Follow TV Tropes


Film / Fright Night (1985)

Go To
"You're so cool, Brewster!"

"Welcome to Fright Night... for real!"
Jerry Dandridge

Fright Night is a 1985 American vampire horror film written and directed by Tom Holland, starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, and Roddy McDowall.

Charley Brewster (Ragsdale) is a teenage boy who loves watching horror movies on late-night television while making out with his girlfriend Amy (Bearse), who pretends to be helping him study. One night, he sees two men, Jerry Dandrige (Sarandon) and Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), carrying a coffin into the house next door and makes the natural—to him—assumption that a vampire has moved in. Shortly thereafter, a number of local prostitutes are reported dead or missing, and Charley actually sees Jerry attack one woman while looking out his bedroom window. After Jerry pays him a visit one night to scare him away from investigating further, Charley's suspicions are confirmed.

Charley seeks help from Amy and his friend "Evil" Ed Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys), both of whom think he's crazy, and then from Peter Vincent (McDowall), a former B-Movie actor turned host of the late-night horror program Fright Night. After some goading, the four of them arrange to meet Jerry, to test whether or not he's a vampire... with everyone except Charley actually just trying to humor him and fully intending to "prove" to him that Jerry really isn't a vampire. However, when Peter notices Jerry's lack of a reflection, he quickly realizes that the boy is right, and reluctantly agrees to help Charley stake the vampire before he kills him and his friends.

The film was followed by a 1989 sequel, Fright Night Part 2.

Now Comics published 22 issues based on the movie. The first two issues are based on the 1985 movie, while the rest contain original story arcs.

A remake was released in 2011, followed by its own sequel two years later.

The original 1985 film contains the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Jerry, though he becomes more like Faux Affably Evil later on.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Jerry seduces young girls and has a very close relationship with Billy Cole. The pair were intentionally written with homoerotic undertones, though neither actor picked up on them until they watched the film.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When Charley insists that Jerry is a vampire, Detective Lennox, unamused, says, "Sure, and I'm Dirty Harry."
  • Badass Longcoat:
    • Jerry wears a large trenchcoat through much of the film, which serves as a modern update of a vampire's cape.
    • Peter also wears one.
  • Badass Normal: Charley, Peter, and Alex beat vampires with no supernatural powers.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: In a variant, Jerry shows off his undead muscles by effortlessly lifting open a window Charley had spent the afternoon nailing shut. This, after casually flicking the latch off its frame.
  • Becoming the Mask: Peter, who goes from an actor typecast as a vampire killer to an actual slayer himself.
  • Berserk Button / Embarrassing Nickname: Ed hates being called "Evil."
  • Big Bad: Jerry, the vampire next door.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Charley when he discovers Amy's been vampirized. Jerry enjoys it.
    • Jerry gets one off just before transforming into a bat.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Amy when Charlie finds her in Jerry's house. It seems to be a process of the transformation as she regains her pupils after completely turning.
  • Blown Across the Room: Jerry dies in this manner when Charley yanks the huge curtain from a big picture window and he's hit by a blast of sunlight.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with Charley and Amy necking in the former's bedroom. The television even Lampshades it with a character yelling "Look! We're back where we started from!"
  • Brainwashed: Amy during the nightclub sequence.
  • Breast Expansion: Fully vampirized Amy's breasts grow larger; Amanda Bearse would bring the prosthetic to horror conventions and invite fans to touch "her breasts".
  • Bring It: Jerry to Charley and Peter inside the mansion.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ed to Peter after he's been turned into a vampire. To Charley's credit, he never loses his faith in Peter.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Peter initially refuses to help Charley against Jerry, but later shows up as an ally.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Peter's attempt at using a crucifix on Jerry fails because he does not believe it. But his desperate attempt at using it against Ed succeeds. Charley does use a crucifix against Jerry, which seems to inspire Peter into doing so later.
  • Cool Old Guy: Peter is a campy actor and eventually decides to help fight vampires. Pretty cool.
  • Crying Wolf: Ed's scream when Jerry bites him is dismissed by Amy as a lame prank they already pulled on Charlie.
  • Danger with a Deadline: The protagonists manage to avoid being killed by the vampire Jerry Dandrige until sunrise. They then rip the coverings off the house's windows and "let the sun shine in", eventually trapping Dandrige in sunlight and destroying him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Peter in the first half. Then he sees it's all true...
  • Disappeared Dad: Charley's father left the family.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Played by former Playboy Playmate Heidi Sorenson. Jerry is aware of the trope, and picks prostitutes because it won't draw attention that hookers are disappearing.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    Jerry: You don't have to be afraid of me. I know what it's like being different.
    • Jerry seems to enjoy being an exhibitionist to Charley's voyeurism.
  • Dying as Yourself: Ed. First he reverts from wolf to vampire, then to himself.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Charley saves Amy and all is well, then the final shot of the movie focuses on Jerry's house and we see glowing eyes looking at the pair through the window and hear Evil Ed's voice, indicating he's still alive and the new vampire of the neighborhood. Though in the novelisation (presumably based on the shooting script) the glowing red eyes are simply a pair of tail-lights. We never do see Ed's face after his death.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Billy Cole is shot in the head by Peter and falls down the stairs. A few moments later, while Peter and Charley are facing the other way, Cole gets up and starts walking up the stairs toward them.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jerry had a lover who Amy strongly resembles; even Billy remarks upon it.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jerry turns down several opportunities to simply kill Charley. He also seems to go out of his way to avoid involving Charley's family in the mess Charley has gotten himself into. Sarandon said that he wanted to remind the audience of Jerry's underlying humanity with his performance.
  • Evil Overlooker: The posters employ a variation with evil clouds shaped as vampires.
  • Expanded Universe: The movie was followed by an ongoing comic by NOW! Comics until the company bankrupted in 1991.
  • Flyover Country: Peter Vincent's eviction notice reveals that the film is set in Iowa. The novelisation names the town as 'Rancho Corvallis'.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Charley sees the coffin being moved in, there is a quick shot of Billy using both hands and Jerry casually using only one, demonstrating his great strength.
  • Game Face: The vampires employ this.
  • Genre Savvy: All of the vampire killers' vampire lore comes from horror movies. Charley asks how Peter knows that Amy will return to normal if they kill Jerry before dawn, Peter reasons that vampire movies have been accurate on all other points so far.
  • Gilligan Cut: Charley learns that a vampire cannot enter your home unless invited by the rightful owner. In the next scene, his mother summons him to meet the neighbor she's just invited in.note 
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Ed, in the ending, from Jerry's house.
  • Gorn: Both the transformations and the kills. It's a vampire movie, after all.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Billy Cole's death.
  • Hidden Depths: Ed is a cackling, crazy asshole when around Charley, but Jerry implies that he's a friendless, bullied and frightened kid.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Ed's cross-induced burnt forehead was even the page image.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: Implied when Jerry promises Ed that no one will make fun of him or beat him up anymore.
  • Horror Host: Peter Vincent used to star in horror films, but now just hosts late-night horror films.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Peter gets offended when Charley accuses him of having not used real holy water when they're testing to see if Jerry is actually a vampire, despite the fact that that's exactly what he did.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: A subversion, when Ed yanks Charley's chain by claiming he's been bitten by the vampire and needs to be killed. Naturally, that's exactly what happens to Ed as soon as Charley stomps off in anger.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: After Jerry captures Amy, he takes her to his mansion and seduces her, eventually biting her on the neck to change her into a vampire.
  • Immune to Bullets: When Billy Cole is shot six times with bullets, he bleeds from his wounds but keeps on coming. He's only stopped when Charley stabs him with a wooden stake.
  • Inertial Impalement: A vampirized Evil Ed (in wolf form) is attacking Peter. A wooden banister railing is broken and Peter grabs a piece of it. When Evil Ed charges, he is impaled on the wooden pole, returns to human form and apparently dies.
  • Invisible Parents: We never see Evil Ed's or Amy's parents. Charley's father is not mentioned.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: Given the vampires here are seductive, the victims enjoy it.
  • Large Ham:
    • Jerry and Peter. The latter was even enforced, as Roddy McDowell described him as a "that of an old ham actor, I mean a dreadful actor," who got Typecast and rode it to death.
      Peter: BACK, SPAWN OF SATAN!
    • Also Evil Ed, even before he becomes a vampire. "Dinner is in the oven! MMM-MMM!" "Oh, you're so cool, Brewster!"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The fact that the Show Within a Show's name is also Fright Night leads to this, such as when Jerry announces, "Welcome to Fright Night... for real!"
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Charley to Peter while they're looking for the coffin in the basement.
  • Loud Gulp: Peter does one after finding out Evil Ed has become a vampire, thanks to Jerry.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Zig-zagged in the opening scene. Charley pushes Amy to have sex with him, then immediately forgets about her when he starts spying suspicious vampire behavior.
  • Mercy Kill: Peter "killing" Ed.
  • Mood Whiplash: As a horror-comedy with a love story in-between, touching, scary, and funny moments follow each other frequently.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The vampires' Game Face looks like this. Especially Amy's. This is foreshadowed when we hear Jerry take a bite—just one—from an apple. We don't see his teeth at the time, but when he tosses the apple aside, most of the middle of the apple is gone.
  • Mundane Utility: While chatting on the phone, Jerry peels an apple with his vampiric fingernails.
  • Must Be Invited: The protagonist Charley counts on being safe in his home by avoiding this, but his mother invites the vampire neighbor, Jerry, into the house anyway.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Peter's reaction to "killing" Ed.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Peter (Cushing), Vincent (Price). Given it's a Stage Name, possibly In-Universe as well.
  • Neck Lift: Done by the ancient and powerful vampire antagonist Jerry on anyone who happens to inconvenience him.
    • When Jerry confronts Charley in his room, he lifts him by the neck, pressing him against a wall and then pushing him partially out a window.
    • Jerry lifts a big, black nightclub bouncer into the air by the neck, then throws him along the floor.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Charley angrily wants to test Jerry with a crucifix with Peter present, Jerry goes into Oh, Crap! mode for a second, before Peter snatches it away and tells Charley to behave.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The character of Peter even came to be once Tom Holland decided that the solution to his "neighbor is a vampire" idea was having the protagonist going after Vincent Price.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When Jerry is destroyed, Amy returns to normal. Ed, oddly, does not, perhaps because he had already been killed once.
  • No-Sell:
    • The first time Peter confronts Jerry with a cross:
    Peter: (brandishing a crucifix) Back, spawn of Satan!
    Jerry: (laughs uproariously) Oh-ho, really? (grabs the cross, crushes it, and throws it aside) You have to have faith for this to work on me, Mr. Vincent!
    • Peter pumping Billy Cole full of bullets after he just got back up from being shot in the head. It takes Charley driving a stake through his heart for him to actually go down.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: In an early scene, Charley repeatedly gets distracted from his makeout session with Amy by the TV and the happenings at the neighbor's house. When she can't even keep his attention by promising him sex for the first time, she storms out in a huff.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: To go along with Jerry's Unflinching Walk. (Sharp ears can hear a subtle "whoosh.")
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Charley realizes that it's almost sunset and that Jerry will soon learn that he knows about him.
    • Peter when he looks in his pocket mirror and sees that Jerry has no reflection.
  • One-Winged Angel: Whenever a vampire turns on its Game Face.
  • Only Sane Man: Charley is the only person in town to notice that Jerry is a vampire, or at the very least a dangerous killer. People tend to either think hes crazy or flat out ignore him, no matter how much evidence he provides.
  • Our Ghouls Are Different, When Peter wrongly assumes that Billy Cole must be human because he walks around in the daylight. But that only means he's not a vampire.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The film sticks pretty close to the Classical Movie Vampire, to the point that the film lampshades it. One minor deviation is that Jerry eats fruit, whereas the classic film vampire can only stomach blood. Also, removing a stake revives the vampire.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: As is common in vampire lore, vampires can turn into wolves.
  • Partial Transformation: Evil Ed changes into a wolf to attack Peter. After he's staked, he changes partially back into a human, looking like a humanoid wolf.
  • Pivotal Wake-up: Jerry, once attacked in his coffin.
  • Police Are Useless: The detective Charley calls over, after taking one look around one room in Jerry's house and some small talk with Billy, decides to leave. To be fair, he only leaves when Charley insists Jerry is a vampire, but he still refuses to investigate the cellar or anywhere else in the house even after being presented with evidence that Jerry is the dangerous serial killer in town. He has an eyewitness to the fact that the second victim took a cab to 99 Oak Street (which he should have confirmed with the cab company), and a possible sighting of the third victim in said house, with the witness seeing a distinctive handbag in Jerry's hands that could probably be identified as belonging to victim three. He takes said witness into the suspect's house while he's being questioned, leaving no doubt who the witness is and putting them directly in danger.
  • Punch Catch: Charley, Amy and the vampire Jerry are at a nightclub, with Jerry trying to seduce Amy. Charley tries to punch Jerry, but Jerry catches his hand.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Vampires in human, wolf, and bat forms.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Jerry believes Amy is the reincarnation of a former lover.
  • The Renfield: Billy Cole, though he seems to be supernatural as well.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Just what, exactly, Billy Cole was is never explained. Word of God confirmed he's an undead corpse that Jerry brought back to life as his slave, which isn't out of the question in terms of old vampire lore.
  • Sad Clown: Ed. It's obvious he's hurt and lonely (and probably carrying a torch for Charley), but buries it in loud chuckles and laughter. Of course, this means he becomes a Monster Clown later.
  • Safety in Muggles: Charley tells Jerry that he can't kill him in front of so many witnesses at the night club, but that doesn't stop Jerry from seducing Amy and beating up the bouncers, causing a stampede.
  • Scary Black Man: The two bouncers at the club, though Jerry makes short work of them.
  • Sequel Hook: "Oh, you're so cool, Brewster!" Though real-life events led to it not being used for the sequel.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Peter Vincent may be named after Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, stars of the Hammer Horror films at their peak. There was also a TV horror program in the 1970s called Fright Night, which was hosted by a man named Larry Vincent.
    • The movie's Homage to Rear Window isn't subtle at all.
    • The infamous B-movie Octaman is the sci-fi horror film playing on Fright Night in the closing scene.
  • Show Within a Show: Peter Vincent hosts a late-night horror show called Fright Night of which Charley is a fan.
  • Skeptic No Longer:
    • Peter doesn't believe Charley's vampire story for a minute... until he notices that Jerry casts no reflection in a mirror.
    • Peter did not have faith in God, so when he tried to use a cross against the vampire Jerry, it didn't work. Let's just say that the next time Peter puts a crucifix in Jerry's face, after Peter has killed a vampirized Evil Ed, it turns out very differently for Jerry.
  • Spoiler Cover: You see that giant Nightmare Face on the poster up above? That's Amy's main Game Face after she gets turned.
  • Stealth Insult: Jerry's fanboyishness over Peter is a transparent act. Listen to what he says and how he says it; he's sneering at him in front of his back.
  • Stylistic Suck: Peter Vincent's late-night horror program and his movies. In the one seen at the beginning, he holds his stake the wrong way when threatening the female vampire.
  • Suburban Gothic: A teenage boy living in suburban Las Vegas realizes that his nextdoor neighbor is a vampire.
  • Super Loser: Evil Ed is even the trope's page image. He tries to be a scary vampire, but this still shows up.
  • Survival Mantra:
    Peter: I am Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer. I am Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer...
  • Take That!: Peter gives one In-Universe to the Slasher Movie genre of the '80s:
    Peter: I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently, all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.
  • This Was His True Form: "Evil" Ed after his "death."
  • Title Theme Tune: "Fright Night" by The J. Geils Band.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: A powerful ancient vampire's name is "Jerry."
  • Took a Level in Badass: Charley, who goes from afraid teen to experienced vampire slayer.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Jerry is often seen munching on apples, particularly after feeding. This trait was invented by Chris Sarandon, who decided that Jerry had some fruit bat tendencies and also ate them to get rid of the taste of blood.
  • Transformation Sequence: Vampire transformations, with all the implied Body Horror.
  • Un Evil Laugh: Evil Ed. It's still a goofy laugh.
  • Undeath Always Ends: If you find a way to kill a ghoul or vampire...
  • Vampire Hunter: Peter was one in the movies. And has to become one for real.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Jerry seduces Amy simply by smiling at her. He also wears stylish clothing for the period and carries himself like a rock star.
  • Vampire Procreation Limit: It's indicated that Jerry usually decapitates his victims after draining them to make sure the vampire population doesn't get out of control, which would draw needless attention to himself. He only turns Ed because he needs a henchman to deal with Charley, and Amy because she reminds him of a long-lost lover.
  • Vampires Sleep in Coffins: The vampire Jerry Dandrige sleeps in a coffin during the day.
  • Vampire Dance: The vampire Jerry manages to hypnotize and make off with Amy while dancing with her at a nightclub, despite her being able to see that Jerry has no reflection.
  • Villainous BSoD: When Charley successfully uses a crucifix against Jerry. Unfortunately, Billy Cole takes matters into his own hands.
  • Weakened by the Light: When Charley and Peter confront the vampire Jerry in the cellar where his coffin is located, they destroy him by ripping the coverings off the windows and allowing the sunlight inside.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Peter, but he gets better.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: The local Horror Host who was a Vampire Hunter in the movies!
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Charley is terrible at acting rational. Even if he was talking about something completely normal, people probably wouldn't believe him. To be fair, he is suffering sleep deprivation from all the nights he spent watching Jerry's house.

Alternative Title(s): Fright Night