Fright Night

Tom Holland, who directed and wrote the screenplay for Fright Night, has a long resume with roots firmly planted in the horror genre. His writing credits include a few TV adaptations of Stephen King works, the first of many sequels to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the original Child’s Play. His latest directing project is We All Scream for Ice Cream, an entry in the Masters of Horror series, with previous credits ranging from a collection of Tales From the Crypt episodes, Thinner, and The Langoliers. Today’s feature is not widely considered a staple of the genre, but after watching it I can see how it has its fans over 20 years after its initial release.

Charlie Brewster is your average teenager, putting up with his girlfriend Amy’s issues and a skuzzy friend known as “Evil” Ed Thompson. Life gets a whole lot more complicated when new neighbors arrive and one of them, the charming yet sinister Charlie Brewster, seems to be a vampire. Evidence seems obvious to Charlie, but his friends and family feel he’s just falling off the deep end. Even Peter Vincent, a local legend who made his film career by appearing as the “great vampire killer” thinks the kid is delusional. Of course, being a horror movie, revelations soon arrive and the battle lines are drawn. Can a handful of teens brought up on vampire movies and a has-been actor stand up to Brewster and his equally eerie henchman?

In many ways Fright Night comes off as your typical ‘80s teen flick, with the usual character types (dorky hero, flighty girlfriend, and stupid sidekick among them). Thankfully the vampire element kicks things into high gear almost minutes into the film, casting a nice sense of dread over what is otherwise a Brat Pack movie. And unlike many villains, Charlie Brewster truly is a threat, a combination of classic looks and the ability to hold an easy grudge. When the final showdown arrives it actually makes you wonder if the good guys will come out swinging in the end, and it’s nice to have that sense of the unknown for once. It also helps that the makeup effects are top notch, especially when Amy becomes a vampire bride and her chompers become ridiculously snaggly (think of a piranha on steroids).

I was confused with some elements of the script, however. A major plot point sees Evil Ed becoming a vampire, but I was never entirely sure why he volunteered to join Charlie’s legion of the damned. Also, and this is so odd I can’t even make up an explanation, Ed actually turns into a wolf during a battle with Peter Vincent. So, what, was he a werewolf/vampire hybrid? I didn’t really understand what was going on, but at least his gory transformation back into a human looked cool. In the end I guess this is more important than logic, since Fright Night aims to be dumb fun and pulls it off well. Pick it up the next time you’re in need of a rainy day rental.

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