‘There are some very good reasons to be afraid of the dark.’
Fright Night is a 1985 American supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Tom Holland (scriptwriter of The Beast Within; Psycho II; Scream for Help, and future director of Thinner and Child’s Play).
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While writing the script for Cloak & Dagger, Tom Holland amused himself when he conceived the idea of a horror-movie fan becoming convinced that his next door neighbor was a vampire, but he didn’t initially think this premise was enough to sustain a story. “What’s he gonna do,” Holland asked, “because everybody’s gonna think he’s mad!”
In that era, many local TV affiliates in the United States had horror hosts (perhaps the most famous are Zacherle, Svengoolie, and the nationally syndicated Elvira), so Holland decided it would be natural for the boy to seek aid from his local host. “The minute I had Peter Vincent, I had the story. Charley Brewster was the engine, but Peter Vincent was the heart.”
The film was released on August 2, 1985, and grossed $24.9 million at the US box office; the second highest-grossing horror film of the year, surpassed only by A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (interestingly, both share a homo-erotic sub-text). It was followed by a sequel, Fright Night Part 2 in 1988, and a remake in 2011, which was in turn followed by Fright Night 2: New Blood in 2013.
In 1989, the film was unofficially remade in India as Amavasai Iravil (“Moonless Night”). Set at Christmas time, this version mirrors the original film, but the Peter Vincent character’s occupation was changed to a priest.
Between 1988-1993, NOW Comics published twenty-seven Fright Night comic books. The original film was adapted as the first two issues of the series.
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Seventeen year-old Charley Brewster is a fan of both traditional horror films and a horror TV series entitled Fright Night, hosted by former movie vampire hunter Peter Vincent. One evening, Charley discovers that his new next door neighbour Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire responsible for the disappearances of several victims. Charley tries to tell his mother and asks his friends for help.
In desperation, he contacts the police, but they believe that he is imagining things and ignore his claims after he reveals his suspicions to them when he accompanies a homicide officer to Jerry’s house.
That night, Charley gets a visit from Jerry, who offers Charley a choice: forget about his vampire identity – or else. Charlie refuses, brandishing his crucifix at Jerry. When Jerry stops Charley and slowly tries to push him out the window to his death, Charlie stabs Jerry’s hand with a pencil. Enraged, Jerry destroys Charley’s car in retaliation and informs Charley that he will do much worse to him later…
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“McDowall’s performance is wickedly funny, and he must have enjoyed it, chewing the scenery on his horror-movie program and then chewing real scenery down in the vampire’s basement. Fright Night is not a distinguished movie, but it has a lot of fun being undistinguished.” Roger Ebert
“Chris Sarandon is terrific as the vampire, quite affable and debonair until his fingernails start to grow and his eyes get that glow. William Ragsdale superbly maintains due sympathy as a fairly typical youngster who can’t get anybody to believe him about the odd new neighbor next door.” Variety
“Holland embraces the most hackneyed vampire mythologies out of respect for the institution, but innovates upon them with wry humor and fresh makeup designs. Jerry’s vampire form transforms from a swingin’ ‘80s player to a red-eyed, grotesque faced creature heralding vamps from The Lost Boys and From Dusk Till Dawn.” Brian Eggert, Deep Focus Review
“The special effect are fantastic. Its all in camera, from the glory days before anyone, never mind George Romero and pals, would use CG for blood splatter. They’re gruesome, convincing and in one particular scene involving Evil Ed, help to convey deep compassion for a monster.” Kyle Scott, The Horror Hotel
“Perhaps the best of the 1980s vampires-in-the-‘burbs flicks makes fine use of all the conventions of the sub-genre and combines them with first-rate effects.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide
“It’s dotty, a little ragged (particularly in Stephen Geoffery’s overbearing buddy who gets a vampiric makeover) and fairly tame in the shock department, but it has a wining guile. Holland injects a light tribute to the forgotten joys of traditional horror movies, the enthralling fantasy of vampires, werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster.” Ian Nathan, Empire
Peter Vincent: “Nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins.”
Cast and characters:
- Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige
- William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster
- Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson
- Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent
- Stephen Geoffreys as Edward “Evil Ed” Thompson
- Jonathan Stark as Billy Cole
- Dorothy Fielding as Judy Brewster
- Art J. Evans as Detective Lennox
In the UK, Eureka released a dual format Blu-ray + DVD on 10 April 2017.