A few weeks ago at a family dinner …which is a weird thing to reference; I never had “family dinners” with my own family, but now that I’m married to a big family and we’ve moved to be near them, I have family dinners twice a week. It’s a lot. But at the same time, it’s something I’ve never had, so I’m cherishing it, too…but okay, my point, and I do have one: after Sunday supper a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law mentioned the Fright Night movies, and I said I had never seen the sequel, Fright Night Part 2. He suggested a marathon, and that’s what we did last night!

The above artwork is not the original poster art for the movie, by the way, it is by Ralf Krause and I found it on an “alternative poster” website. I also found this database where you can see some of the Fright Night movie posters and marketing from other countries.

It’s been about 30 years since I had seen the original Fright Night and I think I can say that not only did it stand up, it was so much more interesting watching it as an adult and all the experience and baggage that goes along with that. I’m going on the belief that most everyone has seen this movie, but just in case, the one-sentence summation is that a teenage boy who believes that his new next-door neighbor is a vampire who has been doing some casual murders around town, and attempts to enlist the local tv station’s late-night horror host to help him kill the monster. The teenager in question here, Charley Brewster, is played by the guy from Herman’s Head, if anyone remembers that show? And the “vampire killing” horror host is of course Roddy McDowell, and Charley’s girlfriend Amy is Marci from Married with Children.

Chris Sarandon as suave, creepy vampire-next-door Jerry Dandridge was much more fascinating to me this time around, and that much more uncomfortable for me too– with him leering over Charley’s mother at night, and doing that vampire-mind-control seduction thing on Amy, who ends up in a very sheer nightgown at one point—and who took her out of her clothes and put that nightgown on her? That nonconsensual nightgowning also makes me uncomfortable.

Jerry Dandridge has a “roommate,” Billy Cole, who was his carpenter and daytime protector, and vampire-servant, basically. But what was Billy Cole? He was not human, as we can see when he was eventually reduced into a pile of sand and goop and exploding bones. The internet speculates that he was a golem, but whatever he was, he was a lot more fun this second time around.

And do you know what was just as fun, and twice as scary? The effects! Unholiest of molies! Evil Ed’s and Amy’s vampiric transformations are still, so many years later, utterly nightmarish. I mean, come on:

I am so glad that I watched this again! It is a lot of ridiculous fun and a perfect balance of horror-comedy that actually is a bit frightening, too. But do you know what was maybe even more fun…?

This amazing gang of vampires is from Fright Night Part 2, which was utterly nonsensical and even better and perhaps more essential than the first one in terms of 80’s horror viewing. Charley’s in college, in therapy, and now believes the vampires from the first film were the result of group hypnosis. He’s got a new girlfriend whose hair and beautiful round baby face remind me a lot of Topanga from Boy Meets World, a show I never saw once, but for some reason, I’ve been thinking about her hair for several decades. They decide to visit “vampire killer” Peter Vincent, as Charley’s been ignoring his calls, and it would be good to make amends and put that part of his past to bed. After a nice visit to Peter’s spectacularly awesome apartment with its beautiful green walls and archways and tons and tons of horror paraphernalia, Charley is feeling better about things but becomes deeply unsettled when, as they are leaving, a glamorous quartet enters the building and takes the rickety little elevator to the upper floors.

Are they vampires? Oh, for sure. There’s an incredibly dressed, velvet-clad, rollerskating genderqueer vampire, who as far as I recall, did not speak a single line of dialogue. There’s the gorgeous Regine, in town to do interpretive dance and steal Peter Vincent’s job! There’s the guy from the X-Files/BtVS! And some comedian in a bomber jacket who I recognize from his more recent roles (he was in The White Lotus, he played the guy that Jennifer Coolidge was fixated on) and I don’t know if he was mean to be a vampire or werewolf or what, but who cares, because at some point, this gang goes BOWLING.

This movie is wild. It’s sort of like three movies in one because it switches gears so often. And it really brought me back to such a weird place. In 1988, 1989, 1990, I was 12, 13, 14 or so. Just getting into my teen years, figuring things out, not knowing what life was about or what was expected of me, and there was just so much existential angst and uncertainty. And in my memory, those feelings and uncertainties are wrapped up in late, hazy nights, too tired to even sleep, anxious about everything, and watching snippets here and there of late-night horror movies. And the thing is, I don’t know if some of these movies are as strange and surreal as I recall, or if it was just that, in my half-dreaming state, everything took on a bizarre unreality.

There was definitely a moment in Fright Night Part 2 that made me feel just like I was 13 again. A fever-dream slice of seconds where there was something that you thought was meant to be safe, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t… and what was on its way to normal, was all of a sudden batshit insane again. (If you’re watching, it’s when Topanga’s hair–I forget her name– is in the car with the therapist in the middle of the night and they are stopped at the railroad tracks. They are meant to be on their way to save Peter Vincent, but when he turns to face her, he has fangs! The fangs stand for EXISTENTIAL ANGST!)

Anyway, these are less reviews, and more reactions, I guess? And my other brother-in-law is in town and I am being pressed to hurry up and finish this because we are apparently trying to pack in a lot of family time while he is here and everyone wants to go out and look at new cars for us. Ours are old and rusty but we work from home and no one’s trying to impress anyone over here, but I have learned with this family, you just have to let go and let god or whatever. Be up for whatever and go with the flow. They’re Icelandic and there’s an Icelandic saying, “þetta reddast” which I think basically means “it’ll all work out” and that’s what I try to tell myself with these guys, hee hee.

I doubt I can talk any of them into watching the new Hellraiser with me, though. I guess I’m alone on that one!


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Stephanie says

We watched, then fast forwarded thru Hellraiser last night. Looking forward to your impression. Fright Night is legendary in these parts!

S. Elizabeth says

Oh no! Fastforwarded ALL the way through...? This does not bode well...

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