Ah, Fright Night. This was one of my favorite flicks as a kid. There’s just so much to love about it. Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the local horror host, Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, the cackling outcast buddy to Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and of course, Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson, Charley’s girlfriend, who winds up with quite the mouth full of teeth. Throw in some moments of messy gore and a bit of comedy and you’ve got an amazing 80′s vampire flick.
A friend of mine passed along the trailer for the remake of Fright Night which only made me want to watch the original that much more. So much seemed to be missing. Where was the obnoxious, high pitched laugh of Evil Ed? Who takes on the role of Peter Vincent and how do they translate that to be more current? I still think you could make him a horror host but those darn kids today just wouldn’t get it. It’s those two characters in Fright Night that make me enjoy the film so much. Screw Charley Brewster, Peter Vincent is the real hero of the piece. He’s the one who really takes on the vampire and his minions head on while Charley whimpers and whines in the background.
There’s a noticeable lack of blood through most of the film even though Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) makes a meal of a beautiful girl every night. Charley just happens to see him baring his fangs one night as he’s about to chow down and spends the rest of the movie trying to get everyone to believe him. Once poor Evil Ed becomes a snack for Jerry, things start to get messy. The great scene where Peter Vincent faces off against Evil Ed, in wolf form of course, ends in an amazing reverse transformation scene. It’s not exactly American Werewolf in London kind of stuff, but the different levels of change that we see as Evil Ed goes from wolf to human again are well done.
From there we get a melting man and one seriously pissed off Amy as she becomes a full-on vampire before Charley and Peter put an end to Jerry’s undead life. There’s some questionable effects, it is 1985 after all, but most of them are very well done. My favorite has to be Amy after she becomes a vampire. Her giant mouth full of teeth never fails to shock me just the right way. It still looked impressive 26 years later.
Look at that! Damn that’s one nasty looking vampire! The entire film is played more for fun than anything else but it never resorts to bad jokes and manages to walk a very fine line between serious and hokey. It’s very much like one of the films that Peter Vincent would play on his TV show, appropriately titled Fright Night. It’s the perfect balance that plays well to young horror fans as well as the old timers out there. I’m thinking that this is a good point to bring my own kids into the genre. It’s not too scary for them but it still manages to get some good blood thrown around at the end.
One thing I was surprised to see, as I watched this one again last night, was the lack of Evil Ed. I always thought he played a much bigger part after he was bitten by Jerry. He does manage to get what is probably the best death scene in the movie though and a little hint at the end that maybe he’s still kicking around. Of course now I’m going to have to hunt around for Fright Night 2 to see what happens. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen that one but I’m willing to bet that it will be painful to sit through. Hopefully a trip to the bargain bins at the local mall will turn up a copy.
There are some moments in Fright Night that seem rushed. Maybe a better exploration of the characters would have been good. Evil Ed doesn’t seem to like being called Evil but I’m not really sure why. Amy bears a striking resemblance to a painting in Jerry’s house but I also don’t really know why. Maybe I missed some lines of dialogue here and there that would have explained all that but just a few lines doesn’t really give you much to go on anyway. The movie is still fun to watch and holds up well all these years later even with the bad 80′s music and clothes. That stuff actually adds a bit of childhood charm to it, like revisiting your old neighbourhood after you’ve grown up.
Of course, watching the original again doesn’t exactly get me hyped up to see the remake. Poor Peter Vincent is now a Las Vegas magician instead of a horror host, a moment that will surely break my heart, and I’m still not sure that Colin Farrell can pull off Jerry the way that Chris Sarandon did. I have even less faith that Evil Ed will be the same with Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the role. Basically just another pointless remake when the original is still such a good movie. When will kids these days learn that things were always better before!
Under the marquee – Will