Tuesday 14 April 2015

Fright Night

Fright Night
There are some very good reasons to be afraid of the dark
Studio: Columbia Pictures :::::::::: Release Date: 2nd August 1985
Director: Tom Holland :::::::::: Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon
Budget: $9M :::::::::: 2015 Equivalent: $20M
U.S Box Office: $24.9M :::::::::: 2015 Equivalent: $55.5M

When Jerry Dandrige moves into the house next door, horror fan Charley Brewster suspects he could be a vampire. Maybe it's the coffin he saw being taken into the house or the blood curdling screams he hears in the dead of night. But when his girlfriend doesn't believe him and his best friend thinks he's crazy, Charley turns to the one man he knows can help - Fright Night host Peter Vincent. But even he isn't all he appears to be.......

Horror was one of the main staples of 1980s cinema as it emerged from the campy Hammer movies of the 70s into something of a much darker, more violent nature. The genre moved into the mainstream with the likes of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series, as well as becoming a major catalyst in the uptake of the video recorder, helped no end by the infamous video nasty period. Hollywood studios were quick to realise that while horror movies were successful, their very nature shut off a large percentage of the potential audience. John Landis, with An American Werewolf in London and Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead showed that comedy, however dark, could work in a horror movie. But it would be a fine line to tread - too much comedy would water down the horror, too graphic the horror and no matter how funny the film, you would not get your audience back. There are few better examples of a movie getting that balance just right than Tom Holland's Fright Night.

Tom Holland was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and caught the acting bug in high school, appearing in numerous plays. A summer-long stint at a local playhouse all but convinced him to quit school and act full time. However his parents had other ideas and managed to sway the young Holland into finishing school and attending college. He graduated in 1962 and moved on to study drama at a New York university, as well as receiving tutelage at the Herbert Berghof Studio and the world famous Actors Studio, under the guidance of Lee Strasberg. Working with some of the players and directors, he came to realise that if he could write a script, it could lead to directing. He struck up a friendship with Stewart Stern, scripter of Rebel without a Cause, who taught Holland how to write for film. Outside of the classroom, Holland struggled to find work as an actor, and ended up, initially at least, making more money from modelling. He supplemented this by taking on all manner of behind the scene jobs on TV shows and films - something that would aid him later on in his career.

 He was fortunate enough to get noticed by Jack Warner, who signed him to a Warner Brothers contract. Tom Holland, or rather Tom Fielding as he became known (there was already an actor by the name of Holland) made his voice acting debut on the Eli Kazan movie, America America, dubbing dialogue. He moved on to appear in a number of TV shows of the time, including Temple Houston and 77 Sunset Strip, before realising he could make more money working back in New York. He took on soap opera work, landing a recurring role on A Time for Us, but when the show was cancelled, he once again found himself in Los Angeles. He did however manage to land the lead role in Josie's Castle, opposite George Takei; sadly the film suffered numerous production problems and was ultimately re-edited and sold as a sexploitation movie. As the acting work dried up, Holland took to appearing in various TV commercials (as many as 200 he would later state), before deciding to give up acting altogether and return to school to study law. After getting through the first difficult year, he considered quitting, but instead stuck with law, while writing film treatments and screenplays in his spare time. It was while waiting for the results of the bar exam that he sold his first script, The View from 30, to Dick Berg, for $1500.

Despite passing the bar and graduating, he opted to pursue a career in screenwriting. While The View from 30 wasn't produced, another treatment of Holland's was used as the basis of The Initiation of Sarah, a movie of the week that was essentially a Carrie-knock off. The picture garnered huge ratings and notoriety thanks to a sequence involving a young Morgan Fairchild in a fountain. The writer later stated that it was 'the first [program on American television] to have a wet T-shirt scene in it'. Holland received his first proper writing credit on the 1981 film, The Beast Within. While the picture failed to do much business, it did convince him that he had chosen the right career path, and he went on to write cult hit, Class of 1984. Next he teamed up with Richard Franklin to work on the made-for-TV sequel, Psycho II. According to Holland, Franklin was the leading scholar on Hitchcock to emerge from USC, and gave him an in-depth education on the fabled director as the pair began to construct the script. Even in those pre-internet days, there were plenty of people ready to rally against a sequel to Hitchcock's seminal classic and critics readied their knives.

Made for TV sequels were quite a popular thing back in the late 70s and early 80s. Much like the straight to DVD sequels of the 90s, these TV movies had built-in audience awareness, but rarely featured any of the stars of the original and were made on shoestring budgets. Holland poured his heart into Psycho II, and with Franklin's knowledge, turned in a very workable script with plenty of nods to Hitchcock's original. An offer went out to Anthony Perkins, with a view to him reprising his most famous role, but he turned it down. The studio began to look for a new Norman Bates, and when Perkins heard that Christopher Walken was up for the part, he quickly changed his mind and signed on board. Holland tells a different version of events, one in which Perkins still wasn't interested - but changed his mind upon reading the script. Whatever the truth, with Perkins back on board, Universal elevated the picture to theatrical status. It became a surprise hit with both critics and the public, earning generally positive reviews and $34.7M at the box office in 1983.

Around the same time, Holland wrote (and sold) the scripts for Cloak and Dagger, a spy adventure thriller that would be released on a double bill with The Last Starfighter, and horror movie Scream for Help. It would be Michael Winner's treatment of the latter that convinced Holland that he must direct whatever he wrote next to avoid it suffering a similar fate. Having had success with Class of 1984 and Psycho II, and proving himself a reliable talent, he now had some clout within Hollywood. While writing Cloak and Dagger, he'd had the idea for a story in which a teenager obsessed with late night horror shows is convinced his neighbour is a vampire, but obviously, no one believes him. Holland was happy with the initial idea but couldn't figure out how to expand it further, and so it sat in his head for a year while he continued with other projects. But the story never went away, and it was while talking to John Byers at Columbia Pictures that he finally cracked it - he'd have the teenager seek the help of one of the late night horror show hosts.

Once the central device was in place, the script came together very quickly, and went from treatment to finished screenplay in only three weeks. Columbia Pictures offered to finance the film, providing Holland could bring it in for $9M. As the newly made director would find out, the studio weren't all that interested in his horror-comedy, their sights were set on what they were sure would be the blockbuster of the year, the John Travolta-Jamie Lee Curtis movie, Perfect. But Holland was off, and set about casting for what would become known as Fright Night.  Key to the picture were the roles of the vampire Jerry Dandrige, the neighbour Charley Brewster, and the horror show host, Peter Vincent (Holland's tribute to Hammer Horror stars Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). The supporting cast would consist of Charley's girlfriend, Amy, his best friend Evil Ed and Dandrige's 'assistant', Billy.

Given that Peter Vincent was written with horror icon Vincent Price in mind, it seemed natural to Holland to approach him for the role, but the actor turned him down, having become tired of the horror genre and being typecast. It was Guy McElwaine, head of Columbia Pictures at the time, who suggested Roddy McDowall for the part. Having worked together on Class of 1984, Holland was more than open to the idea of a reunion. The actor jumped at the chance and had some of his own ideas on how to portray the character. By the time of Fright Night, McDowall was a veteran of some standing. He began acting at an early age, and won his first major role in the film Scruffy, when aged nine. Due to the outbreak of World War 2, McDowall’s family moved to the United States, where his career took off thanks to appearances in How Green was my Valley and Lassie Come Home (on which he met lifelong friend, Elizabeth Taylor). Aged only sixteen, he was voted one of the stars of tomorrow by exhibitors.

He was fortunate enough to make the transition from child to adult star, and began to take on more theatre work - notably in Orson Welles' adaptation of Macbeth. By 1952, he'd again switched back to cinema, making seven pictures for Monogram, before leaving Hollywood to take on Broadway and television - a move which would see him win an Emmy and a Tony award in the same year (1961). Throughout the sixties the actor would mix film with TV work on a regular basis. He appeared in the legendary Cleopatra, winning acclaim for his role, but missing out on an Academy Award nomination when the studio accidently submitted his name in the wrong category (Best Actor instead of Supporting Actor). However, it would be his work on the Planet of the Apes series for which he would be remembered. His portrayal of the sympathetic ape Cornelius in the original film won much acclaim, and saw him reprise the role in the second sequel (scheduling conflicts prevented him from appearing in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes). He would return again in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, playing the son of his original character, and again in its sequel, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. For the short-lived TV spin off series, McDowall would play the ape Galen, a character unrelated to the original films.

By the time Fright Night came around, the actor was still much in demand. He'd appeared in various TV shows, including recurring roles in Fantasy Island and Tales of the Golden Monkey as well as more than ten movies since 1980. As mentioned, he worked with Tom Holland on the surprise hit, Class of 1984, and was eager to take on the role of Peter Vincent simply because he'd 'never played a character that old before'. Like the rest of the cast, McDowall was tasked with coming up with his character's backstory, and also had some ideas for the old horror movies that had made Peter Vincent famous. His primary inspiration came from the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, along with bad actors he recalled from his childhood.

The key role of vampire Jerry Dandrige was a little harder to cast. Chris Sarandon had been a jobbing theatre and TV actor for a number of years before getting his big break opposite Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, a role for which he was Oscar nominated. He continued to take on theatrical roles (favouring Shakespeare) as well as appearing in such pictures as Lipstick and The Sentinel, a Michael Winner horror film that all but killed Sarandon’s interest in the genre. His previous picture before Fright Night was the Goldie Hawn comedy, Protocol. When his agent showed him Tom Holland's script, Sarandon refused to even entertain the idea of appearing in another horror film, but his agent continue to push him to read it. When he finally relented, Sarandon found himself impressed, coming to the conclusion that it was real labour of love that 'had fun with the genre, without making fun of it'. However, he was still cautious, especially given that Holland hadn't directed a feature before. He agreed to meet the first time director and was quickly taken with him, especially when he [Holland] acted out or described every single shot or scene during their first meeting. Sarandon was sold, and signed on to play Dandrige. Like Roddy McDowall, he too had some ideas of his own, many of which would make it into the picture.

The two established names were joined by the newcomer William Ragsdale. The young actor had just one minor credit to his name when he won the lead role of Charley Brewster. Fresh out of acting school, a casting director friend suggested he try out for the part of Rusty in the Peter Bogdanovich film, Mask. While that didn't work out (the role went to Eric Stoltz), casting director Jackie Burch, who had also worked on Cloak and Dagger, remembered Ragsdale and convinced him to try out for Fright Night. A young Charlie Sheen had been up for the part, but Holland felt that he was too much of a hero, where as Ragsdale was the perfect everyman. It still took four or five auditions before he secured the role, by which point the vast majority of the cast where already in place. Getting the call on Halloween, Ragsdale found himself on the Fright Night stage less than two weeks later.

In contrast, Jonathan Stark, who would play Billy Cole, Dandrige's modern day butler (and possible lover) was cast so early on that he was convinced he'd lost the role after hearing nothing more about it in over six months. Stark had impressed Holland during the audition by playing the role funny instead of evil, leading to the script being refined  The part called for Cole to be well built, something Stark got round at the initial audition by wearing multiple layers of clothing. In the time between winning the part and shooting actually commencing, he'd had time to bulk up properly.

Stephen Geoffreys managed to get a part in the movie thanks to not being Anthony Michael Hall. Geoffreys and Hall were managed by the same agent at the time, and when Jackie Burch was casting Weird Science, she contacted their agent with a view to seeing Anthony Michael Hall for the part of Gary Wallace. Due to a mix up, the agent sent Geoffreys by mistake, which led to an embarrassing meeting of sorts. While he wasn't right (or even considered) for Weird Science, he did make an impression on Burch. When his agent sent him the Fright Night script, he was shooting comedy Fraternity Vacation. He pushed to audition for the role of Charley Brewster, only to be told they had him in mind for the part of Evil Ed. A little taken back, but still happy to be involved, Geoffreys readily accepted.

There's a little confusion as to when the role of Charley's girlfriend, Amy, was cast. According to some sources, it was the final part to filled, yet during a reunion discussion in 2008, actor William Ragsdale stated that his final audition was with Stephen Geoffreys and Amanda Bearse, who was cast as Amy Peterson. Tom Holland mentioned they'd seen a number of actresses but none had the girl next door quality that Bearse possessed. In an interesting twist, Amanda Bearse had already worked with two of the Fright Night cast before - she'd appeared with Stephen Geoffreys in Fraternity Vacation, and with Chris Sarandon in 1984's Protocol. The remainder of the cast were rounded out by Dorothy Fielding as Judy Brewster and Art Evans as Detective Lennox.

In something of a rarity, Holland and his cast had the luxury of two weeks rehearsal time prior to the shoot commencing. This gave them time to refine the script and figure out how certain sequences would need to be shot. It also provided the cast with the time to work on their character biographies. Roddy McDowall had plenty of ideas, and saw Peter Vincent as a terrible actor who'd made some awful movies - and was now reliving them via a cable TV show. McDowall was also instrumental in changes made to the end of the movie and Vincent's fate. Chris Sarandon strived to make Jerry more human and sympathetic, despite his vampire nature. It was the actor's idea to have Amy appear to be the reincarnation of one of his lost loves – revealed via an old portrait in Jerry's house. It was while doing some research that Sarandon discovered that the vast majority of bats were actually frugivores. He decided his character would probably have a fair bit of fruit bat DNA in his make up, so had him munching on apples in a number of scenes. The actor explained it as a 'palette cleanser after draining blood from his victims'.

Shooting commenced in the December of 1984 and ran through to late February. Because all studio eyes were on the Travolta/Curtis movie, Perfect, the cast and crew of Fright Night were left to their own devices. At $9M, it was the lowest budgeted movie that Columbia had funded in recent times, and little was expected from it. The rehearsals had served as a stage play version of the movie and worked out so well that it was rare for Holland to use more than three takes when it came to shooting. Roddy McDowall kept every amused during the down time with stories of old Hollywood, and was rarely without his video camera when not part of a scene. [A keen movie archivist, McDowall was one of the first people ever investigated for copyright infringement, in 1974, when it was discovered he was transferring film prints to tape in an effort to preserve them]. However, the shoot was not without its issues - the most serious of which would be William Ragsdale breaking his ankle during a scene shot on Christmas Eve. The schedule was hastily reworked, with action sequences pushed back to when the actor was able to perform them safely. To get around scenes in which Ragsdale’s feet would be visible, the crew made slits in his shoe and covered any exposed parts of the cast with black cloth.

In a sense, the visual effects crew also had a rehearsal period, except theirs was on the big budget 1984 release, Ghostbusters , though Fright Night would claim to be the first vampire movie to spend over $1M on its effects. Heading up the team was the award winning Richard Edlund, who had began his career working for fledgling effects company Industrial Light and Magic on Star Wars. He would share an Academy award for his efforts, and went on to work on both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, along with Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist. Any problems Edlund and his crew might encounter on Fright Night, were things they'd already solved while shooting Ghostbusters, saving much time and expense.

Much of the hardship the cast had to endure came from the make up they had to wear to realise their characters. The two who suffered most for their art were Chris Sarandon and Stephen Geoffreys. The final transformation of Dandrige would see Sarandon endure over eight hours of make up each time it was required for a shot. Given his theatrical background, and to stop himself going stir crazy, the actor assisted the crew in the process by applying the finger nail extensions and hand make up himself. Geoffreys had it even worse; it took an incredible eighteen hours to create Evil Ed's final form. At one point, while attempting to fill the costume’s mouth piece with a solution to create a drool-saliva effect, the actor complained about the taste - the crew realised to their horror that they were in fact pouring dental glue into the mask (and therefore Geoffrey’s mouth).

While other cast members didn't have to endure full make up, they did need to wear contact lenses for some sequences. At the time the technology wasn't very advanced, meaning the lenses were made of a tough plastic that was hand painted, lacquered and then polished smooth. Their use rendered most actors practically blind and they could only endure short periods of work with them in. Amanda Bearse found filming incredibly difficult one day, and after a scene was stopped because of the pain, it was found the set of lenses she was wearing hadn't been polished. Jonathan Stark could only wear one at time - wearing both made a chase scene impossible for him to shoot without constantly stumbling. Wanting to get a sequence finished, Stephen Geoffrey's kept his lenses in for forty minutes, resulting in scratches to his eyeballs that took many months to heal.

A quick piece of visual effects work also helped the film in another way. Towards the end of the shoot, Holland asked creature designer Randall William Cook if he could come up with a ‘shark’ mouth for one of the vampires. With neither time or money on his side, Cook spent the weekend creating a crude device and told the director if he focused on the effect for more than a few seconds, the audience would realise just how poorly crafted it was. However, the rig ended up working much better than anticipated and featured in the movie for much longer than expected. More importantly, it provided the basis for Fright Night’s iconic poster.

Whatever the cast and crew had to endure for the movie, they did it together, each buoying up the spirits of the other. Indeed, more than one actor involved in Fright Night has since gone on to state it was the happiest filming experience of their career. With shooting completed in the February of 1985, Holland began to assemble his edit in time for the film's August 2nd release date. Having been impressed with Brad Fiedel's work on The Terminator score, he was hired to provide the instrumental soundtrack on Fright Night. A novelisation, written by Craig Spector and John Skipp was released to coincide with the film's debut, and sought to add more backstory, particularly to Jerry Dandrige.

Columbia were too busy promoting Perfect for its June release to give much time or money to Fright Night, though a fairly wide 1,500+ screen/location roll out was planned. Reviews for the picture were very strong, with Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell coming in for much of the praise. Roger Ebert scored it three out of five stars noting that 'Fright Night is not a distinguished movie, but it has a lot of fun being undistinguished’. It currently holds a 91% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The reviews would go some way to helping the picture get noticed as it had little in the way of star power. The makeup and special effects work would also featured heavily in its publicity. In another case of films aimed at a similar demographic opening on the same weekend, Fright Night would go up against the John Hughes comedy, Weird Science. There was still strong competition in the guise of Back to the Future (now in its fifth weekend) and National Lampoon's European Vacation, while Summer Rental and Real Genius were only a week away. Fright Night's screen count of 1,584 gave it an advantage over Weird Science, whose PG-13 rating could potentially attract a wider audience.

Fright Night got off to a great start, making an impressive $6.1M during its opening weekend, slotting in behind Back to the Future and European Vacation (Weird Science dropped in at number four). Given that the studio had largely ignored the picture during its production, they suddenly sat up and took notice - especially now that Perfect had crashed and burnt to terrible reviews and worse box office. A week later, with two new releases thrown into the mix, Fright Night dropped down to sixth place, but lost only 30% of business compared to its previous weekend. Even before that second frame had begun, the film had recouped its $9M production budget and scored some great word of mouth. A big drop occurred in weekend three, caused primarily by the studio’s bizarre decision to reduce its screen count by a third. Nevertheless it was fairing better than Weird Science, which had already tumbled out of the top ten.

The loss of another 282 screens in the following week, plus increased competition from Teen Wolf and the Ghostbusters re-issue pushed Fright Night down to eleventh place. Despite the fall, the film had now more than doubled it production budget. It remained in the top twenty for a further month, and while its release was a relatively short one, Fright Night had managed to become something of a sleeper hit for Columbia. Had they not removed it from theatres quite so quickly, it would have easily cleared $30M in takings; as it was the picture had to settle for a total theatrical gross of $24.9M. In terms of horror in 1985, only A Nightmare on Elm St: Freddy's Revenge, made more money.

 Fright Night went on to perform well on the home video market, which by the mid-eighties, was in full swing. Even if people hadn't heard of the film, the movie's poster which adorned many a video shop window, got them interested enough to take a chance on it. A few years after its release a comic book series was launched and ran for 27 issues, beginning in 1988. The first two issues followed the events of the movie. Later stories covered the adventures of Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent, as they battled all manner of monsters, including Evil Ed and a resurrected Jerry Dandrige. 1988 also saw the release of a videogame adaptation for the Commodore Amiga which put the player in the role of the vampire, tasked with ‘turning’ as many people before sunrise.

Talk of a movie sequel soon began to circulate, but it would take four years before Fright Night 2 saw a very limited release. Producer Herb Jaffe retained the rights to the characters and attempted to get a follow up off the ground, and while Tom Holland was interested in returning to direct, a reduced budget and his commitment to Child's Play saw him bow out. Instead, Tommy Lee Wallace, of Halloween III fame, stepped in to helm the picture (With Holland’s blessing). Both William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall would return, but like Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon was committed to Child's Play, if indeed he had been approached to return in one capacity or another. An early draft of the script was said to contain a return for Amanda Bearse's Amy, but by that point she was involved in Married....With Children. According to Wallace, by the time he joined the sequel, the character of Amy was nowhere to be seen, instead replaced by Charley's new girlfriend, Alex. Stephen Geoffreys was approached to reprise his Evil Ed character, but didn't like the script. Instead he opted to take the lead in 976-Evil.

The sequel would see Charley in denial that the events of the first movie took place, passing Jerry Dandrige's actions off as those of a bizarre serial killer. When he goes to see Peter Vincent, who has lapsed back into his old TV show ways, he spies four coffins being taken into the house next door and meets a girl called Regine, who is revealed to be Jerry Dandrige's sister, out for revenge. Things are further complicated when Charley is bitten and Peter Vincent institutionalised for attack Regine live on air. With so much time having passed since the first film, much of its good will had been lost. Reviews for Fright Night 2 were poor to average at best, and the studio dumped the film into just 145 theatres in May 1989. It made $2.9M in total.

Despite the film's failure, Roddy McDowall loved playing the character of Peter Vincent and planned to get together with Tom Holland and pitch a third film to Carolco Pictures Chairman, Jose Menendez. Sadly, before the meeting could take place, Menendez and his wife, Kitty, were murdered by their sons, Lyle and Erik. It's worth noting that Julie Carmen (who played Regine) claimed during a 2008 cast reunion, that Fright Night 2 was barely released because the studio was in free-fall after the murders, and pulled all their pictures from theatres. This however cannot be the case as the sequel was released in May 1989 and the Menendez murders occurred in August of that same year.

More than 25 years after the original release, a Fright Night remake went in to production. Directed by Craig Gillespie of Lars and the Real Girl fame, and written by Marti Noxon, it would follow the template of the original closely. Colin Farrell appeared as Jerry, Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster and David Tennent as Peter Vincent, who this time around is a Las Vegas magician. They'd be joined by Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed and Imogen Poots as Amy. Chris Sarandon would also make a cameo, as a victim of Farrell’s vampire. He would be credited as Jay Dee, in a tribute to his original character. The film reviewed very well but struggled to find much of an audience. It made $18.3M in North America, with a further $22.7M overseas. A second film was released two years later, but oddly Fright Night 2: New Blood was more or less another retread of the original (and the reboot). None of the cast returned and it debuted to little fanfare on VOD in October 2013.

After the original Fright Night and its sequel, William Ragsdale went on to appear in the sitcom Herman's Head, which ran for three seasons. He also starred in the poorly received Mannequin on the Move and famously played Ellen's 'final' boyfriend in her TV series. Since then he has had roles in Gross Pointe, Judging Amy and Justified, while also appearing in numerous TV movies. It's arguable that Fright Night remains his biggest movie success, but unlike a number of 80s stars, he has worked consistently in the intervening years. Amanda Bearse appeared in the hit sitcom Married....With Children, where she also turned her hand to directing a number of episodes. Since that time, she has appeared on screen only occasionally, opting to direct instead of act. Stephen Geoffreys appeared in horror 976-Evil and had a supporting role in At Close Range, but struggled to find further work. More than one observer has commented that his refusal to return for Fright Night 2 may have done his career more damage, though given the film's lack of success, this is questionable. During the 1990s he appeared in a number of gay pornographic movies (under the alias Sam Ritter) before returning to mainstream movie work with 2007's Sick Girl.

Chris Sarandon would appear in the film he's most notably famous for, The Princess Bride, in 1987. The romantic comedy saw him portray villain, Prince Humperdinck. He went on to re-team with Tom Holland on the demonic doll flick, Child's Play and lent his voice to Jack Skellington in the beloved Nightmare Before Christmas. Since then he's mixed smaller movies with TV and theatre. Even with a huge body of work behind him, Roddy McDowall continued to act at an almost frightening pace. Along with TV, Movie and voice over work came appearances in such documentaries as The Magical World of Chuck Jones and The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen. He died of complications from lung cancer on October 3rd 1998. Tom Holland followed up Fright Night directing Whoopi Goldberg in the cop comedy, Fatal Beauty, and then worked on cult horror hit, Child's Play. In the 1990s he directed the Stephen King adaptations Thinner and The Langoliers, along with a number of TV movies. In 2013 he created the web based horror series, Twisted Tales, and at the time of writing is working on another King story, The Ten O'Clock People.

Like much horror released in the 1980s, Fright Night's effects don't stand up quite so well but are still very effective. Its light relief compliments the more tense and horrific moments. Even now it's easy to see the passion and fun the cast and crew had making it, and all concerned remain proud of their achievement. Indeed, when the studio refused to fund a commentary track for a DVD release, the cast and crew assembled and recorded not one but two of their own (available via the Icons of Horror website).  The soundtrack is a perfect slice of 80s synth too, and while McDowall came in for much praise during the film’s initial release, it really is Sarandon’s show. He adds many layers to the character, showing him as seductive, frightening and even vulnerable. Fright Night remains an enjoyable horror comedy that treads the line between them both perfectly.

‘Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster’

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