28 August 2011

Fright Night (1985)

I just finished watching the original 1985 cult classic that is Fright Night. I can see the appeal of it. It is quite an enjoyable and entertaining film. It was written and directed by Tom Holland, who was making his directorial debut. Looking into his filmography, Holland liked the horror genre. He was responsible for Psycho II, Child’s Play, and two Stephen King adaptations, the Langoliers and Thinner.

The plot is very “boy who cried wolf.” Only this time, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) cries “vampire” with similar results. Jerry (Chris Sarandon) moves in next door to Charley. Charley quickly deduces that the missing people are meeting their doom in his neighbor’s house. Charley goes to the police, but they do not believe him. His own girlfriend Amy (Amanda Peterson) and his best friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) do not believe him.

Left with no choice, Charley goes to late night movie host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) for help in how to slay a vampire. Only Vincent himself does not believe in vampires. When it becomes obvious that Charley is not lying, it is too late for some of the cast. With nothing to lose, Peter and Charley go for it all and try to kill Jerry.

Each of the actors put in a solid performance. William Ragsdale makes for a great scared teenager. It was nice to Roddy McDowall not in an ape costume. Chris Sarandon plays a great charismatic vampire. Chris is also the only one to make a cameo in the remake, and what a hilarious cameo it was. Granted, Roddy McDowall passed away back in 1998, but what was Ragsdale doing?

I had the feeling of being late to the party. Fright Night would have been a great addition to my collection back when I first saw the Evil Dead movies back in high school. Fright Night has all the appeal of a cult classic. I think that after I see it a few more times, I will have that feeling. Ronnies is showing it at midnight one weekend in October. I might have to attend. If they were smart, they would do a double-feature. All the visuals are top-notch for 1985 and very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. If you weren’t sure what decade Fright Night was made in, Brad Fiedel’s synthesizer score would be a dead giveaway.

The only problem with the original Fright Night is, I, unfortunately, have already seen the remake. I appreciate the original, but the remake takes a broad stroke approach to the plot and really takes it to the next level. Each part of the plot is taken to the max. The original was limited more by its era than by its ambitions. I truly believe that if Tom Holland was to make Fright Night now, it would be very close to the remake.

Yet, in twenty-five years, the remake could only hope to have the following of the original. Too often, the term cult classic is used too early and lightly. The original is well deserving of this tag, but the remake will most likely be forgotten after its dismal box office performance. Maybe I will see you at the midnight show in October.

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