[written by author, Lisa Kessler]
What happens when vampires meet the 80’s?
Fright Night bridged the gap between a sexy vampire movie and a monster movie. No sparkling here. Armed with flipped up collars, feathered hair, and a crazy 80’s soundtrack, this vampire flick maintained most of the classic vampire mythos, and combined it with the fun of a true monster movie.
For young Charlie Brewster, nothing could be better than an old horror movie late at night. But when two men move in next door with a coffin, Charlie begins to suspect that their strange behavior is proof that they are a vampire and his undead day guardian. The only one who can help him hunt them down is a washed-up actor, Peter Vincent, who hosts Charlie’s favorite TV show, Fright Night. Vincent doesn’t really believe that vampires exist, but agrees to help for the money…
The 80’s brought us the birth of the “teen horror flick”. Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween and more showed us scantily-clad hot young people – often soaking wet – running out into the darkness asking, “Is anyone there?”
Gone were the films that boasted freakish monsters and amazing make-up designers. Masks, machetes, and crazed axe-murderers became the “horror” of choice. Even The Lost Boys, which is another classic 80’s vampire film, featured sexy young fearless vampires. Glamorous.
Hardly the “monsters” of the classic vampire films.
Peter Vincent Vampire Killer summed it up nicely, “Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see are slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.”
But somehow, Fright Night, was able to find an audience in spite of its lack of 80’s brat pack actors.
It featured an awkward teen and the washed-up host of late night monster movies. And while Chris Sarandon was the picture of a smooth ladies’ man as Jerry Dandridge, the movie allowed the vampires to get… Messy.
Unlike the current vampire hit, True Blood, the Fright Night vampires didn’t have retractable fangs. In fact, their features mutated into, you guessed it, blood-sucking monsters with fangs, pointy ears, long fingers and all.
And when these vampires are killed it’s not a clean pile of ashes to be blown away. Fright Night treats us to a horrific, slow, multi-layered death as the monsters shriek and hiss, their bodies mutating as they struggle to free themselves from the stake or the sunlight.
These were monsters. They were hard to kill and slow to die.
Today vampires are often tamed with sparkles or a self-loathing for their thirst for blood. Some recent movie vampires have even been able to walk in the sunlight.
But Fright Night maintained the heart of the original Bela Lugosi vampire. Sunlight, crosses, and holy water burned them, a stake through the heart killed them, and the vampire never cast a reflection in a mirror. So while Jerry Dandridge possessed the strength and seduction of a vampire, he still maintained fundamental weaknesses.
The movie made it plain that this was a monster masquerading as a human being, not a human trapped inside of a monster.
If you’ve never seen, Fright Night, what are you waiting for? It’s worth it just to hear Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) growl, “Welcome to Fright Night! For real.”
In 2011 we will be treated to a Fright Night remake with Colin Farrell playing the dashing vampire next door, Jerry Dandridge, David Tennant of Dr. Who will be our cowardly television host, Peter Vincent Vampire Killer, and the valiant high school senior, Charlie Brewster, will be newcomer Anton Yelchin.
Will the move-makers remain true to the “monster” heart of Fright Night?
I hope so…