- Movie Rating -

Fright Night (1985)

| August 2, 1985

Fright Night starts out as a commentary on the state of modern horror and ends by being and assault on it.   The problem with modern horror, the movie says, is that the age of gothic castles and Dr. Frankenstein’s lab have been overturned by chainsaws and hockey masks.  There’s just no room anymore for your elegant vampire.

That’s the dilemma facing Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), a proud host of a local horror television program.  He’s the guy in the costume who introduces those old movies featuring Christopher Lee and Vincent Price but very soon in the movie he is fired by the TV station because of low ratings.  Dissolute, Vincent is soon visited by Charlie Brewster, a teenager who is new in town and suspects that possibly there might be a real vampire living next door.

The fact that nobody pays attention to vampires anymore is probably good news to Charlie’s neighbor who really is a vampire.  He’s Jerry (Chris Sarandon) a good-looking young stud who brings beautiful women over to his house at night and then disposes of suspiciously large bags of garbage in the morning.  Hiding his rituals is not a problem since people no longer believe in his lot.

When Charlie’s attempts to call the cops on Jerry fail, he is forced to turn to Peter who is something of an expert on the subject of vampires.  He’s also desperate.  Out of work, and in need of cash, he takes Charlie up on his offer to help him deal with the vampire next door.

What is nice about the film is that it is dealing, more or less, in the real world.  Peter discovers, to his dismay, that many of the rules that govern the lore of vampires are basically nonsense.  That’s particularly the case when one of the vampires quickly disposes of his crucifix.

The back half of the movie is an assault of special effects as Charlie and Peter infiltrate Jerry’s home and thereby penetrate his lair.  Special effects artist Richard Edlund goes crazy (and gets a touch gross) in the film’s second half.  He’s the man responsible for the effects in Ghostbusters and Poltergeist and won Oscars for Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The work here is effective because it often feels grounded in reality, we can believe what we’re seeing and we can believe that Peter is overwhelmed by what his happening.  Finally real vampires have entered his orbit and he is baffled by it.

Fright Night is not for the faint of heart.  The volley of visual effects work but they often go a little over the top.  This isn’t an elegant vampire movie but it is an effective one.  They’re scary and threatening and that’s about all we could really ask.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Horror