“The master will kill you for this! But not fast. Slowly! Oh, so slowly!”
There was bit of a horror movie renaissance in the early and mid 80s, just before I was old enough to take advantage of it. Because of older sisters, I was exposed to things like Nightmare on Elm Street, but I was so young, I either didn’t get them, or was legitimately terrified by them. Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen much appeal in the genre as a whole. Maybe I saw too much too early. Whatever reason, there are movies from that era that are now three decade sold, and well into the vintage of being considered classics by 80s teenagers who grew up with them constantly on VHS and cable TV. Movies like Fright Night.
In his bedroom late at night, high schooler Charley (William Ragsdale) is too preoccupied by cheap horror movies on TV, and spying on his neighbours through the window, to notice the advances of his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse). He sees his new neighbours carry a coffin into their basement and the next day decides to dig deeper into what they might be hiding. Caught by one of the new inhabitants, he quickly retreats and goes back to spying on them form the safe distance of his bedroom. That night, he witnesses Jerry (Chris Sarandon), seducing a woman. But Charley barley notices the seduction, because Charlie is too distracted by Jerry’s claw like fingernails and fangs.
Convinced that Jerry is a vampire, Charlie has no luck convincing his mother (Dorothy Fielding) or anyone else that this is the case. But once Jerry knows that Charley is on to him, he doesn’t want to take any chances, and attacks Charley in his own home. Fighting Jerry off, Charley’s wounds are enough to convince his girlfriend, and school friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), of Jerry’s vampirism. Evil Ed then decides the best man to help them fight off this monster is Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall). A has been horror movie actor and current host of horror movies on their crappy local TV station, he’s the closest thing to a resident expert on the subject.
Even seeing Fright Night for the first time now, 30 years after its release and well into my 30s, I straight away saw why teenagers and kids of the 80s loved it then, and have carried a nostalgic love for it ever since. Like all good horror movies, it succeeds because it’s not just a horror movie. It’s a great teen comedy, a great team action movie and even a great teen romance all at the same time.
Charlie could be a character in a John Hughes high school movie. Evil Ed is 100% an annoying, goofy best friend character inspired by John Hughes style movies. Bad horror movies think it’s all about cheap scares or nasty gore or alarming shocks. Good horror movies make sure you give a shit about their characters first, then they put those characters in some sort of danger. Scares, gore and shocks mean a whole lot more when you care about the people in peril.