Fright Night really deserves 10 out of 10 because I have rarely seen a film as delightfully entertaining as this. Of all the vampire films to have been released in the 1980’s, this one remains the most fun. Admittedly, The Lost Boys is a more striking film, superbly visualised and often as brilliant as it was trashy, but Fright Night is possibly the better of the two. For a start, the script is excellent: not a line is wasted, the plot is constantly engaging, fast-paced and very lively, while the characters are wonderfully likable…even the vampires.
The central premise is a total winner: young Charley Brewster (a nice, amusingly frustrated performance by William Ragsdale) is convinced that his neighbour Jerry Dandridge, played with sleek, seductive and charismatic brilliance by Chris Sarandon, is a vampire. Of course, no one believes him: the police think he’s bonkers, and his girlfriend Amy and best buddy ‘Evil’ Ed aren’t taking him too seriously. So what next? Well, get the ‘great, fearless vampire killer’ Peter Vincent, presenter of tacky horror movie show ‘Fright Night’ to take care of business, obviously. What Charley is surprised to learn is that Vincent doesn’t actually believe in vampires either. Meanwhile, his bloodsucking neighbour is getting rather annoyed at this young lad arousing all of this suspicion…. so begins Fright Night….for real…
Great characters and great performances are a dream match, and luckily Fright Night has more than a few winning pairs in that department. Chris Sarandon may very well be my favourite ever screen vampire, though Kiefer Sutherland’s marvellous creature of the night in The Lost Boys is more than a worthy rival. Sarandon is smooth, but not slimy: you can see why the ladies fall for him, yet he’s cool enough for the guys to want to fall in with too. He’s witty, funny, and even gets away with some dodgy 80’s fashion selections now and then. His polar opposites are wonderfully represented by the awkward, affable and hopeless in comparison character of Charley: his plight and terrifying predicament is beautifully encapsulated by Ragsdale’s splendid performance. He makes a convincing wanabee hero, while Roddy McDowall is a masterstroke of casting as Peter Vincent: he’s a fraudulent ‘hero’ who must actually become what he’s been pretending to be for all his career, and his transformation is brilliantly goofy and amusingly mishap-stricken.
As Charley’s friends, Amanda Bearse is likable as the virginal, sweet Amy, and her eventual descent into vampirism adds an exciting spin to the story. Stephen Geoffreys performance as ‘Evil’ Ed remains one of those classic one-off treats of 80’s cinema. Sounding like the offspring of Neil Young and that dude with the weird voice from the Police Academy films, he makes for a terrific comic foil to the undead action, yet the film doesn’t leave him out of the ghoulish action when he too becomes seduced by the temptations of the night. Also very good is Jonathan Stark as Jerry’s housemate, who also adds a further element of ambiguity to Jerry’s sexuality, as these two seem rather close! Fright Night is something of a classic, a classic in the way that other fantastic 80’s staples of entertainment like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future are, and despite its ’18’ certificate, isn’t really that gory or horrific (it’d easily be ’15’ rated film if it got released today). There are many cracking scenes, especially Charley’s first encounter with the ‘real’ Jerry, the vampire test at Jerry’s house, and best of all, the nightclub sequence, which features more blue disco lighting, splendidly poppy 80’s music and Sarandon smoothness than you can shake a stake at. The ending is one of the best extended confrontations I’ve seen in a horror film, taking up nearly a quarter of the plot and delivering the whole platter of what’s to be gleefully expected in this kind of film: bats, coffins, gooey special effects and the widest set of fangs I’ve seen in a film since Jaws.
Fright Night is one of the very best slices of fun from the 1980’s. If you love being entertained, this could very well be the night of your life…..