Fright Night (1985)

Before we begin, I just want to clarify that at some point I will probably get around to addressing the horrendous remake of this classic 80’s film, but I’m just not in the right place to tackle it yet (spiritually or emotionally). I have a few issues that I still need to overcome with Colin Farrell and the fact that he keeps appearing in remakes of essentially awesome classic sci-fi films *cough* Total Recall

frightnight banner


You know what this means? Halloween is just around the corner and as such,
I’ll be devoting the next 4 Friday’s to horror films!

I always equate this film with Friday night. I don’t know why, I just seem to enjoy it more on Fridays than any other day. It’s one of those weird 80’s films that doesn’t quite know what it’s doing with itself, it’s not what you would really refer to as a horror film, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d consider a comedy either. Don’t get me wrong, there are some laugh out loud, genuinely funny parts, but there are some really adult concepts hidden within it as well. I like to think of Fright Night as an underrated masterpiece. I’d recommend it as a the second half of a solid movie double (after the ‘burbs) for anyone who is looking for some solid Halloween viewing, but wants to bypass the slasher films which were so popular during that era.

Let’s look back in fondness on the trailer:

Much like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Fright Night is wonderful because the teenagers look like teenagers and Chris Sarandon looks like an adult and is totally believable as the seductive, immortal vampire. I wouldn’t say I was a Chris Sarandon fan… although he was in Child’s Play, which I think we can all agree is a classic in the horror film canon, but I loved him in this. The scene where Jerry and Amy are on the dance floor at the night club captures everything that is wonderful about being a teenager and experiencing attraction for the first time (dangerous attraction, with an unsuitable, almost predatory older man who happens to be a vampire) and feeling like you’re totally out of your depth! Every time I watch that scene, I am more convinced that it perfectly captures everything that is being 16 and in love for the first time (take note, Twilight, cause you failed SO BADLY here… too late now I guess). Speaking of Amy, I love her too. It’s so nice to see an 80’s film where the heroine is really taking responsibility for herself and her life and her relationship. She really loves Charley, but she’s not about to sacrifice herself for his (carnal) pleasure. She knows he’s holding out on her, that he’s not fully invested, that she’s not getting his full attention and, rather than trying to win him over by offering herself up to him, she’s putting her foot down and walking away until he has the capacity to man up and get real with himself… (wow, I feel a bit Dr. Phil there… sorry guys, I’ll reign it back in). How does a 16 year old girl assert her feelings? She smashes a hamburger in her boyfriend’s face – obviously.

(Poor Amy, here she is, getting out the high necked, ruffle collar shirt and matching hair ribbon and she still can’t get anywhere with Charley!)

Amy really finds herself in trouble when she falls under the spell of Jerry, but, from a feminist perspective, I think it’s a trap that pretty much every young girl falls into. We feel so much more mature than the ‘men’ in our lives, so we try to prove a point by flirting with an older gent… and it blows up in our faces spectacularly. Luckily for Amy, Charley isn’t a total chuckle head and he sees her demise from a long way off… and is waiting in the wings to save her from herself.

Jerry and Amy
(Ding Dong… Amy better watch herself, things are about to get real)

For the record, I don’t think Charley is a bad guy. He’s just a bit clueless and out of his depth, which ain’t no sin, and at the end of the day, his heart turns out to be in exactly the right place. I do also admire his absolute determination to prove that he is right about his neighbour being a creature of the night. No matter what gets thrown at him or how crazy he gets made to look, there is absolutely nothing that is going to sway him from the truth. That’s a character quality that is lacking in many people these days… at least in my experience… but it’s not a moral treatise we’re reading here, is it?

(Charley, spying, thinking the worst and capturing all the serious feels you get when you discover a vampire living next door)

You can’t talk about Fright Night without also talking about Evil Ed, the side kick and unfortunate fatality of the piece. I don’t know how I feel about this character to be honest with you. I mean, yes, he certainly brings a joviality to the film and yes, he manages to walk a fine line between sympathy and annoyance, and yes, he is a necessary component. I don’t know though… when Evil Ed and Peter Vincent have their confrontation, I am not sorry with the outcome. Peter Vincent, on the other hand, is such a great character! I love everything about him, the way he speaks to the worst of the Hammer Horror era, the fact that he’s washed up and broke, the make up, the kit full of fake weapons, his horror, his terror and the way that he comes full circle and kind of grows up, right alongside his much younger friends… it’s just all gold.

I also like the fact that this film makes the distinction that throwing the Christian cross in front of a vampire will only work if you have faith in it… an oft overlooked fact in many, many many vampire films.

rabenschwarze Nacht, Die - Fright Night / Fright Night USA 1985 Regie: Tom Holland Darsteller: Roddy McDowall Rollen: Peter Vincent

(Peter Vincent, during one of his many self-doubting episodes)

Despite being a largely comical interpretation of the classic vampire horror, there are a few moments of genuine scariness here. They are fleeting though, it’s not one of those films that you’re going to be watching through the cracks of your fingers, as you’re holding them over your ‘closed’ eyes, and that’s the reason I started with it, Fright Night is relaxed way to get into the swing of the Halloween season (I don’t want to hear any Australian Halloween haters whinging that we don’t celebrate Halloween either. I’m not asking you to get dressed up and go trick or treating, I’m asking you to get into some classic cinema – so just embrace it). You’ll laugh, you’ll appreciate the nods to classic films such as Rear Window, you’ll enjoy seeing a vampire getting taken down by a pencil and you’ll really enjoy feeling you’re 16 again… (well, those of us who don’t really remember will enjoy it anyway).

evil ed
(Evil Ed, finding out the hard way, some downfalls associated with succumbing to the dark side)

If you’ve never seen Fright Night, haven’t seen it in a while, or have only seen the damn awful remade version (sorry, David Tennant, even you could save that shit heap), go your fine self down to the local JB HI FI and pick it up after work so you have something to occupy yourself tonight.

Next week, we might get serious and scary… maybe…


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