31 Days of Hell: Fright Night (1985)

31 Days of Hell continues with a review of the 1985 film, Fright Night.

"White Castle!!! Give me more!!!"
Modern-day vampires, for lack of a better term, suck. They used to be seductive and frightening creatures but now they are just bored, sparkly Millennials who can’t be bothered to even turn into bats. How did we get to this sad state of affairs? Luckily, Fright Night is here to console estranged vampire lovers who yearn for the days of yore. The vampires in this flick aren’t here to play pick-up baseball games or take you on a date; they want to eat your ass for dinner. That’s the way they are supposed to be, damn it!

Fright Night concerns the tale of a teenage horror film connoisseur named Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) who has a sneaking suspicion that his debonair new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) may, in fact, be a vampire. Admittedly, this is as cliché as vampire plots get, but the earnest eighties vibe makes it bearable. The tone of the film is interesting because it shifts back and forth between cheesy teen comedy and legitimately creepy horror. There are moments of genuine emotion that shine through some of the silly banter and it makes them much more effective when they happen.

"Hello. We're from the '80s.
Take us to your leader."
The vampires are scary as hell and the film does not shy away from showing them in their demonic forms. They adhere to all of the normal “rules” of the genre so there are crosses, stakes and holy water galore. Chris Sarandon wears the sexy vampire mantel well and he exudes a sensual confidence that makes him alluring. Vampires work best when there is a dichotomy between the monstrous and the sexual; something that is sorely missing from recent films. The film gives a nod to older Hammer-style horror movies by casting the always hammy Roddy McDowall as an actor who pretends to be a vampire hunter in feature films. He lends Fright Night a bit of class with his faux Shakespearean line delivery and distinguished grey hair.

Although this movie is creeping up on being thirty-years-old, the special effects have aged well. All of the vampires look terrifying and they have giant toothy maws and huge claws; no glitter or abs to be seen. They actually instill a sense of dread and fear, the way monsters are meant to do. Since this is an eighties movie, some of it ends up being cheesy, but that can be chalked up to the era. Sometimes you have to accept some radical synthesizer tunes with your blood suckin’. It was cool at the time, okay? Overall, this is one of the better vampire films out there and it’s worth a watch just for the awesome make-up and vampire fight scenes.

-Michelle Kisner