Fright Night Revisited

DATELINE:  Vampire Classic from ’80s

Sarandon & Jeffreys

Has it really been 35 years since Fright Night rejuvenated modern vampires?

It was Tom Holland who wrote and directed it, looking like a B-movie for TV show of the week, apart from the nudity now and then. By today’s cable movie standards, this is rough, however still holds up as entertainment with a modern twist.

Two points of amusement remain unflappable: Roddy MacDowell and Stephen Jeffreys. They survive in name for sheer wacky performances. MacDowell plays an aging movie star who used to play vampire hunters in his heyday, and Jeffreys plays a teenage Jack Nicholson on uppers. He later reneged Hollywood to do gay adult films for a while, though that is now denied with a half-baked story that it was his evil twin brother.

The vampire is demure and stately Chris Sarandon, looking like he wandered into the wrong California suburb. Yes, the vampire has taken a house in a Leave It to Beaverpart of town where you can peer into the next-door windows. It seems like he’s asking for teenage trouble.

Stephen Jeffreys steals the big scenes: he becomes clearly the gay victim of Sarandon’s vampire. His two delicious scenes are with Roddy as they battle.

For MacDowell with his hair fake-frosted, this was a last grand role, and he makes the most of it. Director Holland was lucky to have the veteran star in his movie.

There is no scrimping on special effects at the finish, and you have a sunny California vampire tale.

The film was originally set to star Vincent Price, not McDowall, and Anthony Michael Hall, not Jeffreys. And, we still haven’t figured out what Sarandon’s boyfriend is supposed to be.

In the whatever happened mode, William Ragsdale is the star juvenile lead. He’s cookie-cutter good enough. Yet, he is thrown up against two scene-stealing actors who rob him of the movie. The film is considered a classic nowadays.

Everything is Possible in The Impossible





Everything is Possible in The Impossible


The greatest tsunami in recorded history happened on December 26, 2004, in which hundreds of thousands of victims were killed around the globe.


The enormity and gravity of a cataclysm can only be hinted at in The Impossible, which puts the focus on one small family on holiday in Thailand.


The actual disaster is seen in limited scope, but is horrific in its fright. Disaster is always a personal experience and its test of people comes individually and within families. Unlike many disaster films, this one stays on one family and their trauma.


Naomi Watts last had a battle with a giant in King Kong, but nothing compares to having one’s life ripped into shards of despair and hopelessness.


Ewan MacGregor plays her debris-dashing husband who finds himself separated from his wife and eldest son. In his search he makes a bizarre decision to abandon his two terrified youngest sons seven and three. Perhaps it was shock, but it seems cruel in the face of Nature’s cruelty.


Acting is superior. Tom Holland as Lucas reminds of a young Jamie Bell and likely has a solid acting career ahead. The film also boasts a cameo of an old woman who looks familiar because she is none other than Geraldine Chaplin.


The gruesome injuries and brutal conditions make the shenanigans of most action pictures shameful. Here we see pain and triumph of the human spirit without the silly veneer Hollywood often wishes to spread like cheap cheese-dip on a cracker.


J.A. Bayona directs a powerful microcosm of a major event in human history. We can only understand true tragedy in terms of people living in ordinary circumstance when the mind-boggling facts confront them. It is always worse in movie flashback, as these people learn about post-traumatic stress.


Be sure to read William Russo’s movie reviews in MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE, available at in both softcover and e-book.