Fearsome Facts: 'Fright Night'
"He's a good man, in a bad time."
Fright Night (1985) is to All Hallows’ Eve what A Christmas Story (1983) is to X-Mas: An opus which is worthy of its own 24-hour marathon. Yes, filmmaker Tom Holland’s love letter to vampire films is worthy of such sublime praise because it revitalized a subgenre of horror which was sadly rotting away not unlike an undead creature of the night.
Holland found inspiration in the scary movies he idolized as a youth which included Hammer Film’s visionary retellings of the Universal Monsters. In fact, Holland based Fright Night’s sage Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) on his heroes: Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, House of Wax) and Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy).
Fright Night made the vampire fashionable again in the 1980s, and the film paved the way for other blood-sucking projects like The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Most horror fans and critics alike know every frightening behind-the-scenes macabre morsel of Fright Night’s history. But there always those tiny tidbits which slip through the cracks.
Here are 8 Things Fans Should Know About Fright Night.
8. The Great Vampire Killer
Tom Holland and Roddy McDowall became friends after working together on Fright Night, but the esteemed actor was not Holland’s first choice to play the Cowardly Lion-like character of Peter Vincent. Rather, Holland tried to hire macabre movie maestro Vincent Price to take on the role. Sadly, Price’s declining health prevented him from participating in the project.
As wonderful a casting move as that might have been, Fright Night purist are likely to argue everything worked out for the best. McDowall delivered one of his most enduring performances in what was an A-List career, and he also endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans.
7. Charley and Amy
Actors William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse might have been playing teenagers in Fright Night, but they were both much older than the characters of Charley Brewster and Amy Peterson. Ragsdale was 24 years old when he played Charley, and Bearse was 27 when she portrayed Amy.
6. 1966 Ford Mustang
Charley Brewster’s 1966 Ford Mustang had one of the worst paint jobs possible: an offbeat mixture of red and grey hues. The muscle car actually belonged to writer/director Tom Holland. Sadly, the classic Mustang was totaled 10 years later during an accident.
5. 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein'
Holland’s cinematic masterpiece was obviously inspired by many vampire films of the past, particularly Hammer horror, but there is a thoughtful nod and a wink to the Golden Days of the Universal Monsters. During their final battle with Jerry Dandrige, Charley and Peter think they have the upper hand. Jerry flees after Peter shoots Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but soon the zombie-like Renfield creeps up the staircase after our heroes. Holland admitted that Billy sneaking up on Charley and Peter, as he climbed the stairs, was an homage to Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) sneaking up on Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
4. Evil Ed
Amy (Amanda Bearse) and Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) go to Charley’s house to check on their friend during the first act of the film. Once they enter Charley’s room, Amy and Ed find Brewster sharpening a stake and preparing for all-out war with Jerry Dandrige. Candles flutter in the darkness, despite the sun being out, and Charley also utilizes crosses to defend himself against Dandridge.
Geoffreys was incredibly sick the day that scene was shot due to food poisoning, but you’d never know it by his performance, and the young thespian pulled it together to complete the shoot. It’s a memorable moment, as the scene sparked Amy and Ed into action. Immediately after, they recruit Peter Vincent to aid their troubled friend.
3. Box Office Boffo
According to Holland, Fright Night wasn’t expected to do much at the box office in the minds of studio executives. But to the pleasant surprise of all involved, Fright Night scared up over $6.1 million on its opening weekend. In fact, the movie went on to win the silver medal at the box office for all horror films in 1985. Fright Night took home over $24 million domestically, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge took the top spot with almost $30 million.
2. Peter Vincent
Peter Vincent’s Hollywood apartment was cluttered with all manner of motion picture memorabilia including a noticeable nod to former Dracula (1931) icon Bela Lugosi. Look closely, and you’ll see another hidden gem hiding among the furniture and antiquities. One of Roddy McDowall’s own life-masks from the Planet of the Apes film series can be seen adorning Vincent’s home.
1. 'Fright Night' Sequel
During an interview in 2015, Holland discussed his vision for a follow-up he’d liked to have pursued for Fright Night. His concept revolved around Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) being a single father with a couple of teenage children.
Charlie inherits his mother’s home and soon discovers something “evil” is squatting in the abandoned house where Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) used to cloak his coffin. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) has taken up residence, and he is trying to resurrect Jerry. According to Holland, this Fright Night sequel would have included most of the original cast members unlike the much maligned 1988 Fright Night Part 2.
For those film fanatics who also enjoy documentaries about horror movies, check out Dead Mouse Productions three-disc tribute to Fright Night titled You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016). Disc one of the Blu-ray is a nearly four-hour documentary which examines the making of both Fright Night and Fright Night Part 2. This is a must-own for any Fright Night aficionado, and You’re So Cool, Brewster is an Eerie Essential all on its own.
In conclusion, Fright Night is one of those rare films which stands the test of time from generation to generation. It is a must-see for all horror enthusiasts, and it's an Eerie Essential to be enjoyed by all who dare take up the cross with Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent against the duplicitous Jerry Dandrige.
Which Fright Night facts were your favorites? Are there any other obscure tidbits you’d like to have seen make the list? Sound off in the comments.