Review by Michael Jacobson
Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall
Director: Tom Holland
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: September 7, 1999
Fright Night is a
gleefully fun horror movie. It
maintains a consistently creepy atmosphere that keeps you both dreading and
eagerly anticipating what might happen next.
It’s also one of the few horror movies I’ve seen that uses humor to
real advantage. Jokes aren’t
present just to be funny, or corny, or campy.
Each bit of humor actually enhances the menacing mood of the film, and
makes you laugh and cringe a bit at the same time, knowing usually that it’s
reflective of something dreadful to come.
Charley (Ragsdale) is a young teen convinced something is
wrong with his new next door neighbor. He’s
pretty sure he saw a coffin being moved into the basement.
And when a woman who visits the house later turns up on the news as a
victim in a series of bizarre and brutal murders, his suspicions grow.
But when he sees neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon) open his mouth wide
to take a bite out of an unsuspecting woman’s jugular, revealing a pair of
long white fangs…well, things are even worse than he imagined.
The problem is, nobody believes Charley when he tries to
convince them there’s a vampire living next door. And who would? Not
his mother, not his friends, not the police.
It sounds ridiculous. It
makes the situation all the more frustrating and precarious for Charley.
Jerry is protected by everyone’s refusal to believe.
And he knows that Charley knows his secret.
Is Charley on his own?
No. He enlists
the reluctant help of a movie star and TV host Peter Vincent (McDowall).
Vincent once starred in a series of cheesy B grade horror films as a
vampire killer, but he’s now just a has-been in the business who’s reduced
to the indignity of hosting his own old movies on a local station.
He’s not really a vampire killer.
He doesn’t even believe. He
shows up just to prove Charley wrong, but soon, he knows too much as well.
The film climaxes with an all night horror fest in
Jerry’s house. It’s just
Charley and Peter against him, with Charley’s girlfriend (Bearse, of Married With Children fame) at stake (no pun intended).
Her life will depend on our intrepid duo’s ability to outwit, outfight,
and outlive the undead demon until the morning sun breaks through.
This is an original and entertaining horror film that flat
out succeeds in everything it sets out to do.
All elements work exceptionally well, including the casting of Sarandon
as the cool, charming but deadly vampire. But
particular attention should be paid to McDowall’s fine work.
His character is the most interesting, as the one time star being slowly
forced into becoming his famous character for real, and having to find the
courage in himself to rise to the occasion.
But the aspect of the film I liked best was the way it
brought a force of evil into our world. This
is not a movie about kids who explore a haunted house, or get lost in the woods,
or in some other creepy and surreal locale.
This is about a vampire who moves into our familiar suburban
neighborhood. He stalks and
terrorizes his victims on their own turf, completely destroying the illusion of
safety in familiar surroundings. The
result is a truly disturbing and unsettling element, and it makes the overall
effect that much more scary.
This is a terrific transfer from Columbia Tri Star. I only watched the anamorphic widescreen version, but given that this is a film from the mid-80’s, it looks surprisingly good. Images are sharp and clear throughout, and despite the many night scenes, there are only one or two instances of noticeable grain. Color rendering is generally very good, with no bleeding evident.
The Dolby surround soundtrack is quite good, with a few
pieces of music that come through strong, and a great array of sound during the
hectic climax. The
rear single channel stage adds to the eeriness, and both stages create a full,
ambient listening experience. A commendable effort.
Only a trailer.