Written by: J. Johnson
For me the top vampire movie of the 80’s was ‘The Lost Boys’, but this one is up there with the best of them. The 80’s saw a deluge of vampire movies, so for these to stand out amongst them was no mean feat.
According to Tom Holland, the writer/director of this movie, he wanted to do a movie with ‘the boy who cried wolf’ as a theme. He also had an interest in vampire stories and so he combined these two elements to create a very enjoyable and original script. Although not entirely true to ‘the boy who cried wolf’ since Charley did not make up the story before it happened for real, the concept of the movie, that is, a teenager with an interest in B grade horror movies see’s a vampire claim a victim and cannot convince his friends of this, holds it’s audience throughout the movie.
Fright Night” is an attempt to correct that situation. It stars William Ragsdale as an impressionable teenager who becomes convinced that vampires have moved in next door. It doesn’t take a detective to figure that out. The vampires almost flaunt their unholy natures, performing weird rites in front of open windows, and disposing of the bodies of their victims in plastic garbage bags. They are safe in the knowledge that nobody believes in vampires anymore.
The kid calls the cops. The vampires have a plausible explanation for their activities. The kid claims there has to be a coffin somewhere down in the basement. The cops warn him to stop wasting their time. And then, when the vampires start getting really threatening, the kid has no place to turn – except to old Peter Vincent (McDowall), the former B-movie actor who has just been fired from his TV job as host of the local Creature Features.
The center of the movie, however, is the Roddy McDowall character, whose name, Peter Vincent, is obviously supposed to remind us of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Throw in Christopher Lee, and you’d have a quorum. McDowall’s performance is wickedly funny, and he must have enjoyed it, chewing the scenery on his horror-movie program and then chewing real scenery down in the vampire’s basement. “Fright Night” is not a distinguished movie, but it has a lot of fun being undistinguished.
The monster effects in the movie are what really grabbed me. Writer/Director Tom Holland actually remembered that vampires can transform into things other than bats, including wolves and mist. He uses this to great effect, giving you a host of gruesome creatures to chew on. I was particularly fond of the vampire-wolf transformation sequence. While I wouldn’t say it matches up to the transformations seen in An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, it was none-the-less cool.
I’m glad to finally be over my vampire boycott, and movies like Fright Night are what make me feel that way. Amidst all the gory horror effects is a sense of dark humor that lightens the mood and keeps the film nice and fun (but never all-out campy). So even if you don’t like vampires, check this one out. I doubt you’ll regret it.