Halloween Retro 101: Fright Night

“If you love being scared, it’ll be the night of your life.”

That was the tag line from the original 1985 film, Fright Night. While the movie isn’t as scary as other horror movies from that time (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and A New Beginning), it does offer something different to lovers of that genre.

It’s fun.

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Fright Night begins with Charlie Brewster, a mild mannered teenager who’s true loves are his girlfriend and watching the TV horror show, ‘Fright Night.’ The show is narrated by horror actor Peter Vincent, played incredibly well by Roddy McDowall. Vincent killed many a vampire in his movies. As Charlie looks out his window one night, Fright Night playing ominously in the background, he notices the new neighbor bringing in a casket to the basement. As he investigates further, it is revealed that his neighbor is really a vampire, played remarkably well by Chris Sarandon. By the time that Charlie learns this, his time is already running thin – for each night that goes by, the vampire, Jerry Dandridge, hunts for him.

Fright Night is a pleasure to watch because it’s greatly about the joy of horror movies. Fright Night was the first film that kept you aware of the rules when dealing with a vampire, such as: a vampire can only enter your house when invited, you have to believe in a cross if it’s going to use it, and a vampire has no reflection in a mirror. It is obvious that writer/director Tom Holland loves this genre. He playfully lays out all the rules in an ever turning plot, as Charlie and Peter must navigate through this tricky world of the undead.

One of the best things about Fright Night is that it is pure 80’s. If you lived in that era as I did, the clothes, the music, the hair are all a retro trip in themselves. And the film resembles the times: the eighties were fun. Fright Night never takes itself too seriously, echoing that time in history as well. You’ll never see a gray leather trench coat worn with so much style.

The scares are in line with the general feeling of the movie as well. They are playful and a little tongue-in-cheek. Watching the film, I was taken back, seeing monsters without the aid of CGI. In Fright Night, they are charming with their terrible teeth and hand crafted construction. In all, the creatures still hold up considerably well on screen after almost thirty years. Today, I find that the seamless art of computer graphics is too much at times. In Fright Night, we are given the opposite – creatures full of imperfections. And that’s the beauty of them.

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In 2011, Fright Night was remade, but there is no comparison. If you haven’t seen the original, I highly recommend you do. The spirit of the film will not disappoint. It might not be the night of your life, but it will be lots of fun.

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  • Got to see a great DCP of this during the Columbus horror marathon last weekend. Sensational popcorn movie – it was much better than I’d remembered it.