Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 22: Fright Night (1985)
Since the days of Vampyr, Nosferatu, and even Dracula himself, there have been countless bloodsuckers to grace the silver screen, but the 1980s saw somewhat of a surprising drought when it came to notable (or memorable) vampire action. Films like The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Vampire’s Kiss and even The Monster Squad would come around later in the decade, but before all the horror, drama, and occasional comedy found within those features, Tom Holland‘s directorial debut—an eventual cult classic—would breathe new life into the genre in 1985.
Even though it was released a year before I was born, Fright Night was a film that I had unfortunately overlooked for the majority of my life. It wasn’t until just four years ago that I experienced it for the first time, and when the end credits began to roll I immediately started questioning my priorities in life, while simultaneously getting down to J. Geils Band’s Fright Night theme song.
Holland’s Fright Night, before anything else, is a ton of fun for horror fans. With perfect measures of all things essential to the genre, you’d be hard-pressed to find a horror hound that’s seen the movie and not loved it to some degree. There’s a true sense of mystery and dread throughout, elevated by the eerie score and the familiar themes, but there are darkly comedic elements (and some truly absurd ones as well) that really add an additional layer of amusement, one that over time has helped aggrandize Fright Night to its warranted level of cult supremacy. One of my favorite aspects of Fright Night, however, is the full use of practical effects. Unsullied by the use of CGI, the original Fright Night is pure visual horror to its core without the aid of over-the-top digital effects. Richard Edlund’s (Ghostbusters, Big Trouble In Little China) time-consuming makeup, puppetry, and other visual manipulations are outstanding and have held up beautifully over the past three decades. I’ll take practical effects over computer-generated ones any day.
Another unique quality of the film is its ability to often feel like a stage play in its flow and delivery, which adds a truly dramatic, theatrical feel to the whole affair. This of course is already inherent in the Dracula-esque production, but the tone is likely due mostly in part to Tom Holland’s roots as a classically-trained actor and his meticulous approach to pre-production for the film. The cast was provided with ample rehearsal time and actually acted out the entire movie on a blocked-out stage as they delved into self-written biographies (suggested by Holland) for each of their respective characters, aiming to more fully understand who they were to become within the story.
Furthermore, when you combine vampire motifs with the ’80s, you have to know you’re going to get some formula that consists of blood, grisly transformations, over-the-top acting, and some saxophone-soundtracked sensuality. I mean, what would a vampire film be without some sexual activity, right? Fright Night has it all. With a relatively simple plot in place, the film is carried along by the acting of all involved, which while admittedly feels exaggerated at times also manages to feel self-aware (Roddy McDowall‘s portrayal of TV’s veteran vampire killer Peter Vincent alone is worth the watch). This, paired with the aforementioned masterful effects work, the comedy-horror balance, the lighting, the camera work, the costumes, and set design—it all makes Fright Night a pleasure to watch. It’s truly a gorgeous-looking film, even over 30 years later.
As this isn’t intended to be a synopsis, I wanted to focus more on why this is a film you should have an interest in this Halloween season. Like any great film, it’s better if you take the time to experience it for yourself, rather than have me spoil all the fun. Unfortunately, the film is no longer streaming on Netflix, but you can always rent it or just pull the trigger and blindly purchase a copy for your own collection (you won’t regret it).
While the trailer below admittedly isn’t the best representation of Fright Night, it, in conjunction with this editorial, might just convince you to spend some time with this dynamic, 1980s horror classic. I truly believe you’ll enjoy the hell out of yourself from the opening frames to the closing credits, where maybe, like me, you’ll begin kicking yourself as you realize how batty you’ve been for allowing yourself to miss it all this time.