Retro Review: Fright Night (1985)

Before there was Buffy, pimply-faced Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) discovers that he has a vampire (Chris Sarandon) living next to him.

No body believes him and Charlie decides he needs to recruit television personality and vampire hunter, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) to stop the “lord of the undead”.

“Fright Night” is probably one of the best vampire films ever made, that sadly nobody saw. The film has such a simple premise and has such great execution. Sometimes that is all you need. But what makes the film so enjoyable seems to be its simplicity.

Roddy McDowell is brilliant as the washed-up TV personality. It is probably one of his best roles to date, besides his breakthrough role in Planet of the Apes.

I also really liked Chris Sarandon who is brilliant here. Chris’s work here would get him ready for comedy in The Princess Bride as well as tackle Chucky in the original Child’s Play.

Ragsdale is capable as Charlie but mostly forgettable, kinda like Zach Galligan in Gremlins or Waxwork. Zach, who?

I really liked Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, Charlie’s slowly turning psychotic friend. That character should be a part of the classic horror lexicon.

The movie also stars the forgettable and bland Amanda Bearse as Charlie’s naive and self-centered girlfriend. Here is a bit of trivia, Stephen and Amanda played boyfriend-girlfriend in the romp, Fraternity Vacation that same year co-starring Tim Robbins and Barbara Crampton.

What is amazing about the film is its perfect blending of horror and spoof. And it delivers in spades on both accounts.

The comedy from McDowell and Geoffreys and the horror from Sarandon. This is a movie worth seeking out.

So Says the Soothsayer.

Extra Note: The sequel to this 1985 hit, Fright Night Part 2, in some ways out does the original but just can’t maintain the humor and horror balance as well. The film also marks one of the last great performances by the late Roddy MacDowell. It also features a dynamite performance by Julie Carmen as Regime, the vampiress seeking revenge on Charlie Brewster and Roddy MacDowell. There is a remake of Fright Night coming in 2011 starring Colin Farrell. But you and I know there will be no laughs in that remake.

FRIGHT NIGHT: 4 out of 5
LOST BOYS: 4 out of 5
NEAR DARK: 4 out of 5
SALEM’S LOT (1979): 4 out of 5
SALEM’S LOT (2004): 2 out of 5

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