There was no shortage of non-glittery bloodsuckers pulling in thirsty crowds at the flicks in the 80’s. The likes of Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark and Tony Scott’s The Hunger proved that a fascination with all things fanged and undead had not diminished since the golden age of studios such as Hammer and Amicus. Although much more contemporary, set in modern day America, there is a real charm about Tom Holland’s debut 1985 feature Fright Night that does indeed hark back to those times (as well as containing nods to classic Hitchcock film Rear Window). Set around a group of teenagers it plays things largely for laughs and in a tongue in cheek fashion that really did not in my opinion deserve having it stamped with an original 18 certificate which after watching again I’m somewhat amazed it still has. I caught this at the cinema when it came out and it was a right hoot for a rowdy youthful crowd who obviously remember it with plenty of affection still today. I know this for a fact as when released in the USA recently by Twilight Time on a 30th anniversary edition the limited edition discs were grabbed up and went for way above what would have been the expected market price. Luckily Eureka have now given it a UK outing on dual disc DVD and Blu-Ray so we can relive it all again without having to pay over the top export prices.
Horror film fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is at an awkward age where he should be paying much more attention to his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) but is easily distracted by some suspicious characters moving in to the house next door. Just as he is about to get to second base and much to her chagrin he sees them dragging in a coffin sending his imagination into more of an overdrive than his sexual libido. As he begins to snoop around his suspicions become even more out of control as and he suspects that the charming, only seen at night, Jerry (Christopher Sarandon) is more than he seems. Indeed once this is ascertained and he is warned to forget about all he has seen or suffer the consequences Charley’s paranoia rightly goes straight through the roof. Luckily his long suffering girlfriend and odd mate Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t completely give up on him and eventually manage to enlist the help of down on his luck TV star vampire hunter Peter Vincent (played with great exuberance by Roddy McDowall) and things turn into a real battle of survival with everyone’s mortal souls at stake! Will they make it through the night and just how true are the rules of vampire lore that Vincent now has to employ for real in an all-out battle for survival?
Utilising the audience’s knowledge of what they have seen in the past, the film stands up to scrutiny even three decades after original release and its good fun, more than a shock and fear flick. Effects are generally of a surprisingly high standard and include some body melting action and a touch of lycanthropic transformation. Due to the time it was made there are also the necessary requisite of bad fashion, hair-dos, dancing and music (everyone from the J Geils Band to Sparks and the mighty Devo are included on the soundtrack). The acting is really flamboyant especially from McDowell who is definitely not monkeying around and Geoffreys who kind of immortalised the character of Evil Ed making him stick around in the memory for years past any sell by date. The film spawned an inevitable sequel in 1988 as well as a remake in 2011. Memories of the former have long gone and I don’t think I saw the remake and although I know I shouldn’t, after reliving Fright Night I have a feeling I’m going to have to give them a watch.
Luckily I won’t be doing that straight away as 1st there is an absolute mausoleum of extras on this Eureka release to get my fangs into. For once rather than going through them in detail and spending best part of a week watching them all I’m taking the easy way out as there are well over 6 hours-worth of content here. Some of it is old such as a time coded electronic press kit running at around the hour and a half mark and including on set interviews, music videos and other bits and pieces. This however is nothing compared to the whopping feature length 2 and a half hour ‘You’re So Cool Brewster’ documentary on the making of the film created especially for this release. There’s a reunion panel Q & A session with the director and cast members, a chat with the director and Shock Till You Drop’s Ryan Turek talking about his career as scriptwriter and director on films that ranged from The Beast Within, Psycho II and Childs Play. There are other interviews, pieces on Roddy McDowall and extra parts where Holland talks about writing horror scripts and of course trailers, stills and memorabilia. I doubt once you have gone through everything that there will be much about the film that you haven’t found out and Eureka have really gone to town here presenting an exhaustive and definitive edition of the movie which leaves any other version dragged into sunlight and bursting into flames. Quite simply if you are a fan or even fancy a fright night and a half, you need this. Just don’t get caught out your coffin after settling down for a night’s viewing as it will probably be well into dawn before you get through it all!