Since my novels are typically about horror icons (vampires, werewolves, etc), I’ve decided to do a series of reviews of films and books in this genre, starting with the 1985 vampire classic Fright Night.
Fright Night is the story of a teenager, Charley Brewster (played by William Ragsdale), who learns that his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (played by Chris Sarandon), is a vampire. The story is simple enough, and is basically just a backdrop for some of the greatest characters you’ll ever see in a vampire movie.
Let’s start with the vampire, Jerry.
Simply put, Jerry Dandridge kicks ass. He is – without question – the perfect vampire. Jerry doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself, he doesn’t whine about his lost soul, and he most definitely doesn’t try to overcome his urge to drink blood. Jerry’s good at what he does and he appears to love it. He’s simultaneously charming and sadistic. A good example of Jerry’s charm shows when he breaks into the Brewster household and has the sense of humor to start whistling “Strangers in the Night.” A great example of his sadistic nature can be summed up with these lines: “I just destroyed your car, Charley. But that’s nothing compared to what I’m going to do to you. Tomorrow night …”
It’s just great to watch a movie with a vampire who loves being a vampire.
He also makes you really crave apples. You’ll just have to watch it to understand.
Jerry, however, doesn’t carry this movie. That’s the beauty of Fright Night. Every character is fun and interesting. You really feel Charley’s frustration as everybody around him completely disregards his claim that Jerry is a vampire. You find yourself loving and pitying Charley’s best friend, Evil Ed.
And we can’t leave out Peter Vincent. Brilliantly played by Roddy McDowall, this character is an absolutely perfect tribute to the “vampire hunters” from the old Hammer films. McDowall manages to create a character who is simultaneously funny, charming, pathetic, and sympathetic.
As a whole, Fright Night is my favorite vampire movie. It’s a horror movie and a comedy. It manages to laugh at some of the sillier elements of the genre without showing an ounce of disrespect. While funny, this movie isn’t a satire any more than Shaun of the Dead is a satire of zombie movies. Like Shaun, Fright Night embraces its genre with nothing but love and admiration, while still managing to laugh at itself.
If there is one valid criticism of this film, it’s the fact that it shows its age. This movie feels like an 80′s movie. For me, however, that simply adds to its charm.
If you’re sick of vampires who want pity more than blood, check out the original Fright Night. You won’t be disappointed.
On a side note, if you watch the 2011 remake of this movie without watching the 1985 original, you deserve to be killed by the original Jerry Dandridge.