This year marks the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Fright Night (1985). The iconic horror film tells the story of high school student Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is convinced his neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. It was screened on Saturday evening during the second annual Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. Held at the Muvico Theater in Rosemont, Illinois, the festival runs in conjunction with Wizard World Comic Con.
Before bringing down the lights, Bruce Campbell himself greeted the audience and introduced Fright Night’s writer/director, Tom Holland. After the screening a Q&A was held with Holland, who was also joined by David Chackler, the soundtrack developer for this film.
Holland characterized his film as a venture into new territory with a serious blend of comedic and horror elements. There was no respect for the horror genre decades ago, as it was regarded as “the ugly stepchild of Hollywood,” he noted. Making a vampire film was also risky because slashers were the rage in the 1980s.
Questions at the panel revealed some interesting tidbits about the film. Fans wondered where the mother (Dorothy Fielding) was at the ending. Holland said she didn’t die and he emphasized his intention to focus on the viewpoint of the teenagers. Another fun fact was the story behind the recurring fruit: Chris Sarandon thought it would be a great way for the vampire “to clean his fangs.”
Holland credits several influences on his horror work: “tacky” Friday evening horror shows (“you’d see the wire” on the bat), Richard Matheson’s Trilogy of Terror (1975), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). The first and third come into play for Fright Night, but the reach of all three sources can be seen in Child’s Play (1988): another film made by Holland and Chackler. The challenge in the latter film was to build the “illusion that the doll can do anything,” Holland said. Drawing out fear and suspense could be done with practical effects, like the doll’s POV shots and even letting Alex Vincent’s little sister run by the camera in Chuckie’s clothes.
The evening closed out with a final question about whether Holland would do another Fright Night. It doesn’t seem likely, but the director amused the audience with what he’d incorporate if the chance ever arose: bringing Charley Brewster back to the house and letting his teenage children handle any problematic neighbors. For now, set aside a Friday evening to enjoy Fright Night and/or Child’s Play.
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