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.

30 Days of Night: North to Vampires

DATELINE: Beautiful Josh Hartnett Alert!

 Josh Hartnett

Director David Slade gave us the pretty vampire of Robert Pattinson in that sugar-pop vampire series, but has turned in an uglier version with 30 Days of Night. Here in Barrow, Alaska, when the sun sets, the vampires have a long winter’s feast.

It’s a claustrophobic experience to be cut off from the rest of the world with an army of hungry vampires.

Josh Hartnett has never looked prettier in this 2007 movie, but he seems to fall apart, as the film proceeds, thanks to makeup effects. He’s the sheriff of a cold, little town in the northern most latitudes of the United States. He goes from clean-shaven to scraggy, to—well, we won’t say.

Most of the residents don’t have a clue what the plague is that is attacking them as night must fall.

These are Nosferatu Nasty vampires, led by black-eyed Danny Huston speaking some weird language of vampires, in sub-titles no less. Huston wins the creepy award.

As one of those pick’em off one by one movies, you watch the little town of 150 or so dwindle to a precious few.

Ben Foster starts things off in one of his patented creepy roles, but once those superhuman vamps start flying like flakes in a blizzard, you figure that the movie will be over in thirty minutes.

Humans are resilient—and fight back, rather hopelessly.

The film is a little different than you might come to expect from the genre, and that makes it highly watchable, despite the blood-letting.

This didn’t win any Oscars, but it might have entertained a few people over the years. We have discovered it later than it deserved. But, better late than never. Go north, vampire hunters.