Wednesday, October 10, 2012

REVIEW: Fright Night

Fright Night
Director: Tom Holland
Year 1985
Fright Night is a ridiculously fun 80’s horror flick that balances its camp moments with its atmospheric horror settings in order to form something of a perfect cinematic union that entertains to no end. Supported by an ensemble cast of diverse and equally engaging characters, the film boasts an energetic feel that can be mostly attributed to the group of fine actors that really bring this gem to life. With its delicate balance of horror and hilarity, Fright Night establishes itself as a fright flick that is soaked with charm and oozing with vampiric antics that should not be missed.
The film follows Charley Brewster, an ordinary high school student, who comes to the frightening realization that a vampire has just moved in next door to his house. Determined to bring the blood-sucker down by any means necessary, Charley enlists the help of his girlfriend Amy Peterson and his estranged pal Evil Ed, but unfortunately the pair think that he is going out of his mind. It isn’t until the group receives some assistance by a television horror host named Peter Vincent, who is as skeptical as the rest, that the motley crew comes to see that Charley was indeed right. As they fight to survive, it becomes crystal clear that this will be a night filled with fright. Get out your crosses, garlic, and holy water, because it’s FRIGHT NIGHT!

William Ragsdale plays the role of Charley Brewster, the horror obsessed teenager who finds himself in a nasty predicament. Ragsdale is absolutely fantastic in this flick, giving a performance that is fun as hell to see unroll. Not only that but the chemistry between himself and the fictional vampire hunter Peter Vincent, played by the legendary Roddy McDowall, is what holds this film together and makes it so damn enjoyable. When the two get together it is literally movie magic, as each actor plays marvelously off each other. Seeing as this was Ragsdale’s second feature film appearance, I’d say he did a tremendous job for being such a young newcomer and this single role made a huge impression on me growing up. Needless to say, William Ragsdale really owns this character and his contributions to making Charley Brewster believable and engaging are extremely commendable and whole heartedly appreciated.
As previously mentioned Roddy McDowall takes on the character of Peter Vincent, the late-night television host of the horror showcase, Fright Night. Being a veteran of the cinema, appearing in such magnificent productions as It!, the Planet of the Apes series, The Legend of Hell House, and The Martian Chronicles, and also doing outstanding voice work in The Return of the King and The Black Hole, McDowall had the acting chops to bring this larger than life character to the screen. He gives Peter Vincent a sympathetic representation by allowing us to get inside the character in both his cowardly and timid moments to his ultimate transformation into the vampire hunter character in which he fictionally portrayed during the apex of his acting career. I’ve always had a golden rule about the actor and it’s a rather simple one. If Roddy McDowall is in a film, then his character is going to be outstanding. With Fright Night, his Peter Vincent character is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable of his long illustrious career.

Amanda Bearse and Stephen Geoffreys, who play the parts of Amy Peterson and Evil Ed, take up the supporting roles of the film. These two actors also bring their A game and to their credit, though they are virtually low key players in the cinema world, they make a massive impression on the film itself. Amanda Bearse, best known for her role as Marcy D’Arcy on the hit TV show Married with Children, does an amazing job with her role. During the course of the film she must transform from an innocent and shy teenager into a sexy and sultry vampire bride, and she does it in the most believable of ways. As for Stephen Geoffreys’ Evil Ed, the man was born to play this role. With his crazy looks and off the wall personality, Geoffreys gives a performance of a lifetime and gifts onto the audience an iconic role that, without a doubt, is a favorite among 80’s genre fans.
Of course you can’t have a film without a main villain and this particular horror gem has a doozy. Chris Sarandon plays the role of Jerry Dandrige, the super cool and charismatic vampire who has all the right moves and the bite to match. Sarandon is at his best in this film, showcasing all the wit and charm that he can muster, while bringing about a master villain that we just can’t help but to like. With the tongue and cheek attitude that this film gives off, Sarandon fits right in as he playfully manipulates each scene that he appears in. I’ve always dug Sarandon as an actor and feel that his diverse filmography is a testament to his flexibility in the profession. From such films as The Sentinel, Cuba, The Princess Bride, and Child’s Play, Sarandon has run quite the genre gamut and his role in Fright Night is the best and most rewarding of them all.
As for the film, Fright Night is a cornucopia of horror goodness that knows how to have fun with the subject matter, while at the same time respecting the dark qualities and foreboding nature of the genre. The locations and sets are wonderfully depicted, sparing no expense on atmosphere and macabre wonder. The inclusion of Peter Vincent’s horror show Fright Night is no accident, for as the movie delves into the more ghastly portions of the story it begins to come off as one of Vincent’s fictional productions sprung to life. Added on to this delicious layer of atmosphere and fright is some top notch special effects work that really brings some grotesque creations to the forefront of the film. One particular effects moment that stands out is during the death of the wolf creature by the hands of Peter Vincent. The transformation from the vile and ferocious wolf beast to the frail and dying human form is unsettling to say the least and the graphic nature of that sequence is off the charts disturbing. The same can be said for the other creature effects that encompass this production. When it’s all said and done, Fright Night is a horror flick that is worth praising.

Fright Night is a timeless horror film that hits all the right notes. From its spectacular cast to its intimate story, the movie is a cut above the rest. Its balance of both horror and comedy is not one that is contrasted by a clear divided line, but one that is melded into every fabric of the production, making for an atmospheric romp that is both frighteningly uneasy and highly entertaining. Both William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall put on iconic performances, with Chris Sarandon pulling off a masterful turn as the scene stealing villain.
The overall look of the film is outstanding from its fog shrouded moonlit streets to its gothic-centric mansion filled with horrific delights and undead creatures. When it comes to effects work, the film is of the highest caliber, featuring some of the most inventive and unusual creations of the time period. If you like your horror films to have an abundance of character and charm, with a side of atmospheric spectacle, then Fright Night is your ticket to a frighteningly good time. If you watch this one, there’s no doubt that you are in for a…..

Evil Ed.... you're an Evil Pain in my ASS!

What's with the life-preserver? You jump ship Brewster?

What are you looking at Charley? You little pervert!

Can't a guy get a little action in peace?

Charley is blown away by how awesome this film is.

Hello everyone. Enjoying the movie?

Peter Vincent is a little uncomfortable with Charley's obsession with him.

Damn Brewster! You're CRAZY!

Who could this suave son of a bitch be?

Rock that turtleneck you handsome bastard you!

Quite crying you big baby.

Someone put the coins on Peter's eyes cause he sure can't believe what he is seeing.

Jerry Dandrige.... the epitome of 80's cool.

Call me Cornelius again and see what happens.

Damn Peter..... that's cold.

I've got six little friends and they can all run faster than you can.

They're coming to get you Brewster.

You found me beautiful once. Honey, you got reeeal ugly!

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