“Welcome to Fright Night, For Real!”

Some of you may know that later this year, a remake of Fright Night is coming out. And I’m pretty excited about it because the cast looks awesome: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant. (Admittedly, any interest I have in David Tennant is all second-hand excitement because I never watched him as the Doctor. I know. The blasphemy never ends.)

But as interested as I am in the remake, I figured I should probably try out the original first.

Mostly, I thought it was pretty fun.

Summary:

Charley (William Ragsdale) is a pretty normal teenager. He loves horror movies, he’s failing trig, and he can’t get his girlfriend to put out. But life gets a little more exciting (and by exciting, I mean a whole lot fucking worse) when a vampire named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves next door. Shockingly, nobody believes Charley when he tries to warn them about Jerry’s thirst for blood, so he goes to the only person who can help him: Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), supposed vampire hunter and host for a crappy, late night horror show.

Notes:

1. Sometimes while watching a film, I have to pause the movie so that I can go look up the cast members. For instance, I looked at Charley’s girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), and thought, Gosh, she kind of looks like Marcie from Married With Children. Guess what? She’s Marcie from Married With Children. Victory. But I couldn’t quite place where I knew Charlie from, so I had to look him up as well. Any Justified fans out there?

Charley is Useless Gary from Justified! Hee! I’m terribly amused right now.

2. Chris Sarandon as Jerry the Vampire is pretty good, too. (Does anyone else have any objections to a vampire being named Jerry? I suppose it’s no worse than Bill, really, but . . . Jerry? Aiya.) Sarandon isn’t a bad looking guy, certainly not in 1985, but every time I look at him, I can really only think of this guy:

"Very put out" face.

. . . and it’s a little hard for me to take this suave vampire seriously. Especially in his sexy 80′s sweater.

Still, Sarandon’s funny and jeez, he has evil smile down pat. His mocking, “Welcome to Frrrrrright Night”? Hilarious.

3. Still, the star for me in this film is, hands down, Roddy McDowall, who has some of the best reactions in the whole movie.

I tend to like cowards in horror movies. They’re more interesting. Every time this supposed vampire hunter freaks out, I giggle because . . . seriously, man. Right there with you. Bravery is for saps who get eaten.

Seriously, though, McDowall’s got great comedic timing, and he gets the best quote in the whole movie: “Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see are slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” And . . . well, yes, sometimes that’s true. Or was in the 80′s. Sadly, this time, too, has passed.

4. As much as I love Peter Vincent, though, I must say this . . . when I become a vampire hunter, my tools will not go into an oversized kit that takes five minutes to open and unfold. Take a cue from Batman, kids. It’s all about the utility belt.

5. The only character I haven’t quite made up my mind about is Evil Ed.

You can’t really tell from the picture above, but Ed (or “Evil”) is a very loud, shrill, annoying character. I mean, I kind of like him—he does have some funny lines—but the way he acts seems to go slightly above and beyond the limits of normal teenage geek behavior and more into the “I’m a little concerned about your son” territory. I know Evil is supposed to be off-putting, but I’m not sure if I’m actually supposed to think, Okay, that kid’s going to grow up, get a gun, and lay waste to some people in the middle of an office building some day.

And there’s one scene in the movie (yes, the one pictured above) that—while I like—seems almost a little too dark and out of place in the otherwise fairly light horror comedy that is Fright Night. Maybe dark isn’t the right word, but . . . I don’t know, something. I just felt like this scene might belong in a much more serious film.

6. I do love Charley’s mother, though. She’s a relatively small part in this movie, but she’s hysterical, the epitome of the clueless and inept parent that you always see in horror films. Her teenage son is having nightmares (so she thinks) so what does she offer him? Valium! All teenagers should be so lucky.

7. Speaking of Charley . . . I know this would sort of, kind of, kill the plot and all but . . . wouldn’t it be neat to see a kid not try to convince people that there’s a vampire next door? I mean, think about it. You really believe that there’s a vampire living in the house next to yours. Maybe you decide to kill the vamp and maybe you don’t, but do you really try to persuade your mother, your friends, your girlfriend, and the cops that the undead are among us? I bet you all my Monopoly money that you wouldn’t.

8. Also, Charlie has some serious attention issues that need to be addressed, at least in regards to his woman. I think when you have what might be a murder happening outside your house, and a girlfriend who’s finally stripping down to have sex with you inside your house . . . well, you ought to know where your priorities lie, and apparently, Charley is the only sixteen-year old boy who doesn’t think that getting laid is the most important thing in the universe. Nevermind the fact that he was whining about Amy’s unwillingness to get down not two minute previous–he totally ignores her as she gets dressed and storms out. This will be something of a theme in this film.

9. Finally, it should be said: whether you believe in vampires or not, walking down a dark alley by yourself at night is just fucking stupid. Honestly.

Now. On to spoilers . . .

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

It’s Evil Ed that decides to walk down the alley alone, and since he pretended to be attacked by a vampire a few minutes earlier, Charley and Amy don’t believe that he’s in any real danger when Jerry the Vampire swoops in and turns him into another creature of the night. To be fair, Evil Ed more or less lets him do it. (Although I suspect his other alternative was just to get eaten without the bonus of immortality and shapeshifting.)

So, this is the scene: Evil’s on the ground, freaked out and crying, and Jerry tells him that he can help, that he can keep Evil from ever being picked on or hurt again. And I’m not sure if this is just, you know, resurfaced junior high nonsense I’m feeling or if it’s the vulnerability displayed in Stephen Geoffreys’s face, but this scene actually makes me care a little about Evil, want a deeper look at him which. . . well, these are good things, normally, but am I really supposed to want a deeper look at Evil? I don’t think I am. Fright Night is a fairly light film, and this scene just strikes me as out of place.

Anyway, Jerry the Vampire chases Amy and Charley into a night club, and Charley once again fails to pay ANY attention to his girlfriend when Jerry the Vampire finds her and trances her into some sexy dancing to some sexy 80′s sax. This goes on for awhile, and by the time Charlie finally notices his girlfriend’s not beside him anymore, it’s pretty much too late—they leave, and Charlie is forced to partner up with an incredibly reluctant Peter Vincent in order to confront Jerry the Vampire and save the girl.

Too bad Jerry the Vampire has turned Amy into this:

Any dentist's nightmare.

Of course, it’s only customary for a bad guy to dress the innocent girl up in something slutty and let her hair down and all . . . just as it’s customary for a woman’s hair to explode into a poof of insanity whenever she, herself, descends into crazytown . . . but I’d just like to remind those of you who haven’t seen this in awhile (if ever): pre-vampire, Amy’s hair looks like this:

At least in Interview with the Vampire, Claudia’s hair only magically gets super curly. It doesn’t, like, grow four freaking feet. Sweet Jesus.

Anyway. Thankfully for Charley, Amy can still be saved if the vampire who turned her is killed before dawn. This doesn’t seem to be true for Evil Ed—although, to be honest, I’m not really sure why—and Peter, after running away and completely abandoning Charley, is forced to stake Evil. I swear, it takes like eight years for Evil to die, but when he finally goes still, Peter removes the stake from his body and returns to help Charlie. (Peter also manages to kill Jerry the Vampire’s non-human servant, who awesomely erupts into bright green goo. The goo is fantastic—I will never knock goo—but I admit, my curiosity was sadly unanswered. I wanted Billy to be a specific type of monster, not just an impervious-to-bullets gooball. And . . . crap. Now, I want to write an angry, I-hate-my-ex-boyfriend song entitled, “Dear You Impervious-to-Bullets Gooball.” I really gotta stop working on these reviews at four in the morning.)

Charley finally manages to kill Jerry the Vampire . . . by breaking all the windows in his basement, like, why do you have 8,000 windows in your basement anyway? The morning sunshine burns Jerry alive . . . but doesn’t burn Amy because . . . well . . . er . . . maybe the sun hadn’t quite finished rising yet? I kind of thought that “kill Jerry by dawn” meant “kill Jerry by the time the sun started to rise” but I guess not cause Amy’s human and short-haired again, and all is well in the land of Oz.

At the very end, Peter Vincent is back on television, Amy and Charley are back to making out in his bedroom, and Evil Ed is heard laughing hysterically from Jerry the Vampire’s house . . . presumably because when Peter took the stake out of Evil’s chest, he came back to life . . . er, undead life. That’s old school, right there. Excellent.

My hope? Evil and Charley kill each other, and Amy goes to find a man who pays attention to her . . . or at least doesn’t get her kidnapped and turned into a vampire, even temporarily.

Conclusion:

Enjoyable little horror-comedy. I’m not sure there was anything that wowed me, but I had fun watching it, and I really liked Roddy McDowall a lot.

Grade:

B

Moral:

If you think your next door neighbor is a vampire, don’t try to tell anybody. Wait for his non-human servant to go to Starbucks, break into the house, and stake the fucker. Then burn his body, go back to your own house, and pay attention to your girl when she’s busy undressing for you.

Or: just pay attention to your woman, Charley!

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10 Responses to “Welcome to Fright Night, For Real!”

  1. Susan says:

    i was afraid to read this in case you didn’t like it.
    i hate evil ed!
    if you can get your hands on fright night part II you might enjoy it. it’s a little campier, and there are some annoying vampires wearing lots of makeup and roller skates but otherwise it’s not a bad sequel at all, but nowhere near as extremely awesome as the original. i use to have the dvd of part II but in a moment of insanity i sold it on ebay for $60…they’ll probably reissue it when the remake comes out, i hope.

  2. Doesn’t that suck? I hate when you find someone you love to talk about movies with, only to discover that there’s this one film that, like, changed your life or something that this person completely and utterly detested. Some opinions are harder to shrug off than others.

    I might try out Fright Night II sometime. I had read that it wasn’t very good, but maybe I’ll give it a whirl if I ever come across it : )

    • Susan says:

      I heard mixed reviews of II. I never saw that one until a few years ago. A very trusted horror movie expert friend of mine said it was actually a great sequel, so I started looking for it. FYE was still open around here, I bought a USED copy for $49.99(with store credit, gift cards and a coupon), knowing that I could watch it and probably resell it for a lot more. I ended up making money off the ebay sale, but now I wish I kept the movie. Charley still doesn’t pay attention to his (new)women, but she comes in handy eventually. The vampires are so trendy, sexed up, and 80′s that they are sort of annoying, but it works I guess. Like I said they wear too much makeup, one of them is a roller skating transexual-looking Michael Jackson wannabe, which is just weird.
      Also “Lazlo” from Real Genius is in it, which is cool.
      I can’t wait for the remake!

  3. Macabre says:

    I really, really want to see this movie. I think I’d like it a lot. I have an affection for anything 80′s. Horror comedies are tricky, though. Usually I either love them or hate them. There’s very rarely a middle ground.

  4. Fatpie42 says:

    The morning sunshine burns Jerry alive . . . but doesn’t burn Amy because . . . well . . . er . . .

    If I remember correctly, the idea was that it kills the vampire first, so she goes back to being human again before it has a chance to affect her too much.

    • I think that would work better for me if Jerry got staked, but it seems like the sunlight would hit both him and Amy pretty much at the same time. But it’s not like a big issue for me or anything. I won’t knock it any serious points for that : )

  5. Emeraldus says:

    Wow, I didn’t know David Tennant was doing Roddy McDowell’s role in the remake, definitely gotta see it now!

    Before William Ragsdale was Useless Gary, he had his own show on FOX called Herman’s Head. Didn’t run really long but it was amusing. An useless bit of trivia…

    OH, and you really need to do a review of Return of the Living Dead. It’s on the Watch Instantly portion of Netflix if you happen to have Netflix. It’s my favorite comedy zombie movie.

    • Never heard of Herman’s Head. I’ll have to look it up.

      I have actually never seen Return of the Living Dead, but it’s on the list, I swear. I hope I like it. It SEEMS like the kind of movie I’d like, but that’s what I thought before I watched Dead Alive too. So you never know.

      • Fatpie42 says:

        You suggest here that you didn’t like Jackson’s “Braindead”. I can kinda guess what sorts of reasons you might have had (and I’m wondering whether I haven’t seen the review, even though it’s not in your index). Braindead has a lot of ideas crammed into it and a few scenes (like when he takes the zombie baby out in the pram, or where the priest kicks arse) are absolutely hilarious. However, the movie is awkward and jarring in places. There’s some toilet humour and a few bits are more sick than funny. While this is the whole point, it’s still hard for the audience to follow why he doesn’t just slice up his zombie mother, or at least finish her living dead victims.

        Return of the Living Dead isn’t outrageous like “Braindead”. It’s very silly, but in a more fun way. Braindead seemed genuinely scary in a lot of places to me, whereas I think Return of the Living Dead is much more focussed on the comedy. I find it hard to say that it’s funnier because some parts of Braindead had me in stitches, but perhaps it’s fairer to say it’s more consistently funny. Certainly, I didn’t really have Braindead on my mind when I found myself saying that “Return of the Living Dead” was my favourite horror comedy of all time towards the end of last year. (And that was after I’d just seen “Re-Animator”, which is probably a better choice for comparison.)

  6. Never wrote a review of Braindead. I don’t remember everything I didn’t like about it, just that I found it kind of repetitive and dull overall. I know I didn’t think it was scary—although I wasn’t expecting it to be. I did laugh really hard at the priest, though. I remember thinking he was hysterical.

    I’m definitely going to try Return of the Living Dead sometime. I just hope it doesn’t end up being one of those movies that everyone loves and I find kind of . . . eh.

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