31 Days of Halloween — Day 24: Fright Night (1985) — by Dr. Shock

Fright Night 1985

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

“Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) believes in vampires. His favorite television program is the Fright Night movie show hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a former film star whose most popular role was that of a vampire hunter; and when he sees some movers dragging a coffin into the basement of the house next door, the sometimes excitable Charley starts to believe that his new neighbor, handsome bachelor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is a Prince of the Undead.

So obsessed is Charley with the thought of living next to a vampire that he even misses his opportunity to have sex (for the first time ever, mind you) with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse), who storms out when Charley refuses to take his binoculars off the Dandridge house.

As it turns out, Charley’s suspicions are spot-on. One night, while up late studying, he hears a loud scream coming from Dandridge’s bedroom. Then, the following morning, the local news reports that the body of a murdered girl, who just happens to look like the pretty blonde Charley saw walk into Dandridge’s house the night before, has been discovered.

Then, while spying on his sinister neighbor, Charley sees Dandridge’s assistant, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), load what looks like a dead body into the back of a car! Of course, nobody believes Charley when he says a vampire has moved into the neighborhood; not his mother (Dorothy Fielding) or Amy, or his strange friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys’).

Even the police laugh at him when he tries to have Dandridge arrested for murder without any proof. Feeling he has nowhere else to turn, Charley tracks down his idol, Peter Vincent, hoping he’ll know what to do. While the aging actor initially thinks his young friend has lost his mind, he soon sees for himself that vampires are very real, and that Charley isn’t a lunatic after all.

One of the things I always loved about writer / director Tom Holland’s Fright Night was the way it depicted the dual nature of its lead monster. Early in the film, Jerry Dandridge is a suave ladies’ man, much like Bela Lugosi in 1931’s Dracula; one night, while peering out his window, Charley spots Dandridge making out with a beautiful woman, who has obviously succumbed to his charms; and later in the movie, the urbane bloodsucker even manages to seduce Amy on a crowded dance floor.

But if you piss this vampire off, you get something else entirely, as Charley discovers when Dandridge “visits” him in his bedroom. While there, Dandridge transforms into a hideous monster right before our eyes, a vampire uglier even than Murnau’s Nosferatu. Sarandon handles these two extremes wonderfully, and is convincing as both a debonair predator and a feral creature of the night.

Equally as good is Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the former star who has fallen on hard times (moments before Charley approached him at the TV station, Vincent was informed his show had been cancelled). But as bad as things may seem for Peter Vincent at the moment, it’s nothing compared to the terror that awaits him once he agrees to “help” Charley.

Watching Peter Vincent’s evolution from a passive onlooker to a frightened participant is an absolute treat, and in the hands of a seasoned pro like McDowall, he quickly becomes the movie’s most sympathetic character.

When it comes to memorable sidekicks, however, it’s hard to top Stephen Geoffreys’ Evil Ed, who, with his bizarre mannerisms and near-insane cackle, is responsible for some of the film’s biggest laughs (though definitely a comedy, Fright Night is not a satire. The guffaws come courtesy of the situations these characters find themselves in). But aside from his goofy demeanor, Evil Ed is also the film’s most tragic character, and his final scene is as poignant as they come.

With characters you can really get behind, some awesome (practical) effects, and a truly terrifying monster, 1985’s Fright Night is more than a great ‘80s vampire flick; it’s a horror classic, and if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.”

—Dr. Shock

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10 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 24: Fright Night (1985) — by Dr. Shock

  1. Im glad u realize how great chris Sarandon is in this movie as he’s my favorite movie vampire & the creature the girlfriend turns into is truly terrifying looking. Great review dave. Love listening to u on podcasts. Keep up the great work!

  2. 31 Days of Halloween day 23
    Clown Day!

    51. The Houses October Built (***) – A good build up with lots of haunted house footage and likable characters runs out of steam at the end and devolves into standard abduction stuff.
    52. Gingerclown (***) – The other movie where Tim Curry plays a clown. Worth it for the rubber monsters.
    53. Clown Hunt (***) – I swear to God, the third act of this movie is where George Miller got the idea for Fury Road. No joke.
    54. Clown (2015) (***) – This is what you show kids to make them afraid of clowns. A bit above average and they don’t skimp on the child eating.

  3. (Spoilers below)

    Day 24 – Blue Velvet (1986)

    Blue Velvet is a twisted little film I’m been wanting to see ever since watching BRAVO’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments back in the Halloween season of 2004. Other than recently reading the plot over at IMDb, the only other thing I knew about it was what was discussed in the BRAVO special. That was mostly just Dennis Hopper’s crazy performance while breathing in some unknown substance. So to say the least, I was in for a total bizarre experience while watching this. David Lynch is a director I find myself loving, but I haven’t gone out of my way to watch much of his work. In fact, his only directorial work that I have seen has been the Twin Peaks TV series and Eraserhead. Due to how much I loved Blue Velvet, I hope to watch far more of Lynch’s work in the following weeks.

    Just as it was true with Twin Peaks, there’s a certain weirdness factor that is right at the forefront of Blue Velvet. You have weird characters, trippy scenes, bizarre events, and a general plot that leaves you uncertain what may end up happening the longer the film goes. Lynch’s weird style has the benefit of being unpredictable. I never knew what was coming next because it’s not so formula based. Take the scene where Frank forces Jeffrey to join him for a joy ride. I knew the ride was not going to be good for Jeffrey, but I hadn’t a clue what was actually going to happen. As a result, my eyes were completely fixed on the screen for the entire two hour running time.

    The two stars of the movie for me were Dennis Hopper as Frank and Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy. They also happen to be the two craziest characters in the movie. Hopper is amazing in his role of a mentally unstable villain who exudes fear. This is not a guy I want to be anywhere near. The scene that stood out most to me was the one shown on that BRAVO special in what I can only call the single most bizarre sex scene I’ve ever seen. He’s doing this despicable rape act, but it’s so much more than just rape or sex. You’re seeing a psychotic maniac completely revealing his true self and it’s terrifying. Rossellini was incredible due to her character hanging on mentally by a mere string. I don’t know how “Normal” she was before her husband and young son was kidnapped, but she’s bat shit crazy now. It makes it very difficult to trust her because her moods shift so much that one moment she might be affectionate and the next she’s threatening to kill you. In both Hopper and Rossellini’s character, I was always feeling uncomfortable whenever they were on the screen.

    I dug the contrast between the utter weirdness of Jeffrey’s world in relation to what’s happening to Dorothy and the everyday typicalness of his blossoming relationship with Sandy. There’s “Drama” in that world with Sandy, but it’s the common tameness that involves a love triangle with Sandy’s boyfriend, Mark, and trying to keep a low profile around Sandy’s parents. Sandy is very plain and boring of a character, which makes Jeffrey “Falling in love” with her seem odd. Then again, I doubt Jeffrey really loved her. He became so mixed up in the weirdness with Dorothy that he needed to keep one foot in the normal pool so that he wouldn’t completely fall into that damning world of dealing with Frank and company. While I know Jeffrey didn’t love Sandy, I haven’t decided on whether she loved Jeffrey. At best, I think Sandy may have fallen in love with this dangerous and mysterious world that Jeffrey stumbled into. She’s lived a normal and sheltered life, thus she likes getting involved in some danger.

    By the end of the movie, everything works out to a near perfect ending. Jeffrey and Sandy are still together, Jeffrey’s dad is back to a normal life outside of the hospital, both families hang out together, Dorothy is able to be a mother again, and Frank is dead. Other than Dorothy’s husband not surviving, it’s a fairy tale ending. Yet, I don’t know if I believe that’s the true ending. It’s too happy and clean of an ending after so much grit and dirtiness elsewhere in the movie. It came across to me as a fantasy. The sort of fantasy that is the total opposite of what truly happened. So what do I believe actually happened? Well, for starters, I think Frank killed Jeffrey. Chances are Dorothy, if she lived, never saw her son again. Jeffrey’s father never left the hospital. I can’t even say for sure if I believe Sandy and her father survived either. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I enjoyed being presented a very happy ending on the surface, but thinking it’s too…in your face to possibly be true.

    Horror wise, there’s not much true horror, but it still fits in the greater scary movies family. The basic plot alone begins with Jeffrey finding a human ear! That sounds like horror to me. The bizarre rape scene with Frank and Dorothy was scary in how unsettling it all was, particularly with Hopper’s behavior. Yet again, it’s a lot like Twin Peaks where you can argue it’s not horror, but it still feels as if it’s in the family. Perhaps it’s not the type of film you should watch on October 31st, but it does fit perfect if you wish to watch it in October.

    Overall, Blue Velvet is a total trip. Once the movie begins, the weirdness doesn’t let up until the very ending. The usage of “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton will cause you to never look at the song the same way again. The acting from the true stars is phenomenal. If you’re a big fan of Twin Peaks, it even stars Special Agent Dale Cooper himself, Kyle MacLachlan. Really, my only issue with the entire film is that I didn’t find Rossellini attractive in the film, despite the fact that she’s supposed to be so tempting. Whatever, she still looked perfect for someone who is walking the line between being out of her mind and being suicidal. If you’ve never seen it, you can watch it for free if you have an Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus subscription. Do yourself a favor and grab a Pabst Blue Ribbon and enjoy this mid 80’s bizarre classic.

    I’d give it a 9.5.

  4. I’m a huge fan of Fright Night. The atmosphere, the scares. THIS is my kind of vampire movie!!! Instead of doing like so many and saying “oh no that was just in the movies, here’s what REALLY happens with vampires.” This movie actually says “no it’s all true, sunlight, crucifixes etc” and does it in a GREAT way!!!

  5. Day 24: The Mummy (1959)
    This is Hammer’s remake (or retelling?) of Universal’s Mummy films. It’s an original story that uses parts from many of the Universal Mummy movies. Christopher Lee makes a great mummy! I’m interested to see where the sequels go.

    • I LOVED this movie. This along with Universal’s The Mummy’s Hand (First Kharis movie) are the best mummy movies that I’ve seen.

      I reviewed this movie last year. If you have any interest, here it is:

      (Contains spoilers)

      Day 15 – The Mummy (1959)

      “Released merely a year after the release of Horror of Dracula and two years with Curse of Frankenstein by director Terrence Fisher and stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, there’s already been a pretty notable change for The Mummy compared to those two previous films. By 1959, Universal and Hammer have settled some of their differences and as a result, Hammer’s The Mummy didn’t need to go out of it’s way to appear different from Universal’s various Mummy pictures. I haven’t a clue whether this is actual reason or not, but it would explain why this film had the simple title of The Mummy rather than creating a longer title like Hammer did with the start of their start to their Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein series. When you watch the movie, you even see that so many of the characters have kept their names that they used in the Universal films. You’ve got Kharis, Stephen and John Banning, Mehemet Bey, Isobel and even Joseph Whemple!

      In case you need a refresher, those characters were not just all from one of the Universal mummy movies. For example, while Mehemet Bey is from The Mummy’s Tomb, Joseph Whemple was from the original ’32 Mummy. Instead of just modeling their film after one Universal mummy movie, Hammer borrowed a little bit from The Mummy, The Mummy’s Hand and The Mummy’s Tomb. The end result is this nicely detailed film that works even better than The Mummy’s Hand to be superior mummy film. I really loved this pick and choose aspect of the script for Hammer’s Mummy. Even though Universal’s ’32 Mummy didn’t impress me much, I liked how they brought the mummy, Imhotep, back to life with the summoning spell more than Kharis being kept alive and controlled through the usage of tana leaves like they did in the other Mummy films. At the same time, if I’m watching a mummy film, I don’t want to see Boris Karloff walk around without being wrapped up in bandages. You have just a little sampling of the comedy you saw in Mummy’s Hand without going too far with it. Elsewhere, you give the mummy a little more substance to the character with the love story like Universal did with Imhotep in ’32 Mummy. Screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster, who also wrote Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein, nailed the script down perfectly. It’s as if he watched the Universal mummy films and kept a list of what worked and what didn’t work in each movie. It’s no wonder these initial Hammer series movies are so fantastic. You have the great director, amazing writer and the legendary screen duo of Cushing and Lee working together each time.

      While he didn’t get much of a chance to do much as Frankenstein’s Monster in Curse of Frankenstein, Christopher Lee makes up for it here as Kharis, the mummy. While there is a lengthy flashback scene showing a little backstory to the character where Lee isn’t all wrapped up and even gets a few lines, the real good scenes from him involves being wrapped up as the mummy. The scene where he breaks into the insane asylum to kill Stephen Banning may be a single scene that is scarier than anything in the Universal Monster Movies. With the muddy look thanks to climbing out of the swamp, Kharis tears off the metal bars and breaks through the glass as if he’s a pissed off Jason Voorhees. Anyone would have been scared shitless had a character like that burst through their window. The emotion of the character is great too. Through his eyes, Kharis has three main emotions. There’s the emotionless look he has when he’s casually killing one of his targets. This is a look where you know he doesn’t really care and he’s just doing his job. Then there’s his intense looking of longing when he sees Isobel, who is a dead ringer for Princess Ananka. Finally, there’s the look of pure fucking hatred he has when Mehemet Bey dares to threaten the life of Isobel. Holy shitballs, now THAT’S a terrifying look. While Lee will forever be remembered most fondly as Dracula, for his Hammer days, he was a hell of a Kharis too. Poor guy paid for it though as his back went out, had a dislocated shoulder, was burned from squibs, and his knees and shins were roughed up from not being able to see the metal pipes under the swamp. Knowing what Lee went through over the course of this film only makes me appreciate his work all the more.

      One of the better changes the film had was adding an increase of bitter anger to Mehemet Bey. Unlike with Universal’s Mehemet Bey in The Mummy’s Tomb, Bey has a more personal reason for having Kharis go after his targets. For Bey, he feels some intense cultural and religious disrespect by the Bannings and their crew breaking into the tomb of Ananka. Things are made even worse for Bey since these aren’t Egyptians. Those damn British people do not have any right to even see such sights. Late in the movie, Bey gets blood on his hands, without having any sort of regret. George Pastell, who played the role of Bey was a gigantic upgrade over Universal’s Bey played by Turhan Bey. With Kharis being more sympathetic than in the Universal movies, Bey comes off as being the true villain of this movie.

      There’s a lot of other enjoyable little aspects of the film. There’s some character development between John and Stephen Banning. At the start of the film, Cushing’s character of John had broken his leg, but his father, Stephen, had been so focus on finding the tomb of Ananka that he put off leaving to get John some proper care to set is leg back into place. As a result, three years later, John walks with a permanent limp. It’s a small example of the obsession of finding glory has it’s consequences. Late in the film, Cushing has his best scene in the film when he heads over to the house of Mehemet Bey to confirm that Bey is the one behind the mummy attacks. From the moment John enters the house, you know he knows Bey is the responsible party. So John spends his time getting under the skin of Bey, questioning his faith and enjoying Bey losing his temper. The best part is that none of that was even necessary since Bey was already angered when he answered the door to find John, when he was already under the impression that Kharis had killed John.

      I really can’t praise Hammer’s The Mummy enough. It’s a movie that exceeds most of the best Universal Monster Movies and should be hailed as one of the best horror films ever made. Seriously, go watch The Mummy. ”

      I don’t give number reviews in my non-HMP reviews, but I think the last paragraph should nicely sum up my feelings on the movie even better than a number should.

      • That’s a great review, Sal. Man, you’re making me read a lot this October. Yea, I was quite pleased with this movie! I kinda liked Christopher Lee’s mummy better than Karloff’s. He was tall and powerful but still had trouble walking because he was dead for so long. I liked how the Egyptian magic controlled the mummy but it wasn’t used to directly kill characters. The mummy was the real threat! I liked what you said about Mehemet Bey’s motivation for killing and it made me realize I also liked his passion for keeping the tomb undisturbed and sacred.

        • Oh, Lee was a zillion times better as a mummy than Karloff. To me, Karloff wasn’t a real mummy. All you get is two minutes with Karloff as a mummy and the rest of the time, he’s just a normal guy with bad skin.

          • Yea, his skin probably was actually damaged form the Mummy makeup. I’ve heard somewhere that Karloff hated that makeup and it was damaging.

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