Though most of his efforts to the world of film have been forgettable at best since, Tom Holland definitely made his mark on the map with his 1985 horror/comedy, Fright Night. Sure, Tom also brought us the original Child’s Play (a wonderful notion, but one that became obscured once those awful sequels started being made) and the television mini-series of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, but neither of those entries have anywhere near the bite (pardon the pun) that this campy vampire thriller has. To this day, I still remember being thoroughly impressed with the feature when my older brother brought it home on VHS in 1986. That feeling hasn’t changed any.
In fact, Fright Night has only become better over the years. In case you’ve been sleeping in a coffin all these years, the tale here finds a high school youth named Charley (William Ragsdale), who begins to suspect that his new next-door neighbor (Chris Sarandon, who also starred in Child’s Play) is a vampire. Naturally, neither his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), nor his best friend, “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, who showed a lot of promise, but only wound up making gay porn after this), believe him. And his efforts to get the police to believe him only result in said vampire discovering Charley knows his secret — and he can’t let him run around crying “wolf!” now, can he?
And so, Charley, being the intelligent kid who stays up late to watch crappy horror movies on late-night television that he is, enlists the aid of his local late-night horror movie host, veteran shock (and schlock) movie actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, in a role that finally gave genre nerds something to appreciate him for other than his work in the Planet of the Apes franchise). Vincent doesn’t believe him, either — at first, that is — but once he sees the proof for himself, the performer is forced to rely on all of the clichés he learned in his own old movies in order to vanquish the undead fiend. Meanwhile, said fiend is on the prowl for Charley and his teenage friends — most notably Amy, who looks like his long-dead love.
Fright Night is one of those movies wherein everything simply clicks. It finds the perfect way to blend humor, heart, and horror without insulting its audience like many other horror-comedy movies do (for my money, this and The Return of the Living Dead are the two best American-made genre hybrids of the period). It’s also a very ’80s flick (always a plus in my book) — from the excellent soundtrack by Brad Fiedel to the fashions and to that crazy “dance” sequence wherein Chris Sarandon seduces Amanda Bearse in a club. The special effects, too, emit a certain nostalgic charm — but still outdo anything modern CGI artists can engender (gimme real makeup and visual composites any ol’ day). I had the pleasure of sharing this one with my offspring — as jaded as today’s generation is by modern special effects — and they were positively blown away by the visual effects (and the film itself).
While the very mention of the word “Twilight” on a classic, sacred film like Fright Night may cause some individuals to writhe in agony. Such a thing would be foolish on your part, of course: the folks at Twilight Time are breaking their backs to bring us wonderful movies to Blu-ray and DVD and don’t need your sass! But seriously, Twilight Time has done an absolutely commendable job with their presentation of Fright Night, delivering a print that is so sharp and beautiful, that it’s near-perfect. It’s so good, in fact, that Roddy McDowall’s frosted hair now stands out more than ever and almost becomes distracting!
Accompanying the feature is a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that delivers admirably, and optional English (SDH) subtitles. Special features-wise, Twilight Time’s limited edition release of Fright Night includes two theatrical trailers (in High-Def) and an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track of Brad Fiedel’s score. Inside the case, there’s a booklet containing a wonderful essay written by Julie Kirgo.
Sadly, Twilight Time’s Fright Night was only given a limited pressing of 3,000 units and they all sold out shortly after the December 2011 release date. Incredibly, the title is presently selling in the neighborhood of $100 on eBay and Amazon, so, if you should happen to come across a copy in a store anywhere for a decent price (even an indecent one), do yourself a favor and pick it up.