When the film version of Interview with the Vampire was released, I couldn't stop laughing about the absurdity of a Vampire named "Tom"! Pretty funny still, yeah!
But how about a Vampire named... "Jerry"! Yeah, good old "Jerry the Vampire"! It's like "Hey, lookin' good there, Jer'! Been stickin' with the B Positive?" Or "Hey, there, Jer' Bear, that was some hot lady you had last night! How was her Iron?" Even funnier... imagine that good old Jerry Dandridge wasn't some Transylvanian recluse living in a king-dope Corellian Castle in the Misty Mountains, but an affable suburbanite slob amid the rest of the football-watching, lawn-worshipping and weather-discussing Yuppies that tend to suck in ways most Vampires cannot (or don't bother to)!
Yep. No matter how you bite into the pear of Fright Night, Jerry is most certainly a Vampire! Yep... he goes from looking like your usual, handsome tract-housing owning ladies' man, closely resembling that Chris Sarandon guy to sparking up a big, crazy Fright Face, which makes him look a lot more like Martha Wray, Denture Wearer. Holy Crap on a Bavarian Stick, is that a big ol' mouth, man! That vast-ass oral cavity could make Christopher Lee's version of Dracula look like a guy who just sucked a LEMON, man!
And with that brobdignagian pie hole of his, he's doing a bunch of Vampire-type things. See, him and his live-in carpenter/ not-quite-human "Familiar" Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) have abandoned the creepy haunted forests and foggy moors for the sunny suburbs to sink their teeth into some local color.
The predominant color being... Blonde.
So... how exactly does one detect a Vampire in Sun-Soaked Southern California, even if he DOES have a certain "Chris Sarandonness" to him?
Well, apparently you've got to be Charley Brewster... possibly because he's played by William Ragsdale! You know, you know, "Herman" from Herman's Head? Yeah, man. With that many people rolling around in his noggin he was bound to figure out a few things. 'Cause in Herman's Head... In Herman's Head it's a CROWDED ROOM!
But seriously, it might have a lot to do with the fact that he spends a lot of his evenings watching a late night horror series called Fright Night, hosted by a once-venerable, now washed up horror icon named Peter Vincent (well-played by Roddy McDowall).
Charley soon ends up more interested in proving that neighborly Jerry Dandridge is a Vampire than he is in having what is sure to be really hot sex with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse). So, for those of you keeping score... Herman from Herman's Head is dating Marcy from Married with Children!
Before you all yell "D'oh!" and look for more familiar faces from the (dare I call it) "Golden Age" of Fox TV, let me assure you that Stephen Geoffreys, the actor who plays Charley's best friend "Evil Ed" was not a sitcom star on Fox or any other network. He was, however, the star of a shit ton of Hardcore Gay Porno Movies like Gay Men in Uniform, Buff and Gay, Guys Who Crave Big Cocks, Latin Crotch Rocket, Butt Blazer, Cock Pit and Seamen Training Day, none of which I've seen... and not only because they weren't on the Fox Network.
I'm thinking Stephen Geoffreys might have, you know, maybe been into guys.
Back to the scandalous story ON SCREEN. So you've got the highly unlikely story that an imaginative teenager starts telling about an Ancient, Vicious Vampire settling onto the local cul-de-sac collection and nobody from his dear mommy Judy (Dorothy Fielding) to the local police Detective Lennox (Art J. Evans) believe the guy. I mean... who would?
Now there's a pretty cool premise... especially if the kid just happens to be right, right? Because if nobody's going to believe him and he's right, he might as well wrap himself up in plastic and stamp himself with a big "Purina Vampire Chow" (Chow-Chow-Chow) logo, right?
So... just who exactly thunk up this whole decadent flambé? Is it maybe... Tom Holland, the writer who brought us Class of 1984, Cloak & Dagger and Psycho II in his directorial debut? Eh... Could Be-ee! And hey, even though he never got a chance to direct any of Stephen Geoffreys' later work he DID go on to direct Thinner, Fatal Beauty and Child's Play so I'm doubting he's ever going to be hungry.
On the other hand, I understand that I, personally, have a much more endearing singing voice. Karaoke, anyone?
The best thing about Fright Night is that it's a hell of a lot of fun. Oh, sure, it's got its flaws here and there and it doesn't exactly stand up to the serious horror shows we find in the unassailable classics section, but Fright Night is about 37% more humorous than the Leading Brand and it's really durable to boot! Tom Holland knows when to turn the Vampire Genre on its ear and shake it all about until something absurd falls out with quite the bang and he knows when to let horror be horror, mixing the frost into a froth, then pulling the rug out from under the audience for a cacophony of "WHAT The-"s!
On the other hand, for all its classic cred, Fright Night is a fang's throw from a perfect film. At times the acting feels just the tiniest bit forced, while at others Ragsdale looks like he's about to turn to the audience and wink. Parts of the script feel just a little bit contrived and I couldn't help but think that the premise (while quite a lot of fun when one focuses on the Absurdity that is Jerry) feels a lot like a more humorous spin on Salem's Lot with an ending that came just a curled hair before everything went to Hell. Further, the special effects, while high quality work from Entertainment Effects Group for its day, feel almost as dated as my early Fox Television references earlier in this review. Luckily their effects are much better than my writing.
To be fair, Fright Night is at its best when one turns off the critical commentary and just leans back for a ripping good time! Holland throws in some impressive in-jokes for movie fans and gives us some great send-ups of the classics while managing to be a solid horror flick in its own right. Roddy McDowall's considerable comedy (and horror) skills are used to great effect here as he dances between Hammer Horror Has-Been and unlikely advisor. Sarandon, too, gives a very 80s heart-throb style performance with his suave wiles but we know that there is a seething monster just underneath the surface. Holland plays with these dichotomies in both characters to the point that they almost feel like well-explored inversions of each other while the overall film walks that razor's edge between Laugh Fest... and Fright Night!
That, in itself, is why Fright Night is not to be missed... it's got all of the elements of a throwback time-passer to half watch while you're surfing the web for a streaming copy of Bordello of Blood but manages to be a very fine film in its own right, worth somewhere in the cul-de-sac collection of Three and one half Stars out of Five! Special mention should go to the lovely Heidi Sorenson, for her enchanting turn as one of the aforementioned blondes... and not just because of her enchanting turn as Playboy's Miss July Playmate of the Month from 1981! That's not even mentioning cute, cute Irina Irvine and her sexy naked turn as a "Special Friend" of neighbor Dandridge! Say what you want about Vampires named Jerry who invade the suburbs... at least they have FANTASTIC Taste!
Bite you in the next reel!