Director: Tom Holland
Screenplay: Tom Holland
Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys
Country: USA
Running Time: 106 min
Year: 1985
BBFC Certificate: 18

Halloween might have been and gone and Christmas is around the corner, but Eureka have gone against the grain to choose the Holiday season to re-release a cult classic horror favourite, 1985’s Fright Night on Blu-Ray (with a dual format edition to follow in April). Written and directed by Tom Holland, it was popular enough to not only spawn a sequel in 1988, but also a remake in 2011 starring Colin Farrell, Richard Tennant and the late Anton Yelchin. When the remake came out I wanted to see the original first, but never got around to it, so never saw either. So this re-release gave me the perfect chance to play catch up.

Fright Night sees typical teenager Charlie (William Ragsdale) grow suspicious of his new next door neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). After seeing him and his lodger Billy (Jonathan Stark) carrying a coffin into their house in the middle of the night, he’s sure something isn’t right. Then he sees a fanged Jerry seducing young women who turn up dead and thinks he spots him turning from a bat into a man. So Charlie is certain his neighbour is a vampire. Unfortunately no one believes him of course, so it’s up to him to put an end to his reign of terror. His girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t believe him either, but are worried about his sanity and what he might do to his ‘innocent’ neighbour. So the two team up to help prove Jerry is human and the only way they can think of to do this is to enlist the support of washed up horror star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), of whom Charlie is a massive fan. Meanwhile, Jerry and Billy do their best to mess with Charlie and take the three youngsters and cowardly old actor out of the equation.

I had a lot of fun with the film. It gets the perfect balance between comedy and horror. It may not be side-splittingly hilarious or pant-wettingly scary, but it’s consistently entertaining and has enough tension and gore to keep fright fans happy. Added to this, the film does a pretty good job of handling the coming of age teen movie elements in the first half, as Charlie and Amy go through some relationship problems (she wants to finally lose her virginity, but he keeps getting distracted by the Jerry situation). The three young characters are pretty believable despite the setting and very likeable (other than Ed who’s a bit annoying). This gives what happens later on a lot more emotional impact as well as helping deliver the comedy.

Holland is clearly a horror movie fan, as the film pays homage to classic Universal monster movies and Hammer horrors, particularly in the clips of Peter Vincent’s cheesy movies we see. These are hosted on a late night TV show by the man himself, mimicking those similar screened on American TV back in the day. There’s a line where Vincent bemoans modern horror too and how it’s all just “demented maniacs butchering young virgins” (or something along those lines).

The film really goes to town on the make-up and special effects sequences too. Although a couple of elements here and there have dated, on the whole the gory scenes are highly effective. These are largely in the latter half of the film when the horror side really takes over. An icky reverse transformation and gooey melting sequence are particularly impressive.

More importantly, in terms of delivering the full package, the characters are very strong too. They’re all a little larger than life. Even Charlie’s mum (Dorothy Fielding) is quirky, being a little too outspoken in front of her son. Vincent is especially over the top, so almost doesn’t fit with the rest of the cast, but his campiness matches his character perfectly and he’s so much fun it works a treat.

It’s a film that simultaneously feels of its time and is timeless too. It still delivers, despite the high concept typical of 80’s movies and the inherent dated fashions etc. A dance seduction scene in a nightclub screams 1980’s for instance, but still feels pretty hot and convincing. Brad (The Terminator) Fiedel’s score is synth-heavy too, but like his most famous soundtrack it perfectly matches the mood. I also thought the film looked great, with some stylish lighting that’s moody yet colourful with neon splashes here and there to remind you of the era.

Maybe it’s never quite frightening or hilarious enough for me to give it a perfect five star review, but it’s hard to fault the film. It’s tremendously entertaining and fairly fast paced so barrels along with no down time. I’m not sure I need to watch the remake now, because I can’t see it being an improvement.

Fright Night is out on 26th December in a Blu-Ray Steelbook in the UK followed by a Special Edition Dual Format edition on 10th April 2017, both released by Eureka. I saw the Blu-Ray version and the picture quality was very impressive, looking clean, colourful and richly textured. It sounds crystal clear too.

There’s a mightily impressive number of special features. Here’s the list:

– You’re So Cool, Brewster! A new two-hour version of the definitive 2016 documentary on the making of Fright Night, focusing on the first film, created exclusively for this release
– What is Fright Night featurette, a 2016 video piece featuring cast and crew interviews (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– Tom Holland: Writing Horror, a 2016 video piece featuring interviews with Holland and his collaborators (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– Rowdy McDowall: From Apes to Bats, a 2016 video piece featuring archival footage of McDowall and cast and crew interviews (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– Fear Fest 2 2008 reunion panel featuring Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark and moderated by Rob Galluzzo (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– Shock Till You Drop Present Choice Cuts with Tom Holland and Ryan Turek, a three-part video interview on the film (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– The full electronic press kit, featuring extensive on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– Stills and memorabilia from Tom Holland’s personal collection (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– G-rated and R-rated theatrical trailers (BLU-RAY ONLY)
– PLUS: a booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann (STEELBOOK EXCLUSIVE)

I can’t imagine anyone needing anything more from the set. Everything is covered here. OK, there’s no commentary, but when you’ve got a slickly made documentary that runs longer the film itself, who needs one. I actually haven’t seen everything on the disc yet, but I did watch this. It starts off a little too much like a back slapping love-in, but soon gets more interesting and enjoyable as the behind the scenes anecdotes come flowing. There’s a lot of focus on the makeup and special effects sequences, which these days can be a bit dull in the age of CGI, but to hear how make-shift and clever some of these techniques were is genuinely fascinating. This documentary alone would be enough to recommend the Blu-Ray, but to have a couple of hours worth of added material on top of this is unbelievable. Eureka have really outdone themselves here to deliver the definitive package.

Fright Night (1985)
4.0Overall Score
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Editor of films and videos as well as of this site. On top of his passion for film, he also has a great love for music and his family.

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