick Girl, an independent feature.

Why Do I Love It?

I think Roddy McDowell's portrayal of Peter Vincent has a lot to do with it. I really love the story of the washed up horror great getting a chance to be the brave vampire hunter that he had once pretended to be. McDowell infuses the role with pathos and really makes you feel for an actor at the end of the line. There's also how totally '80's the movie is. Chris Sarandon's Jerry especially personifies this, and for many years my picture of Patrick Bateman in Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho was based on his image. He seemed the total yuppie vampire which the likes of has never and will never be seen again. All of the cast does an excellent job, and the story is well written. The effects are very nice in places, although the huge mouthed vampire that Amanda Bearse becomes is perhaps a bit over the top. Overall, the film is just a damn good time that stood out as something different in a time when so many horror flicks had become copy cats. More than that, it is a film that I want to watch every time October rolls around, and I'm getting prepped for my own Fright Night.

Bug Rating



Today's List comes to us from Lisa Bee at Horror Happenings. I love to check out Lisa's blog, and I always make a point to check out her posts on HBO's True Blood. If you aren't checking out that show or Lisa's blog you're really missing out. Here's Lisa's Top 5.

1) “Halloween.” Natch.
2) “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” You’ve got pumpkins, the Headless Horseman, and lots and lots of decapitations. What’s more Halloween-y than that?
3) “Fright Night.” Because you need a good vampire movie to get in the right mood. This one may not be the best, but it’s the most fun.
4) “Night of the Living Dead.” No tricks, just treats all the way.
5) “Scream.” Ghostface has become a classic costume. So, I've got to invite him to the party, too.

Another strange coincidence with Fright Night being on her list. What can I say? I told you the lady has good taste. Join us again tomorrow night for Number 8, and a classic that every cult cinema fan should love.

3 comments:

  1. Nice review. It makes me want to pull out the DVD and re-watch the movie right now.

    And thanks for including my list and the very nice recommendation. :-) I'll probably expound on why these five are my Halloween faves on my blog later in the week. Can't wait to see what you've got in the store for the rest of the Top 13.

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  2. This is one of the very first horror movies I remember seeing. It is and always will be one of my favs.

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  3. FRIGHT NIGHT is one of my favorite vamp flicks. Plus it's an 80s film, which gets top priority from me. I grew up on this one and enjoy it quite alot. Too bad the sequel was "eh". Great review.

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