Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fright Night (1985)

3/4

Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark

Rated R (probably for Vampire Violence and Gore, Language and Some Sexuality)

"Fright Night" is like "Kick-Ass" or "Shoot 'Em Up."  It wants to be a genre movie while at the same time winking at its clich├ęs and genre conventions.  While not as clever as "Kick-Ass" or as action-packed as "Shoot 'Em Up," "Fright Night" is still a lot of fun.  It's spooky, it's funny, and has some perfectly gruesome makeup.

Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) is your average teenager.  He isn't the best student and would rather cut class than go, has a girlfriend named Amy (Bearse) who isn't ready to sleep with him, and watches too much TV, especially "Fright Night," a "Creature Double Feature"-ish show hosted by "vampire killer" Peter Vincent (McDowell).  Charley has a new neighbor moving in next door, which he is perfectly happy about after he gets to spy on said neighbor with a hooker.  When one of the women visiting said neighbor turns up dead (and after seeing a nasty set of fangs and claws), he suspects the horrible truth: his neighbor, a studly man named Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon), is a vampire.

While William Ragsdale is totally adorable (in a boy next door sort of way), the real star of the show is Chris Sarandon.  His vampire is wickedly awesome.  With a constant smirk and total knowledge about how to push Charley's buttons, he's despicably evil yet tons of fun to watch.  It's really hard to get that creepy/funny tone right, and a lot of "Fright Night's" success in that respect is because of Sarandon's delicious performance.

His co-star, Roddy McDowell, is very good as the TV host who isn't as brave as he initially appears to be.  When confronted with a "real" vampire, the so-called "vampire killer" freaks.  It's all an act, and Charley knows it, but who else is he going to turn to when no one else believes him?

I liked what I saw in "Fright Night."  But I wanted more.  I wanted a stronger story, more cool monsters, and especially, more Jerry.  In that sense, it's like "The Lost Boys," another vampire movie that came out a few years later.  The premise is good and the set-up is strong that when the movie concludes we're left thinking, "That's it?"

Still, I enjoyed myself immensely watching this movie.  Horror buffs would do well to check this one out.

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