Fright Night: You’re not cool at all, Brewster

Sometimes, actually oftentimes, things don’t have to be good to be good. We know this. Hell, a few weeks back you had to read 2000 words on why I like Demolition Man more than most modern cinema. I feel like you’re all with me on this, whether you keep your guilty pleasures on an external hard drive, or write about them for the amusement of internet strangers. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how shonky it is, what colour the fake blood is, the jarring dialogue, the crap soundtrack, or how many times you’ve watched it. Sometimes it’s a time and a place that makes a fucking terrible film your cinematic comfort blanket.

With that in mind, and with Halloween just around the corner – WELCOME TO FRIGHT NIGHT.

In our house, there was a video cupboard, and in that cupboard were two shelves. Top shelf belonged to my brother and I – Transformers, Bravestarr, Dungeons and Dragons, The Raccoons, The Care Bears Movie (was almost tempted to write about that, gave me nightmares for actual years), early Simpsons with two episodes on each tape, Teenage Mutant Ninja (later Hero) Turtles. You know, the usual suspects for a child chomping through the extensive vaguely violent cartoon library of the late 80s and very early 90s. But the second shelf belonged to my mother, who, let it be known, bloody loves a good horror film.

My mum with a knife c. 2004.

We, just like the rest of you, obviously watched the 15 and 18 rated videos in the cupboard somewhat outside of the legal time frames. But before we got brave and dangerous, I would spend a lot of time dragging the videos out of the cupboard and across the living room floor, poring hungrily over the covers, reading the blurb on the back, and trying to work out if I was indeed brave enough to creep downstairs at 5am to watch them before Ma came back from her night shift. True, watching them when she’d left would have been far more convenient, but as much as I wanted to see them, there’s no way I was stupid enough to try and watch them when it was DARK. You’re talking to a woman who was relieved to see a poster in the cinema announcing that Freddy was DEAD, despite a) understanding he wasn’t real, and b) only really ever having managed about 10 minutes of one random NOES movie up until that point. A woman, who on finishing a scary book, would turn back to the beginning and read the first five pages again, where everything was fine and no one was murdered. Anyway, the boxes.

Hits from the shelf included The Omen, The Exorcist, Alien, Hellraiser, some Bruce Lee, most Stephen King, The Thing, An American Werewolf in London, The Fly, The Evil Dead, and most notably Pumpkinhead, which I had to remove the box cover from and turn it inside out before putting back in the case sleeve. I don’t know what the official science term is for a phobia of pumpkins, but Halloween in our house was made an even darker affair from1988 to about 1992.

That was where I found Fright Night, directed by Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner, other really terrible films) lurking, amongst the visceral and tortured faces, the dripping fonts. Let’s consider that cover. As if the house wasn’t creepy enough, the mist not menacing enough, the whole thing is topped off by that fucking face. I had no idea what to make of it. At this point, my reference point for vampires was Grandpa Munster. Old guys in velvet lined capes, too much eyeliner, and a painted on widow’s peak. The fact that I thought falling asleep with my hair over my neck was enough to put them off (true story), meant that they weren’t really on my radar when preparing not to die in my sleep. That Fright Night vampire, that grinning shark woman thing, well it forced me to reconsider my entire bedtime routine, and for years I had no idea if I wanted to watch that video, or burn it in a church.

If you haven’t seen Fright Night, it won’t take me very long to explain the plot to you, which makes a nice change. Charley Brewster is a little teenage knobhead, surpassed in annoying us all only by his mate Edward Thompson, who he calls Evil for no discernible reason. Even at 10 years old, I knew the actor playing Edward was only cast for his maniacal laugh, and has really fluffy hair. Charley Brewster has a girlfriend called Amy Peterson who he is either dry humping or disappointing with his general lack of interest in any of her excessive teenage girl feelings. Not only is he an insensitive clod, he also watches the telly over her shoulder when they snog, most notably a programme called Fright Night, hosted by Peter Vincent. Peter Vincent (Cornelius off the original Planet Of The Apes) plays a vampire killer in loads of terrible films. He talks about the films, hams it up about monsters and spooks and ghouls HARD, then Charley Brewster sits and watches them. A good 10 minutes of character development. 12 if you include Charley’s mum watching telly without really taking any notice of him, and explaining very blatantly that she’ll never be in at night ever again because she works a night shift. Ok, we get it, the mum is checked out.

AND THEN, along comes smooth talking, handsome, well dressed new neighbour, Jerry Dandrige. Played by Chris Sarandon, owner of the most chiselled jaw I’d had access to up until this point. He moves in in the middle of the night with his mate Billy, and a coffin. Charley sees him snogging up a girl in the window, stroking her back with his gross long fingernails. The next day the girl is dead, and that is how we immediately and with no questions asked come to the conclusion that Jerry Dandrige is a vampire.

Look at these idiots. And Jerry’s sweater.

Now, whilst most modern films would have taken their sweet ass time to get to this point, not only have they sorted all this for you in the first twenty minutes, but the film is also two hours long, giving maximum scare time. That’s over ninety minutes of actual post build-up horror. More than a whole film in new money. Despite the fact that my attention span in 2017 is practically nil, back then, I could happily watch things for HOURS with nothing at all really happening. Thanks a lot, internet.

Right, so your neighbour Jerry is a vampire, using his jaw to lure the sexually promiscuous women of the neighbourhood to their death every night just across from your bedroom. What do you do? You call the police, sure. They don’t believe you. What’s the next logical step after that? HARASSING PETER VINCENT THE MOVIE ACTOR ON THE STREET OF COURSE. Because why wouldn’t he know what to do? He obviously thinks Charley is demented, and tells him very politely to do one. In attempt to help quell what they assume to be delusions, his crappy girlfriend and fluffy haired mate go back to Peter, and ask if he would come over and make Jerry drink some fake holy water, hopefully ending Charley’s mad notions. Sure. Sure thing kids, I’ll come and do that. It doesn’t work.

In the meantime, Jerry is busy sexing up and eating the entire postcode with his outdated mani-pedi. Scaring Charley by turning into a bat and banging against his windows, paying him threatening night time visits where he gets his gross vampire face out, and even putting the moves/jaw on his mum, just to make sure everyone Charley cares about thinks he’s a lunatic. Classic Jerry.

First to go full vamp is Ed. Attacked by Jerry in an alleyway, after crying wolf that he already got attacked. Silly Edward. Don’t you know that’s how they get you every time? Ed’s descent into monstrous suckhead is somewhat thwarted by his distinct lack of any acting skills, and the fact that he still has fluffy hair, even though he looks proper gross now and could obviously kill you. I didn’t care. He’s much more tolerable in this condition.

Next goes Amy, seduced by Jerry in a nightclub dance scene that, whilst it never seemed to bother me at the time, is now a benchmark for cringe in my everyday life. I have to look away when I watch it. Go and make a cup of tea. Guys, it goes on for fucking ages. Like, two songs worth. You’ve never seen so many moody looks, weird sexy dancing, not so sexy dancing, Amy’s attempts to tear herself from the hypnotic gaze of a man in a crew neck one might wear to pop down the Co-op on wash day. The fingernails come back out, and it’s game over. She leaves with Jerry and his jawline in a mist of blood. Sucks to be you, Charley.

Charley runs off to find Peter, who now believes him after dispatching a snot drenched Ed with a crucifix to the forehead, and later a bit of wood in the chest. Despite being severely under-qualified, he also has a look through his own back catalogue of dogshit films in order to discern the best way to deal with these creatures of the night. A brief case full of stakes, obviously.

Back at Jerry’s, him and Amy get naked, in one of the most awkward sexual encounters ever committed to celluloid, and he bites her. He then puts his dressing gown on and goes off to deal with Peter and Charley, who turn up on his doorstep ready to dance. She rolls around on the living room floor, sweating and moaning like she’s had some bad chicken.

After some back and forth and running around, which ends with Jerry’s housemate turning to green goo, Jerry makes it to the cellar and into his coffin. Fine, they think, we’ll get him there. THINK AGAIN BOYS, because Amy is back, and with no explanation whatsoever is a) wearing that dress Marilyn Monroe wore in that picture of her getting the wind up her knickers, and b) despite sporting a boyish crop for the entire film, suddenly has bright red shoulder length hair. She is also has more teeth in her head than you or I have had hot dinners. You guessed it everyone, the crap needy girlfriend is shark woman off the front of the VHS box. In 1994, at this point in the film, I was sitting about three inches from the television screen, I promise you. Paused it and everything just to get a good look at her.

After a final showdown in the basement, handsome Jerry is prized from his casket, turns into a bat, and they smash all the windows. See you, Jer. Amy turns back into her short haired pathetic self, all because they managed to kill her master before the sun came all the way up. Flash forward to everything being normal, Cornelius back on the telly box, and the credits roll as undead Edward lets his jarring cackle rip. The end.

Fright Night is not a good film. The acting is terrible. Everyone in the film is largely unbearable. There are 3 and a half vampires in it. But I didn’t care. In 1994 I absolutely didn’t give a shit and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not only did it deliver on the poster, which a large majority of horror films, actually ANY films struggle to do, but it opened me up to two things – the idea of comedy playing a part in horror, and the fact that vampires weren’t rubbish old men who’d been at the rouge. I’ve been slagging it off for the last 2000 words, but I’ll defend it to the death from anyone else. I even loved the remake, which considering I would rather give birth to a chair than watch Colin Farrell act in anything for more than 3 minutes, is a miracle. Anton Yelchin is a much better, far less useless Charley, and even McLovin and Dr. Who don’t do my head in. Watch that one too. 9 out of 10 – because when you realise that the master vampire’s full name must be Jeremy; he’s even less terrifying.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Fright Night: You’re not cool at all, Brewster

  1. Hands up – I had to be dragged out of the cinema crying from the Care Bears movie. That’s the one with the book that turns all the kids evil right? Terrifying.

    • Green glowing bald headed woman in the book. I can still see it. Absolutely terrifying. I thought I was the only one traumatised by this.

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