Thursday, June 2, 2011

Welcome to Fright Night...

There are but two days left in the school year (one exam day and one teacher work day) and I couldn't be more excited.  It's warm outside, the days are longer, and there will be no more 5:45am wake up times until late August.  It doesn't get better than this, and in celebration I've decided to share one of my favorite scary films to watch in the summer...and ironically enough one that is being released in remake form this August.  I only hope the new version can capture the fun and thrills of this 1980s throwback to what, at that time, was a dead genre...the vampire movie.  Now I can already hear you groaning out there, saying "Oh god please...no more Twilight or True Blood!" but I'm not going there with this one.  This film, from way before vampires were so 'in' that we wanted them 'out' again, doesn't have sexy, sympathetic, and lovable vampires for us to relate to.  No, instead we have a sexy (I guess its just the nature of the beast, pun intended) and wholely evil vampire that we never relate to or feel sorry for.  We only are afraid of him and want him to die.  Throw in a dash of Rear Window witness-next-door action and you have the kind of thrill ride that only the 80s could grow.  So let's sink our teeth into the scariest (and most fun) night of all, Fright Night.

Charley Brewster is "so cool" according to his friend 'Evil' Ed Thompson...yeah right.  He is mediocre in school, shunned by the popular kids, and seems to always be having some kind of klutzy accident.  Plus, his girlfriend is frustrated with him and questions his devotion due to his love of horror films.  So he's pretty much the average kid that we all either were or knew in high school.  However, all of that is about to change when Charley notices his next door neighbor moving in after dark.  Puzzled by this, he watches even closer and sees the movers loading a coffin into the basement.  Certain that there is a reasonable explanation for this, Charley keeps watching his neighbor...who he finds later to be named Jerry Dandridge.  One night, Charley watches Jerry seduce a young woman in the upstairs room of the house and is horrified when he sees him sprout fangs and bite her on the neck.  Yes, it seems that Jerry is a vampire who is intent on feeding on the population of Charley's town...and in order to secure Charley's silence he is willing to menace Charley's friends, family, and even Charley himself.  So Charley does what any self-respecting horror fan would do...he seeks help from horror has-been (and star of Charley's favorite program "Fright Night") Peter Vincent.  Can Charley convince Peter that the situation is real before Dandridge can put the bite on him (I'm so full of puns today)?

Fright Night is the simplist of self-reflexive horror tales (what if a vampire moved in next door to someone who loved horror movies?) and turns it into a tour de'force of entertainment by employing top-shelf talent and an amazing visual effects artist to make sure we're all taking the horror seriously.  The lead teenagers are all better than average actors with William Ragsdale's Charley leading friends Amanda Bearse (girlfriend Amy) and Stephen Geoffreys ('Evil' Ed) against the dangerous vampire.  Each actor is very sincere and 'mistfitty' enough to be believable as an average teen, but also savvy enough to be believable in taking on a challange such as the one presented to them.  However, the veteren actors are what give the film its weight.  Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent steals every scene he's in with a 'hammy actor' presence that is never so pretentious as to be unlikable, and he manages to give his character a visible arc from coward to brave vampire killer in the limited screen time that is devoted to him before the finale.  Then of course there is Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge who is indeed sexy and dangerous all at the same time.  He's the kind of man that you would say "Don't bite!....hard (winks)" to.  And yet, he is not too vain to allow himself to get made up with some pretty wild prosthetics by the end so that he looks truely horrifying.  This is definately a more dangerous looking vampire than those yahoos from Twilight...and is more in line with something that we've seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Speaking of those great effects, let's give a hand to Richard Edlund...the man who started with ILM and left to form his own company, completing the effects for Ghostbusters, Alien 3, and numerous others.  His makeup effects and puppetry work are some of the best I've ever seen in an 80s horror film and gives the movie a very high-budget look that mixes well with its more low-budget themes.  All in all, it is a horror classic that deserves a remake that lives up to it (and I hope it does...cause the remake bashing (and the crap remakes that cause the bashing) need to end).  You should definately watch this movie...its not too gory and its got some fun humor that puts it in league with something more like Scream than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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