For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Horror-Comedy Films here’s a review of Fright Night (1985) by David of BluePrint: Review.
Thanks again to Aaron Neuwirth of the Code is Zeek for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Paul of the People’s Movies and we will be reviewing our favorite Loners in Film.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Mar by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Paul!
Let’s see what David thought of this movie:
Director: Tom Holland
Screenplay: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys
Running Time: 106 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
Halloween might have been and gone and Christmas is around the corner, but Eureka have gone against the grain to choose the Holiday season to re-release a cult classic horror favourite, 1985’s Fright Night on Blu-Ray (with a dual format edition to follow in April). Written and directed by Tom Holland, it was popular enough to not only spawn a sequel in 1988, but also a remake in 2011 starring Colin Farrell, Richard Tennant and the late Anton Yelchin. When the remake came out I wanted to see the original first, but never got around to it, so never saw either. So this re-release gave me the perfect chance to play catch up.
Fright Night sees typical teenager Charlie (William Ragsdale) grow suspicious of his new next door neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). After seeing him and his lodger Billy (Jonathan Stark) carrying a coffin into their house in the middle of the night, he’s sure something isn’t right. Then he sees a fanged Jerry seducing young women who turn up dead and thinks he spots him turning from a bat into a man. So Charlie is certain his neighbour is a vampire. Unfortunately no one believes him of course, so it’s up to him to put an end to his reign of terror. His girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t believe him either, but are worried about his sanity and what he might do to his ‘innocent’ neighbour. So the two team up to help prove Jerry is human and the only way they can think of to do this is to enlist the support of washed up horror star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), of whom Charlie is a massive fan. Meanwhile, Jerry and Billy do their best to mess with Charlie and take the three youngsters and cowardly old actor out of the equation.
I had a lot of fun with the film. It gets the perfect balance between comedy and horror. It may not be side-splittingly hilarious or pant-wettingly scary, but it’s consistently entertaining and has enough tension and gore to keep fright fans happy. Added to this, the film does a pretty good job of handling the coming of age teen movie elements in the first half, as Charlie and Amy go through some relationship problems (she wants to finally lose her virginity, but he keeps getting distracted by the Jerry situation). The three young characters are pretty believable despite the setting and very likeable (other than Ed who’s a bit annoying). This gives what happens later on a lot more emotional impact as well as helping deliver the comedy.
Holland is clearly a horror movie fan, as the film pays homage to classic Universal monster movies and Hammer horrors, particularly in the clips of Peter Vincent’s cheesy movies we see. These are hosted on a late night TV show by the man himself, mimicking those similar screened on American TV back in the day. There’s a line where Vincent bemoans modern horror too and how it’s all just “demented maniacs butchering young virgins” (or something along those lines).
The film really goes to town on the make-up and special effects sequences too. Although a couple of elements here and there have dated, on the whole the gory scenes are highly effective. These are largely in the latter half of the film when the horror side really takes over. An icky reverse transformation and gooey melting sequence are particularly impressive.
More importantly, in terms of delivering the full package, the characters are very strong too. They’re all a little larger than life. Even Charlie’s mum (Dorothy Fielding) is quirky, being a little too outspoken in front of her son. Vincent is especially over the top, so almost doesn’t fit with the rest of the cast, but his campiness matches his character perfectly and he’s so much fun it works a treat.
It’s a film that simultaneously feels of its time and is timeless too. It still delivers, despite the high concept typical of 80’s movies and the inherent dated fashions etc. A dance seduction scene in a nightclub screams 1980’s for instance, but still feels pretty hot and convincing. Brad (The Terminator) Fiedel’s score is synth-heavy too, but like his most famous soundtrack it perfectly matches the mood. I also thought the film looked great, with some stylish lighting that’s moody yet colourful with neon splashes here and there to remind you of the era.
Maybe it’s never quite frightening or hilarious enough for me to give it a perfect five star review, but it’s hard to fault the film. It’s tremendously entertaining and fairly fast paced so barrels along with no down time. I’m not sure I need to watch the remake now, because I can’t see it being an improvement.