Charley Brewster… the name of one of the coolest characters ever to grace the silver screen. He was the boy in, you guessed it, the excellent film Fright Night (1985). Played by William Ragsdale in his second acting role ever, Charley Brewster was coupled with the ever-brilliant Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, “Vampire Killer.” Rounding out the small but powerhouse cast was Chris Sarandon as “Jerry Dandridge,” Amanda “Stuck-up Marcy from Married With Children” Bearse as the teen girlfriend, and total filmic oddity Stephen Geoffreys as “Evil” Ed Thompson,” Brewster’s pal.
Very few times has the credibility card been played so logically in a fantasy/horror movie. The question all moviegoers ask themselves: “why the hell doesn’t he/she just drive away and never return?” is answered admirably here. (The other shining example: Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986). How in the hell do you get her to go back to LV427 after all that she has seen? See how the writers rationalized it; it’s really well played.) In Fright Night, not only does horror-fan Charley witness a vampire moving in next door, but his flaky single Mom, straight-laced girlfriend and wary friend Evil don’t believe him! Enter Peter Vincent, host of Charley’s favorite TV show, “Fright Night.” After a simple act to “prove” that the new neighbor is not a vampire (see the damned film!) all hell breaks loose!
Roddy McDowall is an American treasure (Yes, I know he’s English!) and Peter Vincent is one of his best roles. The awesome Peter Vincent enjoys a meatier part in Fright Night II (1988), and has a speech that he delivers in a bar about being a vampire killer that is every bit as electrifying as the one he does as “Caesar” in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
I could say much, much more about one of my all-time favorite movies, Fright Night, but I’ll make it brief. I love the exceptional score, the fantastically believable vampire, the creepy “Renfield” daytime vampire guard, and “Evil,” the teenage misfit and his unforgettable laugh. Stephen Geoffreys, who played “Evil,’ can also be seen in, interestingly enough, a 1980’s schlock film 976-EVIL. Geoffreys then went on to a seemingly lucrative career in adult films, almost always playing the character “Sam Ritter.” Evil is regrettably not in Fright Night II, nor is Amanda Bearse. Don’t even get me started on Fright Night II, which certainly has some incredible moments (OK- the thrilling Jon Gries as “Louie,” the werewolf…I say no more!) For now, I guess I’ll just have to continue my lament: “Evil, we hardly knew ye!”