Charley Brewster is a normal red blooded American male with a healthy fascination with horror movies. When he isn’t trying to get into his girlfriend’s pants, he’s watching the local late night horror show “Fright Night”, hosted by the famous vampire hunter Peter Vincent. One of those late nights, he notices something weird happening next door. His new neighbors are moving their stuff in… but this isn’t normal stuff. Amongst the crates and boxes is a coffin, and it goes straight into the basement. Suspecting something is up, he keeps a closer eye on the situation. When a girl he sees going into the house and later through a window being seduced by the neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), ends up a victim of murder on the 11 o’clock news, he starts to realize that his new next door neighbor might be a vampire.
Charley (Herman’s Head star William Ragsdale) tries to enlist the only person that he knows that can handle a vampire, and that person is the famous vampire hunter himself – Peter Vicent (Roddy McDowall)! Unfortunately, Mr. Vincent thinks Charley is a little too cuckoo for coco-puffs, so it takes a little more persuading from Charley’s girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and close friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) to help humor him. See, they think Charley is going a little crazy themselves, but if they go along with his plan maybe they can convince Charley that he’s worrying about nothing. Well, it ends up taking a whole lot of convincing, but after Evil is turned into a vampire, Amy and Vincent start taking Charley’s claims seriously. The problem is that Vincent isn’t a vampire slayer, he just plays one on TV! When Amy is seduced by Jerry’s charm as well, it’s going to take a lot more than some garlic and wooden stakes to get her back.
Fright Night is another one of those great horror/comedies much like Night of the Comet that strikes a perfect balance of not being too goofy, but not taking itself too seriously either. The special effects are top notch, and one of my favorite scenes is Evil Ed’s transformation from a wolf back to his human form. I’m also impressed every time I watch this movie at how true it stays to the whole vampire mythos. This is one of the few movies for this site that my wife has actually watched with me, and when she asked me questions about why the coffins were filled with dirt, why Evil Ed was a wolf, or why Jerry had to be invited into Charley’s house, I could be smug and explain all these different legends and abilities surrounding vampires. Thanks for that, Fright Night!
The entire cast does a great job at immersing you into this situation. William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell are great. They initially play these intimidated characters (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be intimidated by a nearly invincible being like a vampire) who eventually, with the power of faith – become almost invincible themselves. Chris Sarandon plays the charming vampire to a T, and you can see after watching this film why Stephen Geoffreys was such a sought after commodity in horror – even if his career choices led him down a less glamorous path. Also, while I don’t normally find Amanda Bearse attractive, she was pretty damned hot later in the movie especially with the long hair!
If you can overlook a goofy new wave dance scene near the last half of the movie, you should have no problem loving Fright Night. It paces itself perfectly, and feels like it’s the exactly the right length. It seems to hit right in that sweet spot of 80’s films that are scary and funny at the same time, and that just adds to the enjoyment of it. If you’re a fan of movies and special effects for this time period (and let’s face it, if you’re reading the reviews on this site, you probably are), then Fright Night is perfect for you. Fright Night gets 4 “You’re so cool, Brewster!”s out of 5.