Director – Tom Holland
Cast – William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding
Release Year – 1985
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Oh how I love the iconic horror decade known as “The 80s”. Back when horror films were meant to be both scary AND fun, these films dominated movie theaters and gave the people what they wanted. Horror films from the 70s and 80s are quite different and should be viewed with the mindset that the films were made to deliver to. What I really love about these films is the fact that very little CGI is ever used. The directors instead opt for live action creatures and kill scenes, which I always found more original, and much scarier due to the realism it provides. Fright Knight incorporates all that is an 80s horror film, and is not only one of my favorite vampire flicks ever, but is one of the best vampire flicks from the 80s to come out before “Near Dark” and “The Lost Boys”.
The film follows Charley Brewster, and adolescent teen keen on banging his hot virgin girlfriend Amy, who is portrayed by Amanda Bearce before her Married With Children fame as Al’s nemesis/Jefferson’s wife…Marcy. One night Charley notices his new neighbors loading a coffin into their cellar, he finds the act a bit suspicious, but soon figures he has other things he should be doing. But soon he begins to notice that beautiful women who visit his neighbor wind up dead with their pictures on the evening news. With his mind set that something is going on next door, he stays up late one night and thru a window he sees that his new neighbor is really a vampire! With neither his girlfriend, his mother, or his best friend believing him about at vampire next door, Charley must turn to the only person who believes in vampires…an infamous actor who portrays a vampire killer in horror films presented on a late night horror show titled…”Fright Night”. With the vampire aware that Charley knows his secret, Charlie and his friends are in big danger and must work together to kill the vampire, and bring piece to his once safe neighborhood.
In his directoral debut, Tom Holland etched himself into horror history with this classic vampire tale that doesn’t really offer anything new to the vampire scene, yet gives us a fun ride that should make non-vampire fans like myself enjoy this film. I have never been a huge vampire fan. I do not find them scary at all(although Nosferatu was pretty sweet), and I believe that to be the biggest reason I will not call myself a vampire fan. However, that does not mean I will not watch vampire films. Of course I will! I just don’t drool over them like I do with zombies, creature features, and slasher films. Heh.
Anywho, I really enjoyed how this film didn’t go with a lot of plot development before showing us the vampire next door. We were exposed to the vampire rather quickly, and I enjoyed that given that this film really is not more than your average vampire tale. There is no subplot whatsoever, so the pacing in this film is very important to keep it from losing the viewer’s interest. And for the most part…I think director Tom Holland did an above average job with it. After “Fright Night” he went on to direct a few other horror films, with one of them being one of my all-time favorites…”Child’s Play. The acting in this film isn’t the best, but I did find Chris Sarandon to be very effective as the vampire in this film. He pulled off the suave, sophisticated nature of a vampire very well, plus I just found it pretty freakin awesome to see him in a movie before he, or should I say his VOICE, rose to fame with his portrayal of the infamous Jack Skellington who line’s the walls of Hot Topic stores everywhere. Haha! Note: He portrayed the “talking” Jack Skellington, it was Danny Elfman who did Jack Skellington’s “singing” roles.
Of course…with this being an 80s film I just HAVE to comment on the gore. It wasn’t the greatest, and I did expect a tad bit more blood for this film, but I did enjoy the special effects as a whole. The “melting skeleton” scene as well as the “wolf transformation” scene were basically what I was referring to with how films back then opted for live action effects instead of CGI. They just look so much better, and bring more realism to the film.
My only knock against this film would be the runtime. With a vampire film like this…it shouldn’t take an hour and 40something minutes unless it has a serious, philosophical meaning like Bram Stocker’s Dracula. I felt that the film did drag in a few select parts, and they could(and should) have been done away with to improve the pacing in a film that really is not story-oriented and cannot afford to drag.
Overall, this is an enjoyable vampire flick delivered to us from one of the decades that brought us fun horror films. This is definitely a beer and pizza flick, so get some and enjoy!