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John’s Horror Corner: Fright Night (1985), a favorite 80s vampire movie with comedy, gooey gore and monstrous fanged mouths.

July 30, 2017

MY CALL:  Perhaps the first contemporary vampire movie, this is an old favorite and, having just seen it for the first time in 15+ years, I can see why. The practical effects and humor hold up surprisingly well and the gore is pretty feisty.  Not at all scary, just loads of gross fun.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Fright NightWell, The Lost Boys (1987) is similar, but more serious and mature about it. Other somewhat humorous (while still R-rated or PG-13 and bloody) 80s horror include Creepshow (1982), Critters (1986), Vamp (1986), or An American Werewolf in London (1981).

In what may have been the first contemporary vampire film in the entire horror genre, Charley (William Ragsdale; Fright Night 2, The Reaping), his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse; Married with Children) and his quirky friend “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys; 976-Evil, The Chair, and according to IMDB a bunch of porn) discover that his new neighbor Jerry (Chris Sarandon; The Resurrected, The Sentinel) is actually a vampire!

This 80s horror classic boasts the standard teen tropes when, upon Charley’s initial discovery of his blood-drinking neighbor, he starts yelling “vampire” to everyone (his mother, the police) and, not surprisingly, no one listens to this nonsense.  But thankfully his buddy Ed knows the tricks of the monstrous trade (for some reason; not unlike the Frog Brothers of The Lost Boys).  Also following the standard yet somewhat pleasing tropes of the time, his mother grants invitation to her very single fanged suitor (again, followed suit by The Lost Boys).  And despite following some of the patterns observed in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), I found it a relief that Charley’s mother offered more levity than distress and the overall tone was more humorous while remaining somewhat dire.

Our vampire snacks on apples for dental health, makes some idle threats to a teenager, strangles and toys with the kid when he could have just ripped his head off, and is thwarted by a pencil wound to the hand.  However silly, this all leads us down a rabbit hole of more exaggerated antics when Charley canvases his room with rosaries, crosses, garlic and candles (he must have a big allowance) and then our teenaged protagonists enlist the help of television horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall; Embryo, Shakma, Fright Night 2), who happens to be an actual expert when it comes to dealing with the fanged undead.

And let’s not forget the needlessly long “seduction dance scene” which, given this film is pretty old, gets me wondering if it wasn’t one of the first movies with such a scene (i.e., a long dance scene whose entire purpose was to be sexy or to seduce, LOL).  There was Return of the Living Dead (1985), although not deliberately “seductive” there was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), I only mention the Lost Boys (1987) because that singer might have gotten that saxophone pregnant, perhaps the undead ballerina solo in Evil Dead 2 (1987), then of course there was Night of the Demons (1988) and Night of the Demons 2 (1994) with their blatant and numerous demonic sexy dances.

The first hour of the movie offers little in the way of gore and some decent semi-scary vampire make-up, but in the final 30 minutes things get really good.  I mean, it’s still silly.  But this movie features a looong gory death scene that doubles as a gooey transformation scene (to a werewolf-looking form), a super disgusting melting death, a huge and ugly vampire bat, and the monstrously over-sized vampire mouth that would subsequently be used in the Fright Night (2011) remake and the From Dusk ‘til Dawn (1996) films.

Director Tom Holland (Child’s Play, The Temp, Thinner) really hit this one out of the park.  There are no scares, nor are there meant to be, although the monsters look menacing enough.  This is entirely fun—sometimes funny, sometimes gross-out gory, but always a rewatchable joy that withstands the test of time.


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