If you’ve ever seen Tom Holland’s original Fright Night, then I probably don’t need to tell you just how special the characters are in the film because you’re already well aware. But for those of you out there who may not be as familiar with Holland’s story, allow this writer to indulge a bit in the world of my favorite horror film of all time and take this opportunity to bring you up-to-speed on just what makes Fright Night so special, even after 26 years.
In Fright Night Holland tells us the story of teenager Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who discovers his new next-door neighbor, the always charming Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is hiding a dark secret: He’s really a bloodthirsty vampire who has plans to turn Charley’s community into his own personal meal ticket, and I guess you could say he starts off by feasting on the local prostitution population, which is something that red-blooded Charley picks up on when he notices random girls showing up on Jerry’s doorstep.
Charley has other problems, though. He’s in the doghouse with his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), due to his growing fanaticism over Jerry’s arrival, and he’s also contending with both the growing distance between himself and his best friend “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) as well as Ed’s increasing ridicule of him over Charley’s belief that an actual vampire lives next door to him.
Charley tries to do the right thing once he realizes Jerry’s responsible for all of the deaths featured on the local news so he reaches out to local law enforcement, Detective Lennox (Art J. Evans), but his plans to expose Jerry as a deadly killer are thwarted by the vampire’s henchman and roomie, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), who provides a plausible alibi for both him and Jerry to Detective Lennox.
Desperate and realizing just how much danger he’s put both himself and his unassuming mother, Judy (Dorothy Fielding), in now that both Jerry and Billy are on to him, Charley reaches out to local horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) and asks Peter to help with the vampire living next door to him.
As you can imagine, Peter thinks Charley’s some kind of a lunatic by the way he carries on in his desperate pleas so he hightails it out of his conversation with Charley, leaving the teenager feeling utterly alone and helpless. With all hope lost, Charley decides to man up and take Jerry down himself, turning his bedroom into a vampire war zone that would make Buffy proud.
Once Amy and Ed realize just how Charley’s obsession with killing his vampire neighbor is spiraling out of control, the pair reach out to Peter in a last-ditch effort to have the host step in and perform a “vampire test” on willing participant Jerry in order to put Charley’s fears to rest.
Jerry agrees to drink holy water in front of the group (but as per “reborn Christian” Jerry’s request, it must actually be tap water so as it not be profane to his religious beliefs), and while the vampire passes Peter’s phony test, only angering young Charley, the horror host takes it upon himself to perform his own mirror reflection test on Jerry on the DL, which reveals Charley’s been telling the truth all along. Jerry casts no reflection in Peter’s mirror, and once again, afraid to face his own lack of courage, Peter hightails it away from Jerry’s house and plans to leave town just as soon as the sun rises.
In the meantime Peter’s mirror test is discovered by Jerry, and from there a tragic chain of events is set in motion that pushes poor Charley to the edge when Jerry puts his loved ones in jeopardy. The teenager is now faced with the huge task of having to put an end to Jerry once and for all in an effort to save everyone around him.
Eventually the cowardly horror host decides to join Charley for the showdown at Jerry’s house. For Peter, his need to destroy Jerry is something altogether different: It’s about his own need to face his fears and put the horror host façade behind him and truly become Peter Vincent through and through. For Charley, it’s personal: Jerry took his girl and his best friend, and if doesn’t put a stop to it, Jerry won’t quit until he takes Charley’s life, too. It’s about the teenager embracing manhood and Charley’s ability to become a protector against the bad lurking around in the world.
In this last part of our retrospective series with Tom Holland, Dread Central delves into the world of the characters with the writer/director to find out what his inspirations were when he was originally crafting the script. We also talk with Holland about the idea of vampire desire, homo-eroticism in Fright Night and wax nostalgic about iconic actor McDowall, whom Holland calls “a walking history of Hollywood.”
Check out the last part of our video interview below as well as the last two exclusive stills from behind-the-scenes on Fright Night‘s creature work by Steve Johnson and Randy Cook, courtesy of Holland.
And since this is the last installment of our retrospective interview series on Fright Night, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Tom Holland for being so open and gracious with his time. If it had not been for his willingness to sit down to talk with Dread Central about his directorial debut and his generosity in sharing with us the stills from the creature work done on the flick, there’s no doubt the quality of this retrospective series would have suffered.
As someone who has been a fan of Fright Night since the very beginning, it’s been truly nothing short of an honor to have had the opportunity to celebrate one of my favorite genre films of all time. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to create this Fright Night retrospective series for those of you reading the site, and I really appreciate everyone who took the time to take this nostalgic trip down memory lane with us in honor of one of the best vampire films of all-time: Fright Night.
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