Taking the John Hughes formula that broke out in the eighties like severe acne, tales of plaintive teens bucking the system while falling in love with their shy peers, and spicing it up with some comedy-horror hijinks, this is a beast years before its time. It took another decade for Buffy The Vampire Slayer to raise the high-school stakes, and even then that long-running series pales by comparison with this spry, well-written parody of horror conventions. So, it beat Scream to the punch as well.
Tom Holland got off to a flyer with his casting. William Ragsdale, who was to go onto to very little, is a likeable hero as Charley, part geek part dish, who really digs his horror movies. When he spots the vampire like habits (for starters he drinks really Bloody Marys) of the shadowy figure who has moved into the neighbourhood, played by Chris Sarandon, part Donald Trump part Bela Lugosi, there is only one place he can turn, especially when it seems this intruder in his white-picket upbringing has designs on his girlfriend (the cute Amy Peterson). And that is to TV horror time host Peter Vincent granted the fluttering consonants and goggly eyes of a clearly coasting Roddy McDowall.
It’s dotty, a little ragged (particularly in Stephen Geoffery’s overbearing buddy who get a vampiric makeover) and fairly tame in the shock department, but it has a wining guile. Holland injects a light tribute to the forgotten joys of traditional horror movies, the enthralling fantasy of vampires, werewolves and Frankenstein’s monster. As Vincent laments, “Nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins.” Amongst the sludge of slasher flicks and soap operas that had clogged up either genre, Fright Night showed real spirit.