I saw this become available on Amazon a week ago. Since I remember loving it way back when, I decided to revisit it. I wanted to see if it would hold up to my present worldview. So few things do, nowadays.
If I’m to be completely honest, I’m a jaded horror fan. Most of you know that. I watch things, and most of the time the movies I watch are bereft of cleverness, whimsy, and wonder. They leave me feeling as if I’ve wasted time on something unworthy. In particular, I mean the torture porn stuff that seems so mean-spirited and unnecessary. This is different.
This is one of the movies I saw two years after high school, when the Beard and his brother were just becoming friends with my brother and I. It’s one of the first movies we saw together. It set us on a path of genre criticism that informs us to this very day. It resonated because we were fans of the horror hosts Rhonda Shear, Svenghoolie, Dr. Shock, Vincent Price, and of course, Elvira.
We loved Peter Vincent because he had flair, lost his faith, and found it again. His name too — Peter (as in Cushing?) Vincent (as in Price) no doubt. This movie has a lot going for it.
IMDB YEAR RELEASED:
William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding, Stephen Geoffreys, and Art Evans
When Charley Brewster finds out that his next-door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, is a real-life vampire and he can not convince his friends of the truth, he tries to convince Peter Vincent, an actor of campy horror films who has played a vampire hunter, to come slay his neighbor before Dandridge sets his gaze on them.
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a 17 year old horror geek with a girlfriend (Amanda Bearse). In particular, he enjoys a horror TV series called Fright Night hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall). Peter Vincent is a former actor who played a vampire hunter in schlocky vampire movies. Now, he hosts viewings of the very type of movies he played in.
One night he discovers that his neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. Inadvertently, he peeped into his neighbor’s bedroom window as Dandridge takes a bite out of a prostitute he’s hired for the night.
Charley attempts to tell his mother and his friends, but because they know that he is a horror geek, they think he is either joking or becoming a little unhinged. When he realizes that he can’t get through to them, he decides to take matters into his own hands and contact the authorities.
Detective Lennox (Art Evans) accompanies Charley to the Dandridge house believing that Charley has witnessed a crime. He asks Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), Dandridge’s roommate, the whereabouts of Dandridge, but Billy says he’s away on business. When Charley reveals his suspicions that Dandridge is sleeping in a coffin, Lennox flips out. Charley has wasted his time.
That evening, Charley discovers that his mother has inadvertently invited the vampire over. Charley prepares for the vampire. Later that night, despite having nailed his window closed the vampire finds another way into the house. He climbs in through the mother’s window while she’s sleeping. He whistles Strangers in the Night.
A fight ensues where Charley is really thrown around his bedroom. His butt is handed to him until he stabs the vampire in the hand with a pencil. One would believe that this is a minor irritation to a vampire, but the ash wood burns flesh and the sun is rising which causes Dandridge to postpone for the following night.
Charley is afraid. He has beheld the creature and he was a far greater adversary than he first believed. He knows he needs help. He tries to get Peter Vincent to help, but when Charley appears at the studio, Peter thinks he’s a crazed fan. He rejects him.
Later, Amy Peterson, Charley’s girlfriend, shows up to talk to Peter. She is so concerned that she offers to pay Peter to adopt the vampire hunter guise and convince Charley that his neighbor is not a vampire. In the interim between the kids, Peter has been fired and is feeling the desperation, so he agrees to the ploy.
When the ploy doesn’t work it only serves to underscore the fact that Jerry Dandridge is in fact a vampire. Peter rushes the kids out of Dandridge’s house in the hopes of pretending that he is convinced that the man is not a vampire, but Peter’s expression clearly conveys that he now thinks that Charley was right.
I will leave the plot here because now comes the vampire hunting and fighting part and who wants to spoil all the fun of all that? If you have not watched this movie, and you are a horror fan, this is a must watch.
The script may be weak in certain areas: how do these kids have access to a studio? Is this a local TV studio? If it’s a cable access show then things make a little more sense. However, Peter Vincent as a character is very cool. Roddy McDowall plays him perfectly.
The acting is serviceable. The mood and lighting is perfect. The set design, the fight choreography, the gothic turn is resonant of the old time vampire movies with an 80s shine. There is a beautiful aesthetic that pervades the entire movie.
I remember owning a Fangoria magazine that covered the Special Effects in this movie. The model of the monster was amazing. The latex prosthetics that were used to enhance Amanda Bearse’s mouth and Chris Sarandon’s entire face were flawless. There was some real wizardry in the effects.
There is a scene of the vampire jumping through a window that is cross-cut three times to emphasize the shot. It is completely unnatural, no way would something like that ever happen, but it not only fits, it adds to the overall impact of the moment. It also scares the hell out of you.
The directing is really good. The cinematography is wonderful. The movie looks good and some people might consider it cheesy, but I still love it. Despite its imperfections, I think it adds up to MORE than the sum of its parts. There was a unique alchemy that when combined, in my estimation, created gold. It is for that reason, and I must admit nostalgia played a part, I must give this movie, a perfect 5 out of 5 Grey Geeks.