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Fright Night

Fright Night

By Patrick Samuel • March 26th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Columbia Pictures

Original release: August 2nd, 1985
Running time: 106 minutes

Writer and director: Tom Holland
Composer: Brad Fiedel

Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall

Fright Night

We like to think we know everything, don’t we? It would be far too frightening to admit otherwise. For example, what would it mean for us if we were to let go of many of those commonly held beliefs about life and death; that we’re born into this world, we live, we die and either that’s the end of it, or our souls ascend to Heaven (or to Hell), or we’re reincarnated and come back into the world again. It’s a fairly rigid system of beliefs and it doesn’t leave much room for anything else in between. However, the “in between” should concern us as much as everything else.

In the 1985 cult horror classic, Fright Night, the uncertainly of what lies between life and death becomes the primary concern for its characters, including Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale). He’s a typical American teenager who also happens to be a huge fan of the Gothic horror films of the 60s and 70s. He prefers to stay awake at night and watch his favourite TV series “Fright Night” hosted by his idol, Hammer Horror style actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who played a vampire killer for many years in horror movies.

When a new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), moves in next door, Charley starts to become incredibly suspicious of the handsome and charming man who has women, including Playboy Playmate Heidi Sorenson, falling at his feet. After spying on him one night, he discovers there’s more to life and death, specifically; that there’s such a thing as the undead – and Jerry’s one of them.

Fright Night

Charley does his best to convince those around him, including his mother, his girlfriend Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) and his best friend “Evil” Eddy (Stephen Geoffreys), but none of them really take him seriously, so he then contacts the police who do nothing but ignore his overactive imagination. This then brings him to Jerry’s attention who offers him a deal, “Forget about me and I’ll forget about you.” Of course, that’s not about to happen, and what happens next only manages to enflame the situation even more, igniting what will become a full-on battle between good and evil.

When he tracks down Peter Vincent to enlist his help, he too is dismissive of Charley’s outlandish claims of real-life vampires in his neighbourhood, but after a little financial incentive thrown his way, the out-of-work actor sets out to prove Jerry’s not actually a member of the undead. The conflicts in Fright Night escalate towards one of the film’s most memorable scenes where Amy falls under Jerry’s spell in a packed nightclub. Needless to say, Fright Nightthe club descends into chaos with the ensuing carnage, offering us a look at some of the great make-up effects.

“Vampire films had been languishing since 1979’s Love at First Bite, but it’s safe to say that Fright Night injected new blood into the genre in much the same way that Hammer had in 1958 with Horror of Dracula, the first Technicolor vampire film and an acknowledged classic. The fact that Fright Night is comedy-horror doesn’t dilute its truly frightening sequences, and it paved the way for bigger-budgeted Hollywood vampire epics such as The Lost Boys (1987), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview with the Vampire (1994).” ¹

  • [1] Bruce G. Hallenbeck, Comedy-Horror Films: A Chronological History (2009), McFarland

With Peter resuming his role as “Vampire Killer” in order to help Charley stop Jerry’s reign of terror, there’s a lot of action and laughs to be had. For those able to spot them, Fright Night is also infused with subtle themes of homosexuality and this is probably most evident when Holland introduces us to Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), Jerry’s live-in carpenter and daytime protector. The pair behave rather unusually as heterosexual when around each other. We also see Charley becoming obsessed with Jerry, despite Amy’s obvious sexual interest in the boy. And what are we to make of McDowall’s camp presence in the film? Despite the gay subtext, it’s still very much a “guy’s film”, told from the male point of view, and I’m sure the presence of Playboy pin-up Heidi Sorenson didn’t go unnoticed.

Together with a great soundtrack that features the theme song by The J. Geils Band and a score composed by Brad Fiedel, Fright Night is one of those fun films from the 80s that scared us as kids and thrilled us as teenagers later on – and still managers to do a little of both even now.

Fright Night

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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