As a child of the 80s, to me there were two distinctive kinds of horror movies: the kind you watched if you really wanted to scare the crap out of yourself (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Thing) and the kind that you enjoyed because they treaded on the lighter side of genre fare (The Monster Squad, Ghostbusters, Gremlins), and Fright Night definitely fell into the latter category, making it an almost instant classic for myself and worldwide fans alike when it hit VHS shelves everywhere in late spring 1986.
Even though most of us adore Fright Night for being the best vampire movie of the entire 1980s, what I’ve always thought made it even more entertaining than your average vampire film of that time was that the movie also had some incredible characters as well as a look and feel that demonstrated writer/director Tom Holland’s own personal admiration for the Universal Monsters days of horror cinema that he so fondly grew up on, including references to wolves, bats and even an undeterminable zombie-like creature (this is in reference to Jonathan Stark’s character of Billy Cole). So while it was important that Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) had to be a convincing vampire, the other creature and effects work in Fright Night was just as important.
Another thing I also picked up on as a kid (and I’ll be completely honest, I’m not sure how accurate this is, but I’m sure if I’m wrong someone out there will let me know) was that Fright Night was the first time I could recall actually seeing that there could be stages to being a vampire. In all the other various vampire-related flicks released throughout the years, it always seemed to me either the vampire was playing human or they were in full-out vamp mode. Jerry Dandridge stood out to me as being something special because we saw him in various stages of his vampirism, and again, I’m not sure if it truly was the first time ever that someone used that to characterize their vampire in movies, but I dug that Holland went in that direction when creating Jerry.
Lucky for Holland, right about the same time he was gearing up for production on his directorial debut, another big-effects Columbia Pictures release was just wrapping up and happened to be Ghostbusters, which meant Holland had the privilege of assembling some top-notch talent on his team for Fright Night, including special make-up effects maestros Steve Johnson (Howling II, Videodrome, Big Trouble in Little China, NOES 4: The Dream Master, War of the Worlds, Spider-Man 2) and Randy Cook (The Thing, Poltergeist II, The Gate, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Puppet Master II & IV).
In this installment of Dread Central’s exclusive video retrospective for the 1985 classic horror movie Fright Night, tune in to hear Tom talk about how a first-time feature filmmaker managed to assemble a top-notch crew that included cinematographer Jan Kiesser (The X-Files movie, War, The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift), production designer John DeCuir, Jr. (Ghostbusters, Top Gun, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark) as well as the aforementioned duo of Johnson and Cook.
After watching the video, make sure to check out two more exclusive behind-the-scenes stills provided to us courtesy of Holland. These give you a look at what went into Billy Cole’s dissolving on the stairs scene. And check back here on Dread Central tomorrow, too, for the fourth and final part of our Fright Night video retrospective interview series with Tom Holland.
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