Ladies and germs….welcome to the new throat-ripping category here at GAM! In this series of posts, I’ll be checking out two films of the same style, sub-genre or a film and its one sequel to see if they play well as a double feature. Are you with it? I hope so. Let’s rip this thing open and dive in with two films that beckon to be watched and adored.
Fright Night (1985) and Fright Night II (1988)
When it comes to vampires, I’m partial to the Hammer films. Christopher Lee comes to my mind when the name Count Dracula is mentioned. No disrespect to Bela Lugosi. He is the original Dracula and his role as he Count is brilliant. There is just something about Lee. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Horror of Dracula…the list goes on and on. Even Jess Franco’s Count Dracula from 1970 when Lee sported a monstrously badass handlebar mustache; he always brought a certain swagger to the character that grabs your attention and beats you over the head with it.
Nowadays, I’m sorry to say, that’s all gone. I’m honestly disappointed with 90% of the vamp flicks that meander onto my living room television screen. There is, however, that 10%. The stylistic A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the clever Only Lovers Left Alive, the hilarious What We Do In the Shadows, and the brilliant Let the Right One In; these films almost make up for the dozens of bland, not so entertaining films that are being made monthly.
The 1980s. Now that was a decade for vampires. The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Vamp, Lifeforce, My Best Friend is a Vampire, Once Bitten…all astounding in their own way. Then there were two films. These two, in my opinion, defined vampires in the 80s. Their legacy would carry over into the 90s. And to this very second, are two of my favorite of the vampire films.
Fright Night tells the story of Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a regular teenaged boy with a love for vampire movies; more specifically, a horror show hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), the vampire slayer. A new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves in next door and Charley quickly becomes convinced that he now lives across the lawn from a blood sucker. His girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t believe him, naturally, so Charley enlists the services of Peter Vincent to take the vampire down. As a whole, the film delivers in every aspect. It’s just about as flawless as an 80s fright flick can be. In his directorial debut, Tom Holland (a master of the genre) delivers a center field bomb Sammy Sosa style that began his ascent into horror icon status. It’s funny, cleverly written, superbly acted and frightening with some amazing set pieces that put a grin on the face of the harshest critics.
I immediately wanted more. So I popped in my VHS copy of Fright Night II. As I said earlier (POTW) this was my first time watching this film. Back in the golden day, I remember seeing it on the shelf at Video Warehouse (represent) but never rented it. The film picks up on the same story, years later. Charley (Ragsdale returns) is now in college and has attended therapy for his unbelievable adventure into the depths of what goes bump in the night. Peter Vincent (McDowell) is still hosting his horror show, but his ego has flown over the moon, as he can now say he is a legit vampire hunter. Brewster is convinced now that the neighbor was just a good old fashioned murderer instead of a creature of the night. That is, until a mysterious new tenant occupies a room in his building; the alluring Regine and her motley crew of ragamuffins.
Charley is infatuated with Regine. Vivid nightmares, sensual daydreams, complete loss of basic motor skills when she speaks to him; the whole nine. One night, she enters his apartment and lays a bite into his neck. Now Charley is turning. The only one who can help is his trusty partner in crime, Vincent and love interest Alex (Traci Lind). The two films tie together in a nice little package when we learn that Regine is the sister of Jerry Dandridge, and she is hellbent on revenge for the death of her sibling.
As far as “which is a better film”, hands down, the award goes to the original. Fright Night is one of those must see classics that has been on everyone’s list and will continue throughout the end of time. Fright Night II is more of a surprise, though. Usually, you’ll hear nothing but grief about sequels to classics. For what it’s worth, Fright Night II delivers on entertainment, gruesomeness and creature effects as much as its predecessor. Fright Night is a better movie, but II is right on its heels. Tommy Lee Wallace (director of Fright Night II) is pretty well known in the genre, as well. Not saying he deserves Holland praise, but Halloween III is fantastic and It…I mean, everyone knows Pennywise.
My final verdict is this: Yes, this works great as a double feature everyday of the week. I could watch this two films again right now. If I had to choose one or the other, I’m picking Fright Night. However, if I were to put together a best of 1-off sequels, Fright Night II would be high on that list.
That’s all I have for right now, creeps. Go find copies of these films and make it happen. Let me know what you think. Grab some buds and make it a party. Smash that like button, follow me for more horror fun and we’ll see you next time. Keep it creepy and stay spooked.