This post is part of my 31 Days of Vampires! series for October 2014.

Fright Night (1985) poster 1

Teenager Charley just wants his girlfriend Amy to put out. C’mon guys, he’s waited a year already! Most school nights the two of them turn the telly to Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), hackneyed horror host, and wrestle/make-out until they get to arguing about when TEH SEX is supposed to happen.

We are about forty-five seconds into my plot synopsis and if you’re bored already well, so was the film – because enough’s enough, here’s your vampire! In the form of smug, yuppie neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Jerry? Jerry is not a scary name) as played by Chris Sarandon. Charley spots Jerry getting up to his bloodsucking ways and Jerry spots Charley spotting him. Thus the teenage hero embarks on a mission to stop the dastardly demon and save his small town from vampiric assault.

Fright Night (1985) poster 2

Fright Night deserves more recognition than it gets. It is solid boilerplate 80s horror and moves along at a nice clip. The special effects deserve mention, too: long before CGI, when what we had was makeup, lighting tricks, fog machines, and gooey prosthetics. The film makes wonderful use of techniques between transformation stages (in what I call, the “Manimal” technique). Vampire Jerry, for instance, has about four looks – the Jerry-with-sexy-fangs, the Jerry-who-is-a-gross-monster, the Jerry-who’s-halfway-in-between, and the Jerry who’s actually just a gooey puppet/bat/rat monkey thing. Notable too is a distressing and realistic vampire-as-wolf detransformation, and the final vampire dispatched onscreen – complete with green flames, imploding glass, and a horrific skeletal abomination screaming into eternity.

Star power: there isn’t much. Sarandon is pretty great – we’ll get to him in a minute. Teenage Amy and Charley as played by Amanda Bearse and William Ragsdale (you may recognize the latter from “Justified”) provide little charisma or likeability. McDowall must have been a director’s favorite because the last 1/3 of the film showcases him having close call after close call and mercilessly mugging to the camera in the fashion we’ve come to expect from this B-movie icon.

Vampire films have wisely tapped into sex from the get-go and this film is no exception. Like many, Amy is viewed as too-virginal for the hero’s taste – but don’t worry, she’ll change her mind. And who can blame her? Chris Sarandon – 80s pleated Dockers, textured sweater and all – makes a very sexy, suave – and frankly sarcastic vampire. The nightclub scene alone is worth the film!

Fright Night (1985) - nightclub

And did I mention smug? He has gotta be the smuggest Nosferatu I’ve seen onscreen.

Fright Night (1985) - Chris Sarandon

For vampire fans: 5 out of 5 stars.