Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Tom Holland
Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandan, Roddy McDowell, Amanda Bearse
Released: 1985 / Genre: Horror-Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com
Reviewed as part of Groovers and Mobsters Present: Vampire Movies
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Charley Brewster thinks a vampire has moved in next door. No one will believe him of course. Vampires don’t exist, do they?
On the TV news, Charley witnesses the face of a girl he saw entering his new neighbour’s home only a day before. The girl is reported missing prompting Charley to become suspicious. When he sees – with his own eyes – another woman about to be bitten on the neck by his blood-sucking new acquaintance, Charley calls the police. But they don’t believe him either.
There’s only one person left who could help Charley rid himself of the night terror living in the house next door – late-night TV host and fictional vampire killer Peter Vincent, played wonderfully camp by Roddy McDowell.
Writer-director Tom Holland’s post-modern vampire film celebrates the traditional conventions of the genre with its tongue firmly pressed against its cheek. The self-referential humour brilliantly updates the vampire film while perfectly playing to the popular sensibilities of both comedy and horror, a genre that had flourished in the decade of the film’s release.
What has kept Fright Night a regular of Halloween-inspired horror marathons is its ability to be both funny and scary. Roddy McDowell is suitably spirited as the vampire-hunter who has to take his knowledge of gothic horror literature into the real world, while Chris Sarandon as Jerry (the is-he-isn’t-he a vampire) proudly displays the charms of any Dracula wannabe with an undercurrent of menace. The film is also blessed by Holland’s atmospheric photography (misty suburban streets, contrasting lights and darks), and special-effects that might be dated but remind of a time before CGI made the model-makers redundant.
You can see how Joss Whedon was inspired by Fright Night to create Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the high school setting, suburban conflict, teen angst and romance, parody of vampire lore, young protagonist who is guided by an older, experienced English gent, the infusion of comedy and horror. It’s all there. But it started right here in Fright Night.