“Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see are slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins. “
So observes Peter Vincent, Vampire Hunter, in the great horror classic Fright Night. If only he had known that worse movies were coming after that…
But back to Fright Night…
It takes a lot to make a teenage boy ignore his girlfriend who is in his bed and willing to go all the way…but seeing your neighbors move a coffin of all things into the basement might be one of the few things strange enough to do that (although probably for most teenage boys that wouldn’t be enough)…but this is the story of Charley, who was unfortunate enough to have a vampire move next door. And worse yet, his friends don’t believe him, the police don’t believe him and all he can rely on is the help of a washed up B-horror movie actor. Sucks to be Charley. Oh, and the vampire has a thing for his girlfriend.
One of the things that makes this movie so good is the vampire himself—Chris Sarandon (who also played another one of my generation’s most hated villains) as the vampire Jerry Dandrige. Nonchalant, bordering on arrogance, in almost every scene he is in, it just gives you chills at how comfortable he is at being a mass murderer. He’s evil and he doesn’t really care what you think about that. And the director does an excellent job of constantly focusing you on the fangs and blood sucking habit even when not showing them by having him constantly eating or drinking something in every scene. And thankfully someone remembered that vampires are supposed to be a symbol of sexuality. Not that Sarandon is the best looking actor in the history of the universe, but almost every scene shows him being the desire of the women in the room. (And when being turned into a vampire, the girlfriend Amy, seems to also magically go under a transformation from mousy plain Jane to near professional model looks…no explanation is really given for this transformation, especially since it seems to involve a makeup and lighting choices which should have nothing to do with becoming a vampire). And they continue the darker side of the metaphor further with several overtones of rape (as there is quite a bit of mind control and loss of willpower).
And we finally get to a vampire movie that plays by the rules. Sunlight. Stake through the heart. Needing to be invited into the house. Holy Water. Crosses. Can turn into fog, bats and wolves. It’s nice to see somebody play by all the rules.
And obviously the fear felt by Peter Vincent and Charley is a central point to this film. Vincent comes also with the fear that his whole life is nothing but a long sad joke (which may at some level be a comment on Roddy McDowall’s long career as a chimp). This near paralyzing fear permeates the second half of the film, and leads to our admiration of our two heroes as they are able to overcome their fears and defeat the vampire.
This is a classic horror film. Not exactly the greatest film of all time, but certainly one that couldn’t be improved. In fact it would be sacrilege to ever even think of redoing this movie, and if anyone even thought about it I would advocate for a total boycott of…wait…what…they did what?…Colin Farrell, are you f’ing kidding me? And that twerp who played Chekov in that other crappy remake? This means war….