Fright Night (1988)
By: Lauren Monaghan on July 13, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Sony (USA). Region 2 & 4, PAL 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 1.0, German DD 2.0, Italian DD 2.0, Spanish DD 2.0. English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Greek, Finnish, Danish, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish Subtitles. 102 minutes
The Movie
Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall
Screenplay: Tom Holland
Music: Brad Fiedel
Tagline: If you love being scared, it'll be the night of your life
Country: USA
Take a former child actor and a future gay porn star, mix in Marcy D'Arcy from Married with Children and that non-descript dude from Herman's Head, douse in a bit of blood and a helping of slime and – tada! – you have yourself the 80s vamp-tacular that is Fright Night.

Now don't be put off – if horror/comedy blends usually aren't your thing, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised by this subtle little gem, which manages to mix witty, self-reflexive humour with some pretty satisfying special effects makeup and gags, all whilst delivering the goods with a solidly entertaining plot.

Written and directed by Tom Holland, who would later pull the same double duty with 1988's Child's Play, Fright Night tells the tale of teenage horror movie fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is more than just a little bit suspicious of his new next door neighbour, whose arrival coincides perfectly with the disappearance, and later headless reappearance, of some local pretty ladies.

Charley's late-night voyeuristic tendencies soon reveal that, much like a creature out of his favourite late night films, the new Mr Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) has himself quite the pointy set of fangs and some rather freaky phalanges to go along with them – unusual sets of appendages that rather scream "bloodsucking creature of the night".

Unsurprisingly, the "my neighbour's a vampire, help me out" schpeel doesn't go over so well with girlfriend Amy (the so-very-not-a-teenager, Amanda Bearse), nor with buddy Evil Ed (one time genre fave Stephen Geoffreys, last seen exercising his talents in films like Butt Blazer and Latin Crotch Rockets), and needless to say, the authorities are likewise unimpressed with Charley's accusations of coffins in the basement and drained bodies in the trash. With nowhere else to turn, our hapless hero seeks the help of over-the-hill horror star and hammy television host Peter Vincent (played to the tee by Roddy McDowall), who, unfortunately for Charley, has apparently only ever got the "fear" part of his "fearless vampire killer" rep down pat. Together the bumbling duo must face Dandridge, rescue Amy from his seductive clutches and ultimately put an end to his evil, evil ways (or if nothing else, put a stop to his booming, booming voice).

Not really being alive back then I can't say for certain, but I would have imagined Fright Night being, at the time of its release, a rather refreshing change for horror fans. Made at a time when the slasher genre was in full swing and vampire films were somewhat of a dying breed, Holland's tale was an attempt to resurrect all things undead and bloodsucking in the eyes of a modern audience – and a successful attempt at that if all the movie related merchandise is to go by, ranging from comic books to video games, and including a series of those cool little paint-it-yourself plaster mould thingies which I'd consider selling my soul for (or at the very least a big toe – who needs balance anyway?).

Popular upon its release, Fright Night still rates high on the interest-holding scale today. Though it does build to its climax slowly – relying on solid story telling and good old fashioned suspense before letting loose the action – there's still lots to keep you entertained: a bit of gay subtext, some tearful man-to-werewolf bonding, the unexplainable yet mesmerising twitching and giggling of Evil, who by the end of the film will have you reaching for the Ritalin by proxy…

Once we hit the home stretch, though, Fright Night moves into more fast paced territory, managing to deliver a few good scares and a bunch of decent practical gags, not the least of which is one character's makeover complete with a truly new and killer smile (you'll think back on this and laugh, trust me).

The only fault I can find with this film is a brief moment of the plot-not-making-sense variety: though Charley is such a big genre fan, he seems desperate for whatever vampire-related information his whacky pal Evil can provide him. It seems like only a minor point, but when you think about it, it actually kind of undermines the whole set up of the film which Holland describes as a modern "boy who cried wolf" tale (horror obsessed guy can't get people to believe him when his life truly becomes horror movie-like). Oh well, more screen time for the twitchity one, I suppose.
After originally seeing a ratty old VHS copy of Fright Night, this clear, 2.35:1 DVD presentation is a sight for sore eyes. A minor complaint is that the film is maybe just this side of being too bright, lending it a bit of that faded, washed-out look – but this shouldn't be too concerning, and all other visual aspects are A-OK.
Fright Night gets the 5.1 Dolby Digital treatment, adding an extra oomph to its scares and letting you rock out properly to its poppy, oh-so-80s soundtrack.
Extra Features
The DVD release is kind of disappointing extras wise, particularly if you're a fan of the film and were expecting something special. There's the trailer for the movie, which I wouldn't advise watching until after the feature, since it takes it upon itself to reveal the whole story, complete with details of the ending. There's also a small number of talent profiles which apparently haven't been updated in the last 20 years… and that's about it. Oh, and you can read or watch the movie in pretty much every language under the sun, which can be rather amusing… you know, if it's three in the morning and you're drunk off your ass. (And one more thing – don't get wrongfully excited like I did about the listed "picture disc" special feature. I now know this just means they're going to use the DVD disc itself to go all spoilery on you, having plastered one of the film's key "shock" moments all over that sucker).
The Verdict
Fright Night is awesome if fun 80s horror is your thing, and should remain a must-see even if it isn't. Though a little cheesy, this atmospheric and well-written movie still kicks the pants off most modern day vampire films. Points deducted for lack-lustre treatment in the DVD release department.
Movie Score
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