Sunday, March 24, 2013

Movie #180: Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night is a campy 80s horror movie starring William Ragsdale (you know, the famous star of Herman's Head!), Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowell. It's a vampire movie, back when the word "vampire" didn't mean "sparkles."

But actually, the vampire in this movie is pretty charming. Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon) just moved in next to Charlie Brewster (Ragsdale), and is killing people right and left. Brewster realizes what he is after seeing a girl going into his house, and later seeing that girl's picture on the news as a murder victim (real subtle, there, vampire). Charlie's main concern used to be getting his girlfriend Amy (Bearse) to bang him, but now he's more worried that the vampire is going to come kill his mother (Dorothy Fielding).

So he enlists the help of late-night horror movie host and one-time horror movie star, Peter Vincent (McDowell), which just goes to show this is before the Internet. Vincent, incredulous but strapped for cash, agrees to check out Dandridge, but only as a set-up to calm Charlie down. This doesn't work because Charlie has already been outright attacked by Dandridge once, gone to the police and been the victim of 80s cop incompetence (seriously, I'm not a cop, but if someone comes to you and tells you, "hey, you know that girl that was found decapitated? Well, I saw her go into my neighbor's house," how does that not lead to a search warrant? Or some surveillance, at least? If the cops had watched Dandridge, they'd have known that he was killing people inside a day). But Vincent realizes his mistake, and promptly chickens the fuck out.

The vampire attacks and turns Charlie's buddy, Evil Ed (Geoffreys), and then kidnaps and bites Amy (right out of a club, during which scene he refuses to kill Charlie because there are too many witnesses, but then promptly slaughters two bouncers when they rightly try to stop an older man from leaving with a teenager). Charlie and Peter take the fight to Dandridge, kill his weird golem servant, and eventually go all Hammer-film on his ass.

The movie's not bad. It's just really, really campy, and it gets campier as it goes along. By the end, Sarandon has this overwrought diction going on in vampire form (these are the "uglier as they get hungrier/hurt" style vampires) and Amy looks like she's a completely different actress. And it's amusing to see how far attitudes about nudity have come, since there are a few breast shots but only one instance of the f-word (compare/contrast to the remake, coming next).

I like it for camp, but as a vampire horror film, the remake is worlds better. Although it is fun to say "HUMPERDINK!" when Dandridge is onscreen.

My grade: B+
Rewatch Value: Medium

Next up: Fright Night (2011)