I promised a review of some 80’s nonsense, didn’t I? And this film’s a bit of nonsense, isn’t it?
So Fright Night. 1980’s vampire film. Fun performances, fun setpieces. Is it good? I dunno about that.
The basic premise is that Charley Brewster’s new neighbor is a vampire. Having nobody to turn to, he goes to Peter Vincent, a washed-up Vincent Price/Peter Cushing analog who plays the part of a TV horror host, a tradition that doesn’t really exist anymore but I wish did. The film ensues from there. And it’s…fine. A bit of a confused horror-comedy, as it lacks any real laughs and doesn’t scare consistently. But it’s a bit fun, and I suppose that’s enough.
The film does lack in a strong narrative, devolving into vampire fighting for like 30 minutes, and runs into problems with the younger members of its cast. The adults, Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall especially, are on point here. Sarandon and McDowall gleefully ham it up as vamp and vamp hunter, respectively. Sarandon overplays the devilishly charismatic Jerry to a tee, and McDowall plays a suitably confused horror actor thrust into a real-life horror scenario. And they’re both entertaining to watch.
Similarly, the special effects work is superb, and really spices the film up. There’s some spectacular practical work here, and it holds up really well even today.
The film sticks to the rules of established vampire lore, and gives us wolf transformations, something not normally seen. Heck, nowadays, it’s unlikely you’ll even see a bat transformation outside of What We Do in the Shadows. Most vamps nowadays are just immortal pricks with a penchant for bloodlust and an occasional aversion to the sun. Even Only Lovers Left Alive, a spectacular vampire film otherwise, conveniently forgot the more ludicrous aspects of vampirism. Not here, though. Nearly the full range of vamp powers are used, excepting turning into mist or rats.
The film seriously falters in story. There’s not much here, in terms of plot or characters. Some performers (like the aforementioned McDowall and Sarandon) are able to elevate their performances through sheer charisma, other can’t. Don’t get me wrong, Evil Ed is suitably irritating and Charley is likable enough, but it’s hard to get invested in him as a character.
It all adds up to a mildly entertaining watch, but far from an enduring horror classic. A fairly entertaining take on vampires whose 80’s charms are far more dated than endearing, Fright Night earns a B-.
If you didn’t notice, it’s all horror all the time for October. Or should I say Shocktober? No, no I shouldn’t. I apologize for the pun. Goodbye.