Miami Herald, The (FL) - August 2, 1985

Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic

Fright Night is not what you think. It is not just another wheeze from the slasher cartel, nor does it star Linda Blair. It's not Citizen Kane, either, but what the heck: This is summer.

Fright Night is about the vampire who moves in next door, and according to director Tom Holland, it's an attempt to "update" the whole idea of Dracula. But what it does best is quite the opposite: Fright Night resurrects the blissful naivete and dizzy plot implausibilities of the great wave of horror films of the 1950s and '60s, the Bronze Age of cinema.

It's daffy and sweet and sometimes unintentionally funny. It's even scary in its closing moments, when the genre- sanctified confrontation -- a boy with a wooden stake against the suave undead -- is re-enacted wholly without irony, as if Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Hammer Films, not to mention Bela Lugosi and Abbott and Costello, had never drawn blood.

Holland is a screenwriter (Class of 1984, Psycho II, Cloak and Dagger) making his directing debut, and his idea of something new is to have teen-agers discover odd doings next door, and turn to a washed-up horror -film star (played by Roddy McDowall with epochal fidgetiness) for help. The teens are
sexually repressed, but this is not really new; the vampire legends ooze Freud.

Holland was smart enough to keep the good old stuff in, too, from shape shifting to tricks of the undead trade (a vampire may not enter your house to bite you unless he has been invited in by the "rightful owner"). The cast plays them out with all the corn and plot holes (where is everyone else in the neighborhood, much less the cops, when the screams start in the old manse?) of the vintage Dracula spin-offs.

What's fun about Fright Night is that comforting sense of deja vu, by which one feels oneself stepping back, back, back in time, to an era when horror films were unabashedly dumb.

Fright Night is as silly as a film about hungry ghouls can be, and with the exception of an eccentric-teen turn by Stephen Geoffreys, a spiky-haired supporting player who looks as if he just wandered in from The Breakfast Club, there isn't really a "modern" moment in it. The movie is bloody and gruesome and quite harmless, just the way they made them "in the good old days."

Fright Night (R) ** 1/2

CAST: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amada Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark.

CREDITS: Director: Tom Holland. Producer: Herb Jaffe. Screenwriter: Tom Holland. Cinematographer: Jan Kiesser. Music: Brad Fiedel. A Columbia Pictures release.

Running time: 104 minutes. Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, violence and gore.

Herald movie reviewers rate movies from zero to four stars.

**** Excellent; *** 1/2 Very Good

*** Good; ** 1/2 Worth Seeing; ** Fair

* Poor; 0 Worthless

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