Official Movie Poster
|Directed by||Tom Holland|
|Produced by||Herb Jaffe|
|Written by||Tom Holland|
|Release date(s)||August 2, 1985|
|Running time||106 minutes|
Fright Night is an American gothic horror film starring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowall that was released in 1985. It was followed by a 1988 sequel, Fright Night Part 2, an unofficial Indian remake in 1989 and official remakes in 2011 and 2013 - along with numerous other merchandise including tapes, CDs, videos, DVDs, Blu-Rays, figurines, T-shirts and comic books.
Fright Night was the breakout hit of the summer of 1985 and its popularity has continued to snowball over the last three decades. The visual effects are the work of Richard Edlund's team, which had just finished work on Ghostbusters.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Sequels and Remakes
- 6 Merchandising
- 7 Images
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a teenage horror movie fan. One night he sees new neighbors moving in next door and they appear to be carrying what looks like a coffin. Charley shrugs this off until he sees his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) biting the neck of a young woman. He tells his mother (Dorothy Fielding) what he saw but she doesn't believe him. He tries to tell his friend "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) but they also believe Charley is mistaken and begin to worry about his mental well-being. Charley calls the police claiming that he saw Dandridge killing his date and that there is a coffin in the basement. The police investigate and not finding the hooker (Heidi Sorenson) and the teenage girl (Irina Irvine) they tell Charley to never call the police again or he'd be thrown in jail forever.
Charley then decides to seek the help of veteran vampire movie star and local late-night horror showcase host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who after a long and mediocre career has become cynical and dispirited. Vincent visits Dandridge with Brewster in order to persuade Charley that he's deluded (by asking Dandridge to drink tap water labeled 'holy water'), only to find that Dandridge casts no reflection in his mirror.
Amy comes to believe that Dandridge is a vampire, but Evil is not convinced, and wants to hear nothing about it. As he leaves, Evil takes an alley, only to encounter Dandridge. He becomes scared, and tries to run, but Dandridge keeps up and bites him, changing him into a vampire.
Back at his house, Vincent is scared and tries to shake off his feeling of dread. Just then Evil knocks on his door. Vincent opens it, and begins talking to Evil casually, as he knew nothing of what Evil was now. Suddenly, Evil attacks Vincent, who narrowly escapes by using a cross. A scalded Evil slinks away, threatening Vincent with telling the 'Master'.
Amy and Charley, at the time, happen to be crossing the streets when they see Dandridge following them. They run into a night club, but Dandridge follows them, where he hypnotizes Amy. Charley attempts physical combat, but Dandridge subdues him. He then leaves with Amy to his house.
Charley runs back to Vincent, who makes him grab a cross before he enters. There, he persuades Vincent that they must confront Dandridge, igniting Vincent's long-slumbering faith and strength. The duo get ready, and go to Dandridge's mansion. By then, he had already turned Amy into a vampire.
As Charley and Vincent enter the house, Dandridge welcomes them to what he calls 'Fright Night', used to describe the night encounters that follow. Vincent has a brief moment of fear, in which his faith is too weak to activiate the power of the cross against Dandridge. The latter orders his ghoul servant Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) to kill the duo, but they shoot him repeatedly and stab him until he dies.
Charley and Vincent proceed to split up and Charley finds Amy's body. Evil turns into a wolf and attacks Vincent, but he stakes a broken rail from a wooden staircase into Evil's heart, killing him. Vincent proceeds to take a sorrowful Charley from Amy's body and goes to face of with Dandridge. This time, Vincent's faith works against Dandridge, who turns into a vampire bat and bites Charley.
Just then, the bell for daybreak goes, and they all go into the basement of the masion, where Dandridge proceeds to resurrect the body in the coffin that had been moved into his house with him. Amy is present here, and nearly bites a temporarily softened Charley. He escapes, and together with Vincent, break the glass walls of the basement, letting in sunlight. Dandridge burns to dust, and Amy is cured.
In the final scene of the movie, Charley and Amy are at home, watching Vincent's popular new show, 'Fright Night'. They then deviate attention from the show and begin making out on the bed. The movie ends as a pair of red eyes flash repeatedly outside, and we can hear Evil Ed's catchphrase: "Oh, you are so cool, Brewster!" as the credits start to roll. 'Fright Night' is far from over.
- Chris Sarandon - Jerry Dandridge
- William Ragsdale - Charley Brewster
- Roddy McDowall - Peter Vincent
- Amanda Bearse - Amy Peterson
- Stephen Geoffreys - Ed Thompson
- Jonathan Stark - Billy Cole
- Dorothy Fielding - Judy Brewster
- Art J. Evans - Detective Lennox
- Heidi Sorenson - Cheryl Lane
- Irina Irvine - Teenage victim
- Pamela Brown - Miss Nina
- Bob Corff - Jonathan
While writing the script for Cloak & Dagger, Tom Holland amused himself when he conceived the idea of a horror-movie fan becoming convinced that his next door neighbor was a vampire, but he didn't initially think this premise was enough to sustain a story. "What's he gonna do," Holland asked, "because everybody's gonna think he's mad!" The story percolated in his mind for a year and finally one day while discussing it with John Byers, then the head of the story department at Columbia Pictures, he finally figured out what the boy would do. "Of course, he's gonna go to Vincent Price!" In that era, many local TV affiliates in the United States had horror hosts (perhaps the most famous are Zacherle and the nationally syndicated Elvira), so Holland decided it would be natural for the boy to seek aid from his local host. "The minute I had Peter Vincent, I had the story. Charley Brewster was the engine, but Peter Vincent was the heart." Once he'd conceived that character, Holland knocked out the first draft of the script in three weeks. "And I was laughing the entire time, literally on the floor, kicking my feet in the air in hysterics."
Holland was so disheartened by the film that was ultimately made from his previous screenplay, Scream for Help, that he decided he had to direct Fright Night himself, and he'd developed enough of clout from the successes of his screenplays for Class of 1984, Psycho II, and Cloak & Dagger that the head of Columbia Pictures said, "Let's take a chance on the hot screenwriter kid," not figuring that Fright Night would be as successful as it ultimately became.
The Peter Vincent character was named after horror icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, and Holland specifically wrote the part for Price, but at this point in his career, Price had been so badly typecast that he had stopped accepting roles in horror movies. Guy McElwaine, then the head of Columbia Pictures, suggested Roddy McDowall for the part. McDowall had already starred in the Holland-penned film Class of 1984, so Holland was immediately receptive to the suggestion. "He understood the part," commented Holland, "and he also understood what he could do with it, and he really wanted it!" Holland and McDowall built a lasting friendship, and McDowall eventually invited Holland to a dinner party where he introduced him to Vincent Price, who was flattered that the part was an homage to him and commented that the film "was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job."
Chris Sarandon's agent gave him a copy of the script and he replied, “there’s no way I can do a horror movie," but he decided to give the script a once-over and was immediately captivated by it. "I thought this is one of the best scripts I've read in a long time," Sarandon said, "beautifully constructed, it was obvious that this was a labor of love, it was clear that the writer/director's approach to it was one of wanting to have fun with the genre without making fun of it, the characters were beautifully drawn." Although he liked the screenplay, Sarandon was still leery of working with a first-time director, so he flew to L.A. to meet Tom Holland and producer Herb Jaffe. He and Holland had an immediate rapport (and went on to make several more films together), and Sarandon was awed that Holland had the film so completely mapped out that he "literally described the movie shot-by-shot all the way through - page-by-page, scene-by-scene. It was basically the way he shot it."
Jonathan Stark wasn't a fan of vampire movies at all, but he also liked the script. The Billy Cole character was written as a hulking giant, so Stark padded himself with extra clothing when he went in to audition. At auditions, he read the scene in which he's being questioned by the detective, which was written to be played straight. "I'm thinking if I'm sitting there being evil," Stark commented, "the lieutenant's gonna get suspicious. Why not throw him off the trail by being funny?" Holland liked his take on the character, and Stark was told that he had the part - but because he came into read at the start of the audition process, months passed before filming commenced and Stark worried that he'd lost the role. The gap worked to his advantage, however, because it gave him time to hit the gym and bulk up so he wouldn't have to wear padding in the film.
William Ragsdale had auditioned to portray Rocky Dennis in Mask but he lost the role to Eric Stoltz. However, casting director Jackie Burch remembered his audition and thought he'd be right to portray Charley Brewster. Ragsdale auditioned several times and ultimately received the news that he'd landed the part on Halloween night 1984, beating out several other future-stars like Charlie Sheen.
Due to a mix-up, Stephen Geoffreys had an awkward audition for Anthony Michael Hall's role in Weird Science, and he made an indelible impression on Jackie Burch, who suggested him for Fright Night. Although he wasn't a horror movie fan, Geoffreys loved the script, so he called his agent and emphatically declared that he'd love to audition for Charley Brewster. “No, Steve," his agent replied, "you’re wanted for the part of Evil Ed.” Geoffreys was simultaneously baffled and heartbroken. "What do they see in me that they think I should be this… well anyway, it worked out."
The most difficult role to cast was Amy Peterson. "There wasn't the perfect girl-next-door until [Amanda Bearse] walked in," Holland commented.
Once his cast was in place, writer/director Holland got input from each of the actors and made numerous revisions to the script. Some were slight and others were major - such as the ending which originally featured Peter Vincent transforming into a vampire as he returned to host Fright Night. The September 6, 1984 draft of the screenplay which is circulating online is very close to the final cut of the film, but a few more changes were still to come.
The cast and crew were given the luxury of having two weeks of rehearsal time in late November 1984 prior to filming. Holland blocked out the scenes on a soundstage and the cast performed the entire film like it was a stage play. Having begun his career as a classically trained actor, Holland encouraged the cast to write biographies of their characters so they would completely understand their motivations and be able to draw on that information while filming their scenes. All of the kinks in the story/performances were ironed out during the rehearsal period, so when it came time to film, Holland only shot two or three takes of each scene and then moved on.
As originally written, Jerry Dandrige was more of a villain, so Sarandon tried to find various ways to humanize the vampire. Sarandon suggested adding the implication that the Amy character was the reincarnation of his long-lost love, and he did research into bats and discovered that the bulk of the world's bat population are Frugivores, so he concluded, "Jerry had a lot of fruit bat in his DNA." This explains why his character is frequently munching on apples, which Sarandon decided his character was using to "cleanse his palette" after draining blood from his victims.
Stark and Sarandon hadn't picked up on Holland's intended gay subtext when they were developing their characters. "I didn't have any sense of it as being anything other than Renfield and Dracula", Chris Sarandon recalled. "I think there was sort of an asexual quality to the relationship that was sort of borderline homoerotic but not, in the sense that it was creepy." For the scene in which Jerry pulls down the window shade and it looks as though Billy is about to perform oral sex on him, Stark remembered, "I'm cleaning his hand and he said, 'No, get down on your knees.' 'Okay, Tom.' Then when I saw it, I thought, 'Oooooh, okay.'"
McDowall also did a lot of work on his character, and made a conscious decision to pattern his performance after The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. All of the cast and crew members have spoken highly of McDowall. "He was a kind of Yoda on the set," commented Sarandon. Recalled Ragsdale, "He had his videocamera on his shoulder and he shooting, like, family movies the whole time."
Filming commenced on December 3, 1984 and wrapped on February 23, 1985. At the time of production, Fright Night was Columbia's lowest-budgeted film and they didn't have high expectations for it, so they were focusing all of their attention on the John Travolta/Jamie Lee Curtis film Perfect, which they were certain was going to be a blockbuster. "That was where the money and interest was, and they were so fixated on that, they left me alone," writer/director Tom Holland recalled. "They never even came to the set. It was totally my film without studio interference."
Makeup and visual effects
Richard Edlund was the head of visual effects, and his team had just completed work on Ghostbusters, which worked to the advantage of Fright Night. "They had made all of their mistakes with how to do the matte shots and everything on Ghostbusters, with their huge budget," Holland commented, "and so they really knew how to do [the special effects] as inexpensively and efficiently as it could be done at the time."
The most excruciating part of the makeup process for the cast were the contact lenses. In those days the lenses were hard plastic, which Steve Johnson hand-painted (throwing some glitter into the mix), lacquered and sanded. The cast could only wear them for a maximum of 20 minutes because they were virtually blind in them, and they were thick, painful and dried out their eyes. A set was made for Stark to wear when he's in his final pursuit of Peter and Charley, but he kept tripping on the stairs. Holland told him to take one out, and he was then able to perform the scene. Three sets were made for Amanda Bearse, but one of them caused her agonizing pain which she initially tried to endure. When it finally became too much to bear, she took the contacts out and the crew realized they'd forgotten to buff them. For the scene in Mrs. Brewster's bedroom, Geoffreys kept his contacts in for nearly 40 minutes, resulting in scratches on his eyeballs for months afterward.
For the transformation sequences, it took up to 8 hours to prepare Sarandon's makeup. Sarandon was uncomfortable spending that long sitting in a chair doing nothing, and since he'd had experience doing his own makeup for his work on the stage, he volunteered to help. He did some of the stippling and, while the makeup men were applying prosthetics to his face and head, he worked on the finger extensions. Sarandon has often joked that the rubber fingers caused difficulties whenever he had to urinate, so gay costume supervisor Mort Schwartz constantly offered to help him. "I said to Morry, 'Thank you, no, I'll just use a coat hanger!'" Co-star Ragsdale recalled one instance when Sarandon spent an entire day in the makeup chair and when he was finally fully transformed into the monster, a producer informed him that they weren't going to be able to shoot the scene that day. "And Chris said, 'Okay,' and turned around and went and took it off, it was amazing!" Ragsdale exclaimed. "I would have gone through the roof but he didn't. His will had been broken by that point!"
The makeup for Evil Ed's wolf transformation took 18 hours. While he had the wolf head on, the crew began pouring what they thought was Methylcellulose into his mouth to create the illusion of saliva, but when Geoffreys began to complain about the taste, Mark Bryan Wilson realized they'd been using prosthetic adhesive, which was gluing his mouth shut.
On Christmas Eve, during the shooting of a scene where he's running down a staircase, Ragsdale accidentally tripped and broke his ankle, resulting in the film being temporarily put on a hold until he could recover from his injury. Many scenes were shot with his foot in a cast. For the scene in which Jerry is carrying Charley by the throat with one hand, Sarandon was simultaneously pulling Ragsdale on a furniture dolly.
The shot of Jerry pulling the pencil out of his hand was achieved by having a spring-loaded collapsible pencil glued to his palm and an eraser-tip loosely attached to the back of his hand. When he turns his hand and pulls the spring-loaded piece from his palm, out of shot a monofilament wire jerked away the tip, so when he turns it back it appears as though he's pulled it straight through his hand. "So we go to the editing room," FX man Steve Johnson recalled of an early cut, "and Tom had put a reaction in the middle of it, ruined the entire shot!"
The crew attempted to achieve the illusion of the cross-scar vanishing from Evil Ed's forehead live on-set, but effect was a resounding failure. In that pre-digital age, Edlund's crew was able to alter the film utilizing optical photography to achieve the effect.
Filming of the sequence with the Jerry Dandrige Bat was difficult for the crew, who kept winding up on film while puppeteering the creature. Further complications ensued when the bat tries to bite Roddy McDowall's character and he forces a bone into its mouth; there was difficulty getting the puppet to bite, and then McDowall jerked the bone to hard and broke the bat's skull. The bat was quickly patched, but required repairs forced them to wait two days to shoot more close-ups.
Fright Night's widest release was 1,545 theaters. The film also turned out to be a surprise hit at the box office, making $6,118,543 on opening weekend (1,542 theaters, $3,967 average). Domestic gross was $24,922,237. It performed the best of any horror film released during the summer of 1985. It was also the second highest-grossing horror film of 1985, bested only by A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.
Fright Night was well-received, winning three Saturn Awards, a Dario Argento Award, a critics' award—special citation at Fantasporto, and currently holds a 94% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 30 reviews. Chris Sarandon was praised for his multifaceted performance. A 1988 sequel followed, entitled Fright Night Part II, with William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall reprising their roles. The sequel was not as well received as the original.
Sequels and Remakes
Fright Night Part 2
With the immediate success of the first film, producer Herb Jaffe pushed to make a sequel, but Tom Holland was busy with another project and Jaffe was unwilling to pay star salary for Chris Sarandon, so production soldiered on without them.
Fright Night Part 2 opens with Charley Brewster in therapy, convinced that his encounter with "serial killer" Jerry Dandrige was primarily delusion. However, when Jerry's sister Regine arrives in town seeking revenge, Charley and Peter Vincent find themselves in a role reversal.
The film was first screened in Europe in 1988; the following year it attained a limited theatrical release in the USA and then was dumped on VHS and laserdisc. Despite its status as a financial flop, the film has developed a cult following of its own.
Fright Night Part 3
Eager to bring Tom Holland back into the fold, Roddy McDowall set up a meeting with Jose Menendez, the head of Carolco Pictures, to discuss making a third film. Unfortunately, before the meeting could occur, Menendez was infamously murdered by his sons, Lyle and Erik.
In 2015, when asked if he could do a sequel to any of his movies (even if meant ignoring existing sequels/remakes), Holland replied that he'd like to do a follow-up to Fright Night with the cast of the original film. His proposed plot was that single-father Charley Brewster inherits his mother's home and soon his two teenage children become convinced that there's something evil in the house next door - namely Evil Ed, whom Charley discovers survived and is attempting to resurrect Jerry Dandrige.
The first remake was Amavasai Iravil ("Moonless Night"), a blatant clone made for the Tamil film industry in India in 1989. It follows the plot of the original almost scene-for-scene, but various changes were made (Peter Vincent is a priest, the vampire gets stabbed with a paintbrush instead of a pencil, etc.), and a few additions were made, such as the Charley Brewster character hiring an ill-fated thug to dispatch the vampire. The film was never officially issued outside of India, but it can be easily found online.
Fright Night (2011)
In 2011, the film was offically remade by DreamWorks. This incarnation is set in Las Vegas, Peter Vincent has been changed to a magician, and Jerry Dandrige is no longer a sensuous vampire but a blood-thirsty monster.
Fright Night 2: New Blood
In 2013 the movie was remade again by Fox, misleading titled Fright Night 2: New Blood. Completely ignoring the events of the 2011 film, this one centers on Charley, Amy, and Evil Ed, who have traveled to Romania for schooling and soon discover that their sexy new teacher is an ancient vampire. Peter Vincent's occupation has been changed once again to a reality-TV show host. Although no credit was given, this remake with its female villain owes just as much to the original sequel as the first film.
A variety of merchandise has been produced to tie in with the movie, including video games, home video releases, soundtrack albums, comic books, trading cards and T-shirts. To date, no action figures have been produced.
- Columbia's promotional campaign was primarily the same around the world, with poster artwork designed by the B.D. Fox Independent company which displayed on the image of a decrepit house and Amy's monstrous vampire face looming in the clouds above it. Various trailers, press kits, promotional photos, programs, lobby cards and a music video exist.
- The film has had countless home video releases around the world on VHS, Beta, CED, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray as well as digital download/streaming on sites such as amazon, iTunes and Vudu. The only version to include extras (excluding the theatrical trailer, which has been included on most discs) is the 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray.
- A soundtrack album was released in 1985 which included all 10 songs that were credited in the film (though White Sister's "Save Me Tonight" didn't make it into the final cut). The album has been out of print for decades. Singles were released for "Fright Night" by the J. Geils band (backed with The Fabulous Fontaines' "Boppin' Tonight"), April Wine's Rock Myself to Sleep, and Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Give It Up" (backed with Sparks' "Armies of the Night"). King's song was also released as two extended dance mixes, and an alternate version of the Sparks song was released on a their album Music You Can Dance To.
- In 2011, the instrumental score by Brad Fiedel finally received a limited edition CD release. Additionally, the complete isolated score is accessible on the Twilight Time Blu-Ray. There have also been countless bootlegs of both the score and soundtrack which have been floating around for years, many dubbed from DVD/Blu-Ray releases.
- Now Comics adapted both films in 1988 and went on to create a series of ongoing Fright Night stories following the further adventures of Peter Vincent and Charley Brewster until 1990, when the company filed for bankruptcy. Following corporate restructuring, four special 3-D issues were printed in 1992 and 1993, including one previously unpublished story. Amy Peterson and Billy Cole vanished from the books after issue #2 (Charley's girlfriends Amy and Alex Young were replaced with an original character named Natalia Hinnault), but Evil Ed returned in issue #8 to become a recurring character, and ultimately Jerry Dandrige was resurrected.
- In preparation for the release of the film, author-partners John Skipp and Craig Spector took a month to compose a novel based on Tom Holland's screenplay. The novelization follows the film's story fairly closely, but the authors chose to delve into the minds of the characters to further establish motivation and backstory.
- In 1988, a video game was released for Commodore Amiga computers. Players portrayed a vamped-out Jerry Dandrige, who had to search his home for intruders and kill them before dawn, when they could kill him.
- In 1988, the Topps Trading Card company produced Fright Flicks a line of 90 cards and 11 stickers adorned with images licensed from 15 popular horror movies. A handful of images from the film were featured with silly captions, and an artist's rendering of Amanda Bearse as vampire Amy adorned one version of the wax-paper packaging. Of all of the Fright Night merchandising available, these cards are the most affordably priced easy to find.
- A replica of Charley's partially-painted 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback (the real-life vehicle of writer/director Tom Holland) was first released unofficially as a prototype by Tomy as part of the Johnny Lightning, Work In Progress series in 2012. In 2013, official licensing was obtained and it was released by Greenlight Collectibles as part of their GreenLight 10-Car Collector Case, alongside a seemingly-random assortment of replicas of vehicles from productions including Bewitched, Footloose, Smoky and the Bandit Part II, Catch Me If You Can and NCIS
- Clayguy is artist Barry Crawford, who sculpts caricature figurines of characters from films and television, with his forte being horror movies. Currently there are only two Fright Night figurines available, Peter Vincent and a vampire Amy Peterson, but Crawford adds new sculptures to his collection regularly. In 2012, a seemingly-enthusiastic Amanda Bearse posed for a photo with Crawford and her Amy statuette.
- Fright Rags is a company that produces T-shirts adorned with original artwork based on horror movies. To date the company has produced two different Fright Night T-shirts, both endorsed by writer/director Tom Holland.
- Tim Sullivan's Shock N Roll Tom Holland Interview
- "Choice Cuts: Tom Holland's Fright Night Tour"
- FRIGHT NIGHT Reunion Panel From Dallas, TX FEAR FEST
- Dread Central: Tom Holland Fright Night Retrospective
- 1988 Topps Fright Flicks Checklist
- Johnny Lightning R22 Project In Progress 1965 Ford Mustang Red/Gray
- A Freddy In Space Exclusive Look At...An Upcoming Fright Night Matchbox Car?!?!
- Toys R Us