Fright Night (1985)

Rating: C+

Dir: Tom Holland
Star: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, Amanda Bearse

In the light of the upcoming remake, interesting to look at this one and see how it has stood the test of time. The answer is not badly: while the 80’s-related aspects are now horribly dated and a huge distraction [Bearse’s hair and fashions in particular, though I’m not complaining about a soundtrack that includes both Sparks and Devo!], the core idea is still solid. Teenager Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) is convinced that new next-door neighbour Jerry Dandrige (Sarandon) is a vampire, responsible for the string of murders which have been taking place in his community. Unable to convince authorities, he turns to horror host and self-proclaimed “vampire killer” Peter Vincent (McDowall), only to find him not much help at all. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Amy (Bearse) is feeling strangely attracted to Dandrige, so can Jerry convince others of the truth and save his babe from becoming another late-night snack to the bloodsucker?

The performances are really what save this one, rescuing it from cheese: McDowall in particular is excellent, his character’s name a homage to two horror legends, either of whom you can easily imagine filling the role. While it might have been even cooler if they had, this is pretty damn good. Sarandon brings his own style to what is, largely, an old-school vamp, with an aversion to crosses, holy water, etc., along with a creepy paedophile vibe as he draws Amy in to his circle. This straightforward approach is what has helped the film last, simply pitting good against evil, and the upcoming remake [with David Tennant replacing McDowall!] seems like a good move. Richard Edlund’s effects are generally not bad for the time, though the make-up job on Amy is not up to the rest of the FX work.