Review & Tribute to Fright Night
The year was 1985, We Are The World became the #1 single just about everywhere, as the Earth’s population spoke and all 4,830,979,000 felt that we needed aid, and we needed Dan Akroyd to bring the goods. Reaganomics was in full effect as our 40th President was sworn in for his 2nd term. The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America, giving the 80’s actual meaning, and Freddy Kreuger had the number one horror film of the year with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Due respect to the winner, but we’re here to talk about the runner up;
Do vampires exist? Is there anything beyond what we can see with our own two eyes & science can explain? Tom Holland’s tale says indeed they do, and purposes the question of what would you do if something science couldn’t explain moved next door.
Charlie Brewster is just like all of us growing up. An average guy who’s two biggest concerns are watching horror marathons on TV while trying to get his girlfriend naked. Although none of my girlfriends later went screaming about us not having sex a cool 2 feet from my mother. However, you could probably get away with a lot in the presence of Charlie’s mom, as she seems rather aloof and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that when she makes margaritas she crushes up Valium and uses it instead of salt.
As it goes, one night while Charlie is with his girlfriend Amy, his attention quickly changes to that of the neighbors, as he sees them bringing what appears to be a coffin into the basement. This plants the seed in Charlie’s curiosity, as he proves himself to be a lot smarter than I am by further gathering information before acting. Me? The second I saw that coffin I would have broken off a chair leg and leapt out of the window. Now a days I live in an apartment, so I see a lot of new neighbors. Any of’em try to move in with anything bigger than a shoe box they answer to me. While I’m dressed like Ryu from Street Fighter.
Everything from decapitated bodies popping up around town, and screams from next door are evidence enough for Charlie. After bringing the cops to his neighbor’s house, Charlie fears for his life as said Detective did less Protecting & Servicing as he did Screaming & Mocking. Feeling he’s out of options, and lacking the necessary information to mount a serious defense, he runs to his best friend, Evil Ed, for the cliff notes version on battling Nosferatu.
Although Charlie is the main protagonist, I feel Evil Ed is the one most fans of horror would relate too. Most of us were considered the weird kids in high school because we knew every person who’s played Jason, watched USA Up All Night & Monstervision religiously, and that we knew Frankenstein was the name of the Dr, not the monster. At least knowledge of the latter would get us into The Monster Squad.
Evil Ed proceeds to school Charlie on vampires after a small donation. The most important of facts being that a vampire has to be invited in to your house, which would have served nicely if Charlie didn’t come home to find one suave Mr. Dandridge, hanging out and enjoying a Bloody Mary. One of the strong points of the film is that Jerry is timeless. If you were to see a screen grab of him and you didn’t know the film, you wouldn’t really know the era, and that’s one of my favorite aspects of the film. He’s completely undated, and someone you could easily see passing through time, undetected. For the rest of the night Charlie tries to remain vigilant, but Dandridge works his way in anyway. He offers Charlie a chance for peace, which is quickly declined and counter offered with a cross & a number two pencil through the hand. Jerry feels there’ll be a better time to kill Charlie, taking off and leaving him with perhaps a fate worse than death; the knowledge that brutality itself has a serious grudge against you. However, what’s a grudge when you’ve got Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer?
As 1985 rolled along, Dynasty & The Cosby Show battled for the number 1 spot in the homes of traditional 80’s families. Later while not watching TV, these same families bought enough copies of Bruce Springsteen’s record Born In The USA to make it the number one album of the year.
Peter Vincent of course doesn’t believe what Charlie has to say, just like Stallone didn’t believe me when I said I needed help with a cop who kept trying to shave me. Charlie’s girlfriend Amy, and best friend Evil Ed grease Mr. Vincent’s vampire-killing palm with a $500 savings bond in order to get him to help Charlie. They arrange things with Dandridge for a big spectacle in order to prove his innocence.
The whole gang gathers at Jerry’s house to watch him drink Holy Water, which is of course simple tap. All things going according to plan until Peter notices that Jerry doesn’t cast a reflection in his pocket mirror, almost scaring him to death on the spot. He zips away, leaving the kids to walk Amy home by themselves.
Jerry soon realizes the truth is out, and seeks to solve his problem. He corners Ed and offers him something that a lot of us who were bullied in high school would have probably taken in a heart beat. Then once you’re a high school going vampire you get to stop SUV’s with your face in broad day light and walk around looking like you’re covered in stripper glitter.
Evil Ed tries to take care of Peter Vincent, but is unsuccessful due to Peter’s wielding of a trusty cross. Before diving out the window to safety, Evil promises that the master will kill him for this, but not fast, slowly..oh so slowly.
On the other side of town, Jerry has nabbed Amy, despite Charlie’s best efforts to protect her, and tells him he’ll get her back if he and Peter show up at his house.
Charlie begs Peter to help him, telling him that there’s really no doubt he and Amy will both die without help. Peter wants to be a better man, but just can’t do it. He can’t even look Charlie in the face, completely ashamed of himself. Then, just before Charlie is about to enter Dandridge’s house alone, Peter shows up. Reluctant still, but there none the less. Of course, that all lasts about 10 seconds, as Charlie is knocked out, and Peter runs in terror next door in order to make sure Charlie’s mother is OK and I assume call the police. However, once there, he discovers that Mrs. Brewster is gone, dinner’s in the oven, and Evil Ed is looking to get back his loss from earlier the night. Right here is a moment that the remake completely missed the boat on. Well, to be fair, the remake missed a lot of things, but this was probably the most important.
Evil Ed turns into a wolf and charges Peter who’s able to stake him right as he leaps for his throat. As he dies, Ed reverts back to a teenager, looking to Peter for help he knows he isn’t going to get. He dies a violent death, at a young age, for a person who isn’t going to care one way or another. It’s at this moment that Peter gains courage, conviction, faith and the motivation to fight evil. He truly become the Fearless Vampire Killer. It’s an awesome moment in the film, and one of my favorite pieces of character development.
Next door, Charlie has been locked in a room with Amy, as she turns vampire. Peter shows up before any sort of real choice has to be made, and they escape. Before any celebrating can be done, Peter dispatches Jerry’s handyman/roommate Billy Cole with a pistol that apparently shoots bullets made of smoke. Serious, it’s like he built it out of a fog machine. The bullets were far from the answer as he gets back to his feet & lifts Peter into the air. Thinking fast, Charlie drives a stake into his chest, discovering the solution to their seemingly invincible problem. Billy’s body begins to melt with a meld of green slime & crumbling bones. Sand piles up on the floor, as Billy’s unable to stand and falls in an explosion of stripped bones. Fantastic scene. This right here is why I love 80’s horror, CGI cannot touch a great practical effects artist.
Jerry doesn’t take too lightly to this, and after a bout of searching, the big fight is on. He takes flight as we finally see him in full on winged monster form, trying to rip out Peter Vincent’s throat, pulling blood & breath along with it. He’s thwarted, and heads down to the basement in order to regroup. Charlie & Peter give chase, and while they’re not far behind Jerry, his latest creation, Amy, isn’t far behind them. As Peter searches for Jerry’s resting place, Amy attempts to play to Charlie’s heart, in order to get him to drop his guard. Once down, she turns into a shark who leads her attack with rows of jagged teeth that glisten with violence , framed by a grin that literally goes ear to ear. Any and everything Charlie tries to hide behind, or throw her way, she tears down like it was made out of rice paper.
On the other side of the basement, Peter has finally found Jerry’s coffin, destroying the seals and driving a steak square into his chest. However, it does little but wake him up, and really piss him off. He throws the stake aside and gives chase, only for Charlie & Peter to realize that the sun is out side, but being kept at bay by the blacked out windows. They quickly smash the windows, close the coffin, and expose Jerry to a massive blast of son as he tries to retreat, sending him flying into the wall. He screams as flames rip flesh from his bones until he explodes into nothing. A fantastic scene that brings the entire film to a close with a huge, literal crescendo.
Later, Charlie & Amy are back to being teenagers with little to no concern. For a moment, that all comes to a halt as Charlie notices two red eyes staring at him from across the way. When he focuses his attention, he realizes that nothing is there. However, the film ends with Evil Ed letting Charlie know that he’s oh so cool. Indeed you are, Brewster.
Created on a budget of $9.5 million dollars, Fright Night was released by Columbia Pictures on August 2nd, 1985 in 1,542 theaters. It opened at #3, for a weekend gross of $6,118,543. At the end of it’s run, it had almost tripled the return of its budget by earning $24,932,227. It ended up as the 10th highest grossing film of 1985, beating out Friday The 13th part V by 2 spots and coming in 2nd in horror, being narrowed out by Freddy Krueger’s adventures in exploding birds & confused teen sexuality.
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NOW! Comics, which did a lot of film adaptations years ago, did more than just adapt the movie. They ran a whole series of 22 issues which dealt with the further adventures of Charlie Brewster & Peter Vincent.
The FX team was pretty elite. There was Richard Edlund who worked on Ghostbusters and Randall Cook who worked on Lord of the Rings. Randall said that Tom described what he wanted for Amy’s “shark mouth”, however Randall didn’t have nearly the amount of time he wanted to create it. So, the compromise was that it wouldn’t be featured for very long. He then lamented about how featured it was, and of course making it on to the poster as well.
Chris Sarandon wanted Jerry to have more depth than your usual bad-guy, so he came up with Amy resembling a past love.
Charlie Sheen actually auditioned for the role of Charlie. They felt that Charlie Sheen looked too much like ‘the hero’, where’s they were going for a ‘guy next door’ type of feel.
In the film, Peter Vincent has been fired from Fright Night. Yet at the end of the movie, he’s back hosting. I’d always wondered what happened. According to the book adaptation, which fleshed things out more, the teenage audience was outraged at Peter’s removal, and he was promptly brought back.
Chris Sarandon stated that he had to either go under hypnosis, or meditation in order to deal with being in the make-up for so long.
You can get Fright Night on laser disc, and of course VHS. In 1999 a barebones DVD was released, with absolutely zero bonus content, sans a trailer. With the remake being released, Screen Archives released 3000 blu-rays of the film. From the reviews I’ve read, the picture looks great, but still the bonus features are light, with only 2 trailers and an isolated score. If you’re dying for a copy, you can get it on amazon for around $200. If you search online, you can find 2 commentary tracks. One is with Tom Holland [Director], Chris Sarandon [Jerry Dandridge], and Johnathan Stark [Billy Cole], The other one is Tom Holland, William Ragsdale [Charlie Brewster], Stephen Geoffreys [Evil Ed], and FX Artist Randall Cook.
There was a remake released on August 14th, 2011. Colin Farrell took up the mantle of Jerry Dandridge, with Anton Yelchin as Charlie, Imogen Poots as Amy, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed, and Dr. Who’s David Tennant as Peter Vincent.
The film received positive reviews mostly, although why I don’t know. Thankfully it bombed, big time. It cost the studio $30 million, and ended up making just a little over $18 million domestic. If they re-released the original, with some 3D conversion, and perhaps a deleted scene or two they could have made that amount of money. I could go on about what I didn’t like about the film, but it’s not what we’re here for. Perhaps at a later date.