Back in the 1980s when Paul Lavers ruled the late night airwaves, Anglia TV had a late night strand called the Friday Frightener.
Lavers, an immaculately coiffed TV presenter, with a smooth sonorous voice was the man who would introduce me to a world of late night horror.
The mainstays were the Hammer classics of the 50s and 60’s – the ones with a pale-faced Ralph Bates, Christopher Lee playing monster or Peter Cushing playing either mad scientist or hero.
Fantastic as these movies were, the one I really remember was Fright Night. Fright Night is a story of a young lad who lives next door to a bloodthirsty vampire (is there any other kind?), but no one believes him.
So he enlists the help of TV vampire ‘expert’ Peter Vincent, played by Roddy McDowall, to try to stop the undead antics of the suburban bloodsucker.
I must have been around 13 or 14 when I saw this movie and made quite an impression. It was the first time I had really seen modern horror. Up until then, it was all gloomy Victorian streets, heaving bosoms, corsets and ultra-red corn syrup blood. I hadn’t yet seen the slasher flicks like Halloween, Friday the 13th or zombie horrors’ like Dawn and Day of the Dead – which this movie seems to react to, so it was all very new.
While it was scary, you could distance yourself because it was set firmly in past, consigned to folk tales. Fright Night was the first horror movie I’d seen with a very modern sensibility.
Not only was in set in the suburbs – later reflected in the movie of the same name – dealt with the teenage interests of alienation but it also tackled with the very current obsession with celebrity.
The hero of the film Charlie Brewster turns to his TV idol to help him, he ascribes Vincent with special abilities and knowledge, when the hero really does have feet of clay.
And it was funny. It gave a knowing wink to the genre without ever wishing to undermine it, or break the 4th wall. Roddy McDowall was perfect as the campy Vincent and Chris Sarandon plays the vampire Jerry Dandridge with a sophisticated menace.
It’s why I’m looking forward to seeing the remake. The movie has been remade featuring a heavyweight cast. Colin Farrell plays the fanged one, and former Timelord David Tennant has taken on the role of Vincent.
There seems to be a move toward the dark side of the movie. But while they’ll almost certainly be more gore, I hope they don’t lose the sense of fun that the original had.
The movie is out in September, but I’m hoping the rarely broadcast classic will get a TV airing before that.