Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fright Night (1985)

These days, movies like The Wicker Man (remake) come out where they get famous based solely on a few minutes of schlocky fun, when really the rest of the movie isn't like that and is, for the most part, a sizable step down in quality from said schlocky fun. But the film gets “so bad it's good” praise from people anyway despite the fact that they're really just praising that short few minutes of schlocky fun.

Well...everything has to start somewhere!

Director: Tom Holland
Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon

Fright Night is a 1985 horror comedy that got a lot of lip service back in the day, which I'm pretty sure was for the bangin' 80s music and visuals. Yeah! Shake those hips.

The 80s was the only time you could get your party on and get a relaxing back massage at the same place.

But the movie doesn't start off with such extravagant extremes, no; instead we get a much humbler opening of main character Charley Brewster almost having sex with his girlfriend Amy, but she pulls back at the last second, feeling nervous I guess. Then she changes her mind again and wants to do it, but by that time, Charley's goldfish-sized attention span has gone to the next logical place – the weird stuff happening across the street, like new neighbors moving in.

You know, the common hierarchy: New neighbors are more important than sex. Just how it goes, guys.

"Honey, your total willingness to have sex with me is less important than two guys carrying a box around outside. We have a good relationship!"

Downstairs, they get into a fight because he didn't want to have sex when she was ready. Uh excuse ME young lady, but weren't YOU the one refusing HIM sex like five minutes ago? You guys have as much synchonicity as two parallel lines running for miles without intersecting. People on other sides of the planet have better chemistry. A blind guy and a deaf girl could connect better.

The mother, even despite hearing this conversation, continues planning her son's marriage to this girl. Are you just really desperate? I guess the fact that Charley, given the rest of the movie, was able to land a girlfriend at all was so mind-fuckingly, rainbow-burstingly amazing to her that she now insists he marry the chick before he screws it all up as she knows he will.

But it's okay – there's a vampire moved in across the street! Charley knows this because he's apparently related to that jackass from From Dusk Til Dawn 2 – think about it; the same vacant stares, the same lack of any likability AND the same paranoid delusions about vampires validated in implausible ways! Plus they both get distracted from sex by what's on TV. Long lost brothers, you have finally found each other.

You can tell by the identical vacant, wide-eyed stares of dumbfounded idiocy on their faces.

Although overall, Fright Night is the better movie. Why? Because the main character in From Dusk Til Dawn 2 never got the hamburger in the face he deserved:

*slow clap*

So apparently the story here is that Charley saw some really hot prostitute going over to the house next door and then saw her later get killed by the guy next door, who is a vampire. He knows he's a vampire because he was spying on the hot naked chick and then saw...well, vampire shenanigans, I guess is the best way to put it!

"I could have had actual sex with a willing girlfriend if I hadn't been such a dick-cheese and spent more time looking out the window! BUT BOOBS! OOOOHHH!"
That's another thing - a big plot point throughout the first act is Jerry the vampire mad at Charley for exposing him. But Jerry has no fucking problem leaving a window open while he's showing off his vamp powers? C'mon, man - get with the program.

The next day he sees a news report that says a “known prostitute” was killed last night – i.e. the same chick Charley saw in the window. But, uh, how does one become a known prostitute to the level of being mentioned as such on the news? How did she get such a reputation? Maybe she has a Facebook page. Yes, I know it's 1985. Shut up.

Charley calls the only black guy in this movie's world, a cop who comes over and investigates with the panache and professionalism I expect from dumb 80s horror movies – he basically acts like a debate moderator. He lets Charley hurl wild accusations and then turns to the guy at the house and goes, “Well, what do you have to say about that?” Dude, nobody's getting points for the strengths of their argument here. Fucking do your job, or go home.

He's my third favorite movie cop. Right behind the guy from Dead Silence and Danny Glover in Predator 2.

After the vampire dude's helper convinces the detective nothing's going on, Charley storms out after the detective screaming like an insane person that VAMPIRES EXIST! Because that's sure to win him over, ya know, like it does most good cops. I love the way the detective screams at him before he gets in the car – he says if Charley bothers him again, he'll lock him up FOREVER!

"I regularly kidnap law abiding citizens who annoy me and lock them up in grimy dungeons with no hope of escape! SO DON'T CROSS ME, BOY!"

Well, I do agree Charley needs to be locked up. But I don't know if you have enough evidence yet. Give me a call sometime, man; I'll help you plant drugs in his room so you have probable cause.

Then Charley goes to find his TV hero, Peter Vincent, who makes a living as a character even less credible than the Crypt Keeper. But for some reason, Charley seems to think this guy is the answer – a fucking TV actor is apparently the most credible expert in this world.

The common expression anyone who interacts with Charley gets within thirty seconds of speaking to him.

Are you going to call Christopher Lloyd next time you need help on your science project that involves traveling back in time? Maybe call Bill Murray next time you need help fighting a ghost?

I guess it's a funny enough scenario for a comedy, but I just have to wonder about Charley's sanity at this point. Maybe the kid who starts believing in vampires in the span of two seconds looking out his window, to the point where he decorates his room with some rather questionable feng shui:

He's a born again idiot.

...maybe it's time to start asking around about which mental hospital has the best security, hmm?

Either way, we can all agree on one thing – the kid playing Evil Ed was clearly directed to act like he was on a manic drug trip with no clear stopping point.


I just don't know what to say about this except that I really want to go back in time myself now and see what exactly director Tom Holland was telling this guy: “Okay, act like you're strung out on heroin, haven't slept in four days and just took a triple shot of Espresso to compensate! And like you were also raised in a den of insane clowns in a traveling circus. Yeah! Now we got this horror movie performance down.” Oh 1985 – never go away.

Also, what's up with Amy's clothing choices? Is she just wearing the entire GoodWill catalog's fall edition? I mean fuck, it's not that cold, woman – you can take off a sweater or two!

But this is all just window dressing for the main plot of Charley, Ed and Amy getting Vincent to come with them and prove the neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (you know, a name I would expect any fearsome vampire to have) is a vampire. They do this by making him drink some fake holy water. When Charley tries to point a cross at Dandridge, which actually makes him flinch and recoil, the rest of the gang tells him don't be silly, etc.

"My, what big fangs you have."

You idiots, all he has to have now is a fucking neon flashing sign saying I'M A VAMPIRE to be any more obvious! How do you not see it?!?

But I'm not one to just bash ONE side of stupidity – I also think it's pretty lame how douchey Charley acts when they're all walking home later, just screaming hysterically about vampires and insulting his supposed “friend” Ed. 
As much as I think the Ed character was probably a product of drug-induced insanity, at least he's funny. Charley right now is about as likable as pond scum. Yeah man - you insult your friends and sulk like a big crybaby. You won this argument.

So after a dumb joke where Ed pretends to be attacked, screams and worries his two friends, they part ways and then hear him scream again. Even though it's been several minutes and he has no reason to do another joke exactly like the one from before – it's a horror movie convention that they do the whole “boy cries wolf” routine and ignore him. Even though THIS time he really is in trouble!

"It is I, Fabio's obscure vampire cousin, here to put you out of your misery!"

Yes, now he's a vampire. And also the thing everyone remembers about this movie – nobody really cares about the rest of it; just Evil Ed the vampire. He pretty much acts the same as he did before this, which is to say he acts like a man in the throes of a psychotic breakdown. But now he has a voice that sounds like your grandmother after someone dropped a piano on her pinky toe. So there is that...

He just wants a hug. Though I understand if his scenery-chewing abilities frighten you. He could devour you whole, and not just because he's a vampire.

In addition to that wonderful addition to cinema canon, we get a scene where he has a cross burned into his head. I'm sure he'll have fun attending Westboro Baptist Church meetings from now on.

Meanwhile, at a dance club, Jerry Dandridge (they really couldn't give him a cooler name? Even something generic like Lord Darkness or something?) seduces Amy and takes her away – because I guess 1980s glitter and neon lights just make anyone look more appealing. He takes her back to his house and plays Dress Up like a Toga Frat Party:

Only I'm not sure those parties usually had biting involved. Eh, maybe they did.

So I guess Charley and Vincent team up to go to the house and fight Dandridge. Dandridge's henchman shows up and Vincent ends up shooting him in the face – it would have been funny if that was just the end of it, but alas, he's been turned into a vampire now. So like most of the time when you kill a vampire, he melts into Nickelodeon slime. 

Iiiiiiiiiit's slime time!

We get some more really drawn out scenes, with one really memorable one in the mix somewhere – it's when Peter Vincent goes over to Charley's house and finds Evil Ed under the covers of Charley's mom's bed. After some truly silly and hammy lines where he somehow makes the simple explanation of Charley's mom leaving dinner in the oven for him sound like a goddamn theatrical production. Gee. Really reaching for the bottom of the barrel there, huh? Really no better jokes you could have used than “Dinner's in the oven”?

Then Ed turns into a wolfman and fights Vincent that way. Unfortunately, every hammy over the top 80s performance must come to an end.

"Dammit, another incident where I end up alone in a stranger's house with a naked teenage boy."

Good thing, too; if he had kept going, he probably could have created a black hole and sucked up reality into an alternate dimension where this kind of acting is considered Shakespearean. And that world, my friends, is one I tremble to imagine.

When Vincent gets back over to the other house, they have an extremely long fight scene during which time I'm positive the casting crew, makeup artists and others had time to do their nails, read the rest of Moby Dick, work out real estate deals for new houses, write shitty scripts for unmade Fright Night sequels and work on their memoirs for appearing in a film that somehow drags out this story to two hours.

"I will not be killed by Ray Harryhausen scraps!"

I'm sorry, I was dozing off a bit there.

Anyway, they kill him by punching holes in the wall until he explodes and then driving a stake through his heart, which somehow makes him stand up as if he were a yard rake and you stepped on its teeth.

And he also makes squeaky noises if you punch him in the face.

Either way he's dead and the whole thing is finally over. Amy even turns back into a human, which I didn't know could happen – but hey, vampires. They're wacky! I think mostly they just wanted to spare the world more of this "vagina face" style makeup job:

Eugh. Did somebody just fall asleep when they were doing her face?

So then the movie ends with Charley and Amy back in his room having sex again. Because she's such a good catch, he of course gets distracted by the TV again, proving that he has learned nothing and that they are truly made for each other.

Oh ho ho. In their future I see plenty of nights where the deep hatred stewing between them reaches a near-boiling point as she tries to give him a handjob after making dinner and cleaning the house and he shrugs her off without looking at her because hey, Sons of Anarchy is on and he wants to see what happens next. After months of turgid arguments where she cries how he just doesn't understand her and he says what do you want from me, and she says I just want you to listen to me for once, and then he just shrugs her off and goes down to the bar for a drink and to watch the game in the peace of all the other tired, frustrated old men, and he comes back to find that she's trashed the place in a rage, spray painted FUCK YOU on the walls in bright purple, and gone to live at a lesbian nudist retreat for the rest of her life.

At least I think that's how it goes. You can change up a few details if you want. Never let it be said I don't make this blog interactive – you can give 'em a happy ending if you like.

This movie is just silly. It's got a funny premise and the story moves along okay for the most part, but it's too long and the main character is just a douchebag through and through, with no redeeming qualities as a character. I mean, he's just so lame. I really thought this movie could have been way better if it focused on another character entirely - maybe the story from Ed's point of view would have been good, as he's actually a likable character and elicits a little bit of sympathy. Or from Peter Vincent's point of view, as he seems like he has more invested in all of this.

Charley is just a boring, awful little douche, and really just shows the limitations of so many of these kinds of films - focusing on the most boring cardboard cutout of a suburban white kid just to make it "relatable." We could have had a potentially interesting, funny flick, but what do we get?

Eugh. I get it, the point of the story is a kid who thinks his new neighbor is a vampire. Keep him in the story, sure; but at least do us the courtesy of having a better character be the main focus!

The Evil Ed stuff is funny, and there are some other clever bits, but it really does start to drag as it goes on and it should have been trimmed by at least twenty minutes if not more. It's obviously better than The Wicker Man remake which I mentioned earlier, but I really do think most of the fame tends to stem from the Evil Ed performance - it was the most memorable part of the movie. It's a fairly well made film though and I can see how it was popular back in the day. But I'll stick to Re-Animator for my gory laughs.

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