Good Reasons To Be Afraid Of The Dark: A Review Of Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night (1985) review:

We here at Yell! Magazine are awfully big on vampire films, but only the good ones. That’s why we’re dedicated to bringing you coverage on both versions of Fright Night. Today we’re going to plunge straight into the jugular of Fright Night, before 3D – that’s right, the original 1985 version.

Fright Night 1985 picture

The year was 1985; the hair was bouffant, the slang tubular, and the teenagers horny. The latter point is only proved by how the film starts out. Horror movie obsessed Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale, Herman’s Head, Justified) is caught between a rock and a hard place (wink wink) when he fools around with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse, Married With Children). He tries to go a little too far for the lady’s liking and they have a tiff; after Charley eloquently complains about a terrible struggle with blue balls, she offers herself up, but the young master’s attention is drawn away all too quick by the intriguing sight of a team of movers carrying a coffin through the yard next door. Amy leaves in a huff and Charley’s mother informs him that there’s a new man (Chris Sarandon, Nightmare Before Christmas) moving in next door. I was surprised that he didn’t say, “Thanks, Captain Obvious!”

Fright Night 1985 picture

The next day a beautiful young blonde woman happens upon Charley in his yard and he redirects her to the house next door. Later that evening, he hears a foreboding scream. The woman later turns up in the evening news in no condition to do what young Charley probably wanted to. He and Amy nearly reconcile, but he’s so disturbed by the TV news that she huffs away, but not before cramming some poor young man’s sandwich into Charley’s face. This is the first time that we are introduced to Evil Ed’s (Stephen Geoffreys, 976-EVIL) hyena-like laughter. For years, Evil Ed has been endearing himself to horror fans or making them want to curbstomp him in short order. Personally, I’ve always felt his stupidity is a little charming, myself. If this is your first viewing of Fright Night (1985), I recommend a pair of earplugs for every time Ed is on screen if you’re so inclined.

Fright Night (1985)

Charley tries to investigate the house next door but is shut down stone cold by what appears to be the new neighbor’s toady – or lover, as Charley’s mom thinks. The caretaker Billy (Jonathan Stark, According to Jim) tells him under no uncertain terms to scram. That evening, Charley is awoken and treated to a peep show that was probably created the first confused feelings in many boys (and girls) in 1985. There’s some bare breast action that Charley seems really into before Jerry Dandridge spies him from across the way – but only right after he’s sunk his teeth into the nubile young woman’s flesh. Charley bolts from the room and does the only acceptable thing that every teenaged boy would do in that situation; wakes his mom up to tell her that the neighbors have murdered someone. His mother treats his paranoia with hot cocoa, but it’s still not enough to keep Charley’s crazy ‘conspiracy theories’ at bay.

He calls the police the next morning which proves uneventful, as Charley’s web of paranoia spins out of control. He gets Evil Ed in on the action and proves so insistent that Amy goes as far to hire washed up TV personality (and Charley’s person hero) Peter Vincent (the incomparable Roddy McDowall) to do some ‘vampire slaying’, although one thing quickly becomes certain: Charley has found himself a real live vampire who is EXTREMELY pissed off at certain meddling kids, despite Evil Ed’s scoldings of “There are no such thing as vampires, fruitcake!” They all get a little more than they bargained for in the end and make this film a sweet ride along the way.

Fright Night 1985 picture

Despite the fact that the original Fright Night was made in 1985 and can be expected to be somewhat dated in hairstyle, clothing, slang, etcetera – it still makes for a timeless classic that will resonate deeply with horror fans – specifically those riding the waves of vampire craze these days, if there are any of you left. I know that Twilight has soured so many former vampire fans on the entire bloodsucker genre, but don’t be discouraged – watching this film will give you a glimmer of hope that things CAN change in that arena for the better. There are no outrageous gimmicks in this story; it’s classic vamp all the way and heralds some extremely pleasing results as the end product.

This is a story driven film that isn’t heavy on blood and gore. It mostly relies on elements of good old fashioned mind fuckery, executed wonderfully by Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige. He comes across as exactly the sort of man who you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a game of cat and mouse with. Roddy McDowall and Chris Sarandon effortlessly pull together the cast to make the movie what it is. McDowall’s portrayal of Peter Vincent balances out some of the more serious elements and provides a few solid chuckles. Being that the film was made in 1985, the special effects aren’t as great as most modern movie goers are accustomed to, but the vampires don’t sparkle. Isn’t that a good enough selling point?

Fright Night 1985 picture

Another selling point is the sheer nostalgia on the T&A front. Aside from the boob action that I mentioned above, there’s also what may be an infamous seduction scene at a nightclub. Amanda Bearse channels Marcy Darcy like you’ve never seen her before, all to the beat of dark ’80s synthpop. More importantly than the overt sexuality in the film is how far it pushes the story along and what it does to reinforce the idea that vampires can be both seductive and creepy, without making it as sleazy as it could have been or making the two mutually exclusive.

Fright Night 1985 picture

If you’re looking for a good vamp flick or just looking to see how Fright Night 3D (in theaters August 19) stacks up to the original, you’ve come to the right source. As something of an elitist, I think I can already say which version I prefer despite the all-star cast in the upcoming film. The bottom line is that this is a substantial retro popcorn flick that’s perfect for hazy summer night viewing and will serve horror fans well for years to come.

“Nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want are demented mad men running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins!” Don’t fret, Peter Vincent. Some of us are still out there.

Check back shortly for a review on Fright Night 3D.

Fright Night (1985) Trailer

Fright Night 1985 poster
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
[rating:3.5]
Year Released:
2 August 1985
Director:
Tom Holland
Cast/Crew
Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Art Evans, Roddy McDowall, Jonathan Stark and Amanda Bearse
Genre
Horror, Thriller
Official URL:
none

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  • Mary Kirkland

    This Fright Night is still my favorite all time movie.