'Fright Night' - The Quest to Purify My Pop Culture Soul, vol. 22

Posted by Miserable Retail Slave on August 18, 2011 at 7:20 PM
by RFP

The Quest to Purify My Pop Culture Soul" is RFP's attempt to finally see all of the movies that he's wanted to see. Many of these are some of the most successful films in Hollywood. Some of them didn't make much at all. Chances are, you've seen most of these. Join in the discussion as RFP stops procrastinating and takes the time to experience these movies for the first time.

The Quest to Purify My Pop Culture Soul, vol. 22

'Fright Night' (1985)

starring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell


With the upcoming remake starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin due out in theaters on Friday (insert Rebecca Black's ode to that glorious day right here), I figured it was as a good a time as any to check out the original Fright Night.

Vampires are the hot trend in popular media right now, so it's natural that this '80s cult classic gets the remake treatment. Thankfully there's none of those sparkly, big-haired Twilight chuds in this flick. Just old fashioned, blood sucking demons from hell.

The story begins with Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) getting fresh with his girlfriend, Amy, while his favorite program, a show called Fright Night, plays in the background. In between glancing at the TV and trying to get one past his cold fish girlfriend of a year, Charley notices his new neighbors carrying a coffin into their new home. Kid must have ADD. He really needs to stay on task.

Amy expertly deflects all of Charley's scoring chances, like future hall of fame goaltender, Dominik Hašek, AND then has the nerve to blow off Charley's amazement towards his mysterious new neighbors and their questionable furniture choices. 

It's at this point that Fright Night began to remind me of another, more recent film. There's no doubt that Fright Night begins as a riff on the Hitchcock classic, Rear Window, but it only uses that film as a starting point before launching off into another direction - the '80s teen horror genre.

The more recent film that I am thinking of also used Rear Window as a starting point, but then seems to follow Fright Night nearly scene for scene. Call it an homage, call it coincidence, call it plagiarism, but Disturbia starring that Decepticon slayer, Shia Lebeouf, was clearly influenced consciously or not by Fright Night.

Let's break it down.

Exhibit A

  • Fright Night -  New neighbors move in next door to Charley Brewster. The neighbors keep strange hours and their appearance in the neighborhood happen to correspond with the gruesome deaths of several young women.Charley takes it upon himself to spy on the neighbors. At one point he hides in the bushes to spy on them. 

  • Disturbia - Cale Brecht (LeBeouf) bides his time by spying on his neighbors due to a recent house arrest conviction. His new neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), keeps strange hours and unsolved murders of women started around the time that he moved in. At one point, Cale hides in the bushes to spy on him.
Exhibit B

  • One night Charley wakes up and looks into his neighbor's window. He sees his neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), about to make sexy time with a hot young thing. Charley watches as Jerry takes her top off, expose her neck, and rear back, fangs bared. Jerry happens to look up to stare straight at Charley. Charley freaks out and Jerry closes the curtains.

  • Cale wakes up to the sound of Turner's car arriving home. Cale watches through the window as Turner tries to seduce a young woman that he's brought home. Turner catches Cale spying on him, gives him the stinkeye and shuts the curtains.
Exhibit C

  • Charley watches the neighbor drag out a large garbage bag the next day, a bag that he assumes has the woman's body in it.

  • Ditto for Cale in Disturbia.

Exhibit D

  • Charley is shocked to find that his mom has invited Jerry into the house (a vampire no-no) to have a drink. Jerry gives Charley some not-so-subtle hints to knock it off and quit spying on him.

  • Cale is shocked to wake up and find his mom has invited Robert Turner into the house for coffee. He gives Cale some not-so-subtle hints to knock it off and mind his own business.

I could keep going, but, as you can see, the similarities are obvious. We could also comment on how Amy Peterson's borderline ridiculous/frightening vampire look seems to have been the template for Megan Fox's in Jennifer's Body. Who knew Fright Night was so influential?

At any rate, Charley has a vampire problem and the vampire knows that Charley knows that he has a vampire problem. Aside from getting vampire-repelling techniques from his "best friend" Evil Ed (who could easily pass for the Beavis half of the MTV duo), Charley does the only logical thing that he could possibly do: go stalk the hero of Fright Night, Peter Vincent, and ask him to help kill his neighbor. Because obviously an actor who can kill fake vampires has working knowledge on how to kill real ones.

I'm not going to describe the entire plot to you, but I will say that I enjoyed the approach that Jerry the vampire took toward dealing with his nosy teenage neighbor. Instead of killing Charley Brewster outright, the vampire systematically starts destroying his life. I mean, he turns Charley's best friend into a blood-sucker, makes out with his girlfriend and threatens to take her much coveted virginity. 

There's plenty of those amazing '80s era horror movie special effects in the finale of the film, the type of effects that looked amazing and relied on the knowledge and ingenuity of talented experts to create. i think a lot of the charm of modern horror and sci-fi has been lost because modern filmmakers rely too much on the crutch of computer generated effects.

The ending is one of those generic finishes where everything seems fine and dandy, but is it really? The little "twist" in the seconds before the credits doesn't even makes sense given how other events in the film have resolved themselves. I know that's vague, but if you watch this movie, giving at least 30% of your attention to watching it, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.

Has Some Part of My Pop Culture Soul Been Saved By Watching This Movie?

How much money did The J. Geils Band make for writing and performing the title song, "Fright Night" for this movie? Every movie in the '80s had to have its own signature theme song. Good God. This particular one is the worst soundtrack song I've heard this side of "Batdance". 

There's definitely some awful moments in Fright Night. Most of them revolve around the unbelievably annoying Evil Ed. There's the other questionable acting choice made by Chris Sarandon in his full vampire appearance. He adopts this very odd accent and talks in this hesitating stop/start way as if he's playing William Shatner having an asthma attack.

Overall, it's a decent waste of time. Nothing overly exciting, but not the worst movie ever made. I bought this movie on the cheap years ago and it had collected dust on my DVD shelf until this week. I wasn't that excited to see it then, I'm not that excited that I saw it now. It gets a big "eh" from me, but more towards the "eh, s'alright" side of the spectrum.

As for the 2011 Colin Farrell version of Fright Night, one can only assumed the sarcasm, gore, and sex appeal will be amped up for a newer, "hipper" generation. For example, the old fart Peter Vincent has been updated in this version to be a younger, more dashing character as played by everyone's favorite Doctor, the nerd magnet, David Tennant.

This feels like a movie that's somewhat out of place at the tail end of the summer blockbuster movie season. To me, it seems like a film that would do better business during the ramp up to Halloween in October. Then again, I was the guy that felt Captain America: The First Avenger should have came out as close to the 4th of July as possible. I don't get paid to make these business decisions and I'm no expert, so lets see how much business Fright Night actually pulls. 

The one thing I do now is that The J. Geils Band's "Fright Night" is, thankfully, not in the updated film. Instead, the producers roll with the contemporary Kid Cudi whose laconic flow in 'No One Believes Me' is miles beyond J. Geils, but still instantly forgettable.

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Saved or Failed: SAVED

The next attempt to redeem my pop culture soul happens next week.
If you have seen "Fright Night", your achievement badge  is below. Create a folder on your facebook page titled "Film Geek" and save the image to that folder. You'll be able to track your progress and show the world how geeky you really are.


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