FRIGHT NIGHTMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
On the liner notes for the new DVD edition of this classic vampire flick, writer/director Tom Holland (CHILD'S PLAY, PSYCHO II) refers to his creation as a "'boy who cried wolf' updated for 1985." For the most part, he accomplished just that.
Our young hero and wolf-crying boy, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale: SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT, FRIGHT NIGHT II, THE REAPING), is a high school student more concerned with making out with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse: THE DOOM GENERATION) than making grades. However, just when Amy's ready to do the deed with him, something else catches his interest - his neighbor next door is entertaining a young lady.
As Charley looks on, the neighbor grows a healthy set of fangs and goes to bite the young lady on the neck. Before he makes contact, however, he sees Charley and draws down the shade. The next day, the same young lady is found dead.
And so begins the wolf-crying, for Charley's new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon: THE SENTINEL, CHILD'S PLAY, WHISPERS, THE RESURRECTED, DARK TIDE, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, TERMINAL JUSTICE, TEMPTRESS, THE VAMPYRE WARS, TALES FROM THE CRYPT: BORDELLO OF BLOOD, ROAD ENDS, THE REAPER) is indeed a vampire. Unfortunately nobody believes Charley; not Amy, not his mom, and not the cops. Charley first turns to his friend, an occult fiend named Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, who starred in 976-EVIL and MOON 44 before moving on to gay pornography), to find out how to fight a vampire. But even Ed doesn't believe him, and Dandridge's henchman, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark: HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY, THE BONE COLLECTOR), makes it tough for Charley to just bust on in and find evidence or kill Dandridge.
After a fight and a brush with death, Charley attempts to enlist the help of Peter Vincent, "The Great Vampire Killer" (Roddy McDowall: PLANET OF THE APES, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, EMBRYO). The only problem is Peter Vincent is just a movie character cum host of late-night b-movies on a local cable channel and Charley isn't smart enough to figure this out, despite the fact that he's a high school student (one of the iffy parts of the flick).
Fortunately for Charley, Vincent has just been fired and is desperate for a check. When Amy and Ed recruit him to simply disprove Charley's nonsensical accusations, he reluctantly agrees.
And thus the fun begins. Unfortunately, Charley not only has to figure out how to save his own hide but Amy's as well. Turns out she looks very much like an old lover of Dandridge's (heavy shades of DRACULA, anyone?), which they discover by finding an old oil painting. And once Dandridge bites Amy and begins to turn her Charley must hurry, for unless Dandridge dies by dawn, Amy will be lost forever.
Overall, FRIGHT NIGHT is a highly enjoyable movie. While Charley Brewster often comes off as a clumsy idiot, it's easy to root for him, especially as he seems to come to his senses later in the film. McDowall turns in a great performance as the has-been ham turned vampire-killer-for-real, and Sarandon plays the seductive bad guy with style. The fight scenes are compelling and fun, and Holland explores a lot of vampire lore such as crosses, holy water, and invitations to enter households.
The makeup effects are also very well done. Visual effects supervisor John Bruno (POLTERGEIST, THE ABYSS) obviously has little problem working with makeup and prosthetics, for the vampires look great. Not only does he hand Sarandon a set of fangs, but when the shit really hits the fan and the vampires shift to full-blown evil mode, they look downright nasty with their gaping maws full of dripping teeth. And Bearse, who normally falls somewhere between frowsy and attractive, looks damn hot with her red wig and vampire kit. No sign of "chicken legs" Marcy from her later Married, With Children days here. There are also two transformation scenes featuring a wolf and a bat, and while the wolf is definitely the better looking of the two, the bat scene holds its own.
It's great to see they've put this flick out on DVD, and I'm glad to have it in my collection. I give FRIGHT NIGHT four shriek girls.