Classic Intel: Fright Night (1985) - Online Review

'The roguish sexual politics of Stoker's Dracula are invoked both on a plot level and visually.'

Towards the end of the original Fright Night, it seems to be suggested that the whole thing has been a rather clever metaphor for the obstacles teenagers have to overcome in order to have sex. Charley (William Ragsdale) and Amy (Amanda Bearse) face the attention of Charley's mother, the prying eyes of the next door neighbour (who happens to be a vampire), vastly wavering mood swings and the annoying input of class mates. The motivation to overcoming all this, it is suggested, is so that they can end up happily together in the sack come the end of the film.

Clever though that might be it seems somewhat whimsical for a vampire-based horror film, something director Tom Holland seems to keen to address, packing Fright Night with substance beyond what could be reasonably expected from an 80s popcorn Horror. The synth and guitar-solo-led soundtrack might seem dated but it is also deliciously effort-filled. Chris Sarandon's vampire is the right side of overplay, hinting to modern audiences what Mark Ruffalo might do with a role like this, given the chance.

There's also the wider influences of the vampire and horror canons on display. The roguish sexual politics of Stoker's Dracula are invoked both on a plot level and visually. 'Hero' Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) inverts the classic protagonist of the horror genre to good effect, the film initially suggesting that it might be all about stripping down society's preconceived notions of that particular character trope.

The effects too, especially in the final third, are rather impressive for their time, though why a werewolf appears at one point is ill-explained, apparently solely there to again nod to Stoker's masterpiece, where the prince of darkness arrives firstly in the guise of a huge dog.

Holland's film is, notionally, a Horror Comedy but the latter of those genres enters the fray unobtrusively and only occasionally. This is a primarily just a Horror, and a solidly good one at that.

Fright Night was playing on Sky Movies Anytime+.

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