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Fright Night, 1985 – Movie Review – 31 Days of Horror

Posted by LiveFor on October 2, 2009

fright_night11Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys
Score: 7 / 10

Another review in the 31 Days of Horror run up to Halloween. Send me your horror film reviews.

This great review by Stephen West.

For me the top vampire movie of the 80’s was ‘The Lost Boys’, but this one is up there with the best of them. The 80’s saw a deluge of vampire movies, so for these to stand out amongst them was no mean feat.

According to Tom Holland, the writer/director of this movie, he wanted to do a movie with ‘the boy who cried wolf’ as a theme. He also had an interest in vampire stories and so he combined these two elements to create a very enjoyable and original script. Although not entirely true to ‘the boy who cried wolf’ since Charley did not make up the story before it happened for real, the concept of the movie, that is, a teenager with an interest in B grade horror movies see’s a vampire claim a victim and cannot convince his friends of this, holds it’s audience throughout the movie.

Jerry Dandridge is a prime example of the type of vampire audiences saw in the 80’s. He is suave, good – looking and has an eye for beautiful women – thus captilising on the sexual allure of being at the mercy of a being more powerful than yourself who needed your lifeblood to sustain his existence. His bloodlust was satiated by attacking the victim’s neck, biting into it and sucking their blood. This also has strong sexual overtones since the neck can be an intimate area and giving or having someone take your blood is the ultimate submissive act since blood is the life. The vampire of the 80’s has is own distinct personality and is able to interact as an ordinary citizen in everyday life. This is most unlike the vampire in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and FW Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ who were more like the vampires of folklore, that is, they had repulsive features and were not much unlike scavenging rodents since they were perceived in past centuries as pests who were plague carriers. Some folklore is still evident in the 80’s vampire – a vampire cannot enter your house unless invited, it cannot be seen in mirror’s and is fearful of Christian symbols thus showing it for the malignant evil that it is. I believe that Holland has created a sound balance here by not introducing too much human personality traits into Dandridge that is so evident in today’s vampires. This may be because he was influenced by the B grade movies since these movies are a strong part of the story. Further evidence of this is the character of Peter Vincent. Chris Sarandon is perfect for the role of Jerry. He has a commanding presence which makes him a powerful adversary for the heroes.

Peter Vincent has proved to be the most endearing character and it would be hard to imagine anyone other than Roddy Mcdowall playing the role – Cushing of the 80’s. His passing will mean that another sequel will quite rightly have a gaping hole in it which only he could fill. Part of why this is so is because he makes it so believable that he is an actor passionate about his B grade vampire hunter roles. He is the vampire hunter determined to rid the world of these vermin and holds high credibility within that world. This is in stark contrast to the real Peter Vincent who is financially struggling and finds that he is petrified when faced by the real vampire. Although he manages to gather enough courage to face Dandridge, he has to be saved by Charley. He fails to truly overcome his fear, but the audience is drawn to the failed hero who gave it his best shot. He is the underdog that we cheer for.

The special effects of this movie also deserve special mention. They add to the B grade feel of the movie since the shape shifting of the vampire is overly grotesque and exaggerated. This is no criticism since this is what Holland wanted to create and thus it blends in rather than overawes.

Also of note is the variety of different characters within the movie. You have Evil Ed who is interested in the occult and being a social misfit thus making him easy to seduce for Dandridge. There is Amy who is sexually prudent which makes her a viable victim for the predatory vampire. Charley is the average American teenager who has to grow up quickly if he is to overcome his ancient foe. Finally there is Billy Cole, the ghoul or zombie wholly dedicated to serving his master.

The soundtrack is most notable within this movie since it adds to the fun we have at watching the not too serious B grade movie influenced ‘Fright Night’. Each track is suited to the scene and accentuates the emotion that Holland is trying to brew. This is particularly well done in the nightclub scene.

‘Fright Night’ is a great popcorn movie and never takes itself seriously. Part of the appeal of this movie is the fact that it has a strong 80’s feel to it – catchy soundtrack, hip teenagers, exaggerated special effects much like the exaggerated dress of the 80’s such as shoulder pads, wild hairstyles and cheesy one – liners. Having said this, although it is obvious that the cast had fun playing their characters, they acting is of a high enough quality to ensure that this movie did not fall into the B grade abyss.

Previous 31 Days of Horror review: Zombieland

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