Innocence is a key reason why the 1985 horror film “Fright Night” couldn’t be effectively remade earlier this year.
Yes, the new version starring Colin Farrell as the blood sucker next door, boasted superior effects and slick cinematography. But the remake lacks the poignancy of a nerdy high school student protecting his sweetie from a vampire’s clutches. And memories of has-beens hosting horror movie showcase continue to fade, leaving the cheeky Peter Vincent character all but impossible to replace.
That makes it all the more fun to re-watch the original, out now on Blu-ray, especially to chase fresh memories of the uneven remake from one’s mind. You’ll still have to grit your teeth at the awful ’80s music played during the pivotal dance club sequence. Ouch.
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) has a serious problem, and it has nothing to do with the fact that his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) has high moral standards. A vampire named Jerry (Chris Sarandon) has moved into his neighborhood, and Charley is the only one who can see through Jerry’s dashing facade.
Women start disappearing in Charley’s suburban hamlet, and soon Jerry makes it clear that no snot-nosed high schooler is going to stop him from snacking at will.
Enter Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, laboring under a truly frightening wig), the host of a horror movie showcase who may be Charley’s last hope of stopping Jerry before he feasts on Amy.
“Fright Night” marked an impressive debut for director Tom Holland, who would go on to spark the “Child’s Play” franchise. Holland’s directorial career also includes a pair of sleepers – “The Temp” and “Thinner” – but his career seemingly got derailed in the 1990s.
In “Fright Night,” Holland juggles a script that teeters on parody without tipping over. We’ve got the virginal girlfriend, the nebbishy best friend (Stephen Geoffreys, so memorable as Evil Ed) and a vampire as seductive as he is lethal. The wink-wink horror stylings of “Scream” weren’t in vogue back then, but “Fright Night” tinkered with the vampire genre just enough to keep us off guard.
Sarandon makes Jerry a nasty piece of work. He’s not as purty as Edward in the “Twilight” series, but you can’t fault Amy for swooning when he casts his cold gaze her way.
Making Charley fight for the one he loves is hardly a novel concept, but Ragsdale’s character is so unsure of himself romantically that it gives extra meaning to his quest. The same holds true for McDowall’s Vincent, a pathetic little man who screws up enough courage on one fateful night to battle a real-life vampire for a change.
The flawed heroes helped make “Night” so memorable – and darn near impossible to duplicate.
Alas, the new “Fright Night” Blu-ray edition lacks extras of consequence. We’re left with enjoying the vampire yarn as it was originally intended to be seen – with pre-CGI effects and a heaping helping of sweetness.