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Chris SarandonHeaven on the dance floor.Roddy McDowallStephen Geoffreys

Fright Night

Fright Night Stats: Internet Movie Database
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In a hurry? Go right to the pictures

Fright Night is one of my favorite pictures of all time. I love the characters, the actors, the tone, the dialog, the soundtrack and the effects. I first saw it as a midnight movie and enjoyed it enough to come back on succeeding Saturdays, only to discover that the rest of the young, irreverent audience was doing the very same thing!

As a once enthusiatic player in the audience participation juggernaut The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I've often tried to imagine the mob logic which transforms movie spectators into performers (and regretted I couldn't have been there to see it for myself.) But sometimes lightening strikes twice and for a few magical weeks at the Maplewood Mall, I was able to watch Fright Night audiences take the halting first steps on that special road. They "oohed" and "aahhed" at the right moments, and they began inserting their own dialog.

I can't remember them all now, but particular favorites are:

1. When Amy's picture falls from Charlie's window to be impaled by the fencepost:
2. When Dandrige's screams of pain and frustration blow Charlie against the billowing curtains of his window:
"He should get the Signal!" (This only makes sense to people who remember mouthwash commercials in the eighties.)

The actors in Fright Night offer exhuberant portrayals without slipping into hamminess: Charlie's mother's likeable ditziness, Amy's ambivalence about her virginity, Billy Cole's snotty malevolence and Evil Ed's sarcastic commentary all deserve mention but the masters here are Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige and Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent.

Chris Sarandon is always fun to watch, but he really outdoes himself here. His performance is powerfully reserved and sexy—it's hard not to believe this guy is a thousand years old and used to getting whatever (and whoever!) he likes. As far as I'm concerned, if there's a Heaven, it's a nightclub playing Evelyn Champaign King with Chris Sarandon on the dance floor.

The other heavy lifting in Fright Night is performed by Roddy McDowall, who has to make the character of washed-up horror movie icon Peter Vincent likeable and a bit pitiable without descending into campiness—no small challenge.

Finally, over the years I've found much of the Fright Night dialog irresistably quotable. Some of it is the character of Stephen Geoffreys' voice as Evil Ed—I admit it; he's fun to imitate. And some of it's just the goofiness of the movie's premise: what would you do if a vampire moved in next door?

Sounds from Fright Night

"Why didn't he tell us...?" - Evil Ed explains the point of a Pop Quiz to Charlie.
"Ooh—You're so cool, Brewster!" - Evil Ed's most quotable line.
"Mom, I don't need hot cocoa!" - Charlie is having a little trouble convincing people that a vampire has moved in next door.
"And to what do I owe this dubious pleasure?" - More Evil Ed, this time welcoming Charlie into his abode.
"Sure—and I'm Dirty Harry..." - Charlie has as much luck with the police believing his story as everyone else.
"Don't call me Evil anymore!" - More Evil Ed.
"Far be it from me..." - Ed agrees to help.
"...Afraid I'd never come over without being invited first?" - The vampire has wormed an invitation from Charlie's mother, who thinks she knows a good thing when she sees it.
"See ya... soon." - With nothing stopping him from coming after Charlie in his own home, Dandrige can't resist doing a little taunting.
"I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore..." - Peter Vincent, "The Great Vampire Killer" of B-movie fame, has hit the skids.
"You just said you believed in vampires...!" - In his desperation Charlie tries to enlist the aid of washed-up actor Peter Vincent in his fight against Dandrige.
"Then he'll be able to suck his way throught the entire town..." - Evil Ed contemplates the consequences if Charlie's one-man campaign against the vampire were to fail.
"Hey, where you goin', pencil dick?" - Charlie tries to keep everyone together when they're out at night.
"Welcome to Fright Night... for real." - Jerry welcomes Peter and Charlie to the real-life version of their beloved cinematic adventures.
"Back—you spawn of Satan!" - Peter weilds his trusty ol' crucifix at Dandrige.

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