Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #10) Fright Night (1985)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977) 
#14) Phantasm (1979)
#13) Evil Dead 2 (1985)
#12) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 
#11) The Descent (2005)

I bet some of you are wondering when we're going to invite a vampire to this party.  Well, today is the day, but I should warn you: as much as I dig vampires, Jerry Dandrige is going to be pretty lonely.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #10) Fright Night (1985)

 A neat blend of comedy and horror, Fright Night is my favorite vampire movie and one of my favorite horror movies in general.  I have always been a big fan of Roddy McDowall's work, and the role of genre actor Peter Vincent (who is famous for playing a fearless vampire slayer) may have been the best part Roddy ever got to play.  Likewise, the vastly underrated Chris Sarandon is splendid as Jerry Dandrige, a suave vampire who deftly veers from seductive charmer to frightening monster whenever the script calls for it.  The plot concerns a teenager named Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) who is rather intrigued by his new neighbor.  One night, he's spying on this recent addition to the neighborhood when he sees Jerry sprout fangs and realizes that he is living next door to a vampire.  This is very problematic, for Jerry notices Charlie looking on and decides that he has to deal with this curious youngster.  Charlie is a big fan of Peter Vincent's hokey vampire films, so no one is willing to believe him, least of all the timid star himself.  Yet Vincent reluctantly agrees to help Charlie, and thus a teenager and a horror film vet must enter the vampire's lair at night and do battle with the undead.  The effects are splendid and Tom Holland did a fantastic job with the direction.  There are lots of laughs, an abundance of suspense, and some serious scares in the mix.  I like the score a lot, and the supporting cast (including Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, and Jeffrey Stark) is solid.  Everything works to perfection throughout Fright Night, and it is truly rare to find a horror film that is so damn enjoyable.  The humor never veers toward parody and the fright factor is strong with this one.  It may be the only vampire movie to make my Top 20, but Fright Night is a great representative for that beloved sub-genre.

One has to wonder why a talented guy like Chris Sarandon never got more love from Hollywood.

Of course, the real star of Fright Night is the wonderful Roddy McDowall, who made the most out of what may have been his best part.

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