Full Moon Features: Fright Night (1985)

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best werewolf in a film released in 1985 is the one in Fright Night, which came out 35 years ago today. Written and directed by Tom Holland (making his directorial debut after scripting the likes of The Beast Within and Psycho II), the film stars Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige, the handsome vampire who moves in next door to teenage horror fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who sees some strange things out his bedroom window and finds it impossible to get anybody to believe his wild stories. Amanda Bearse co-stars as his girlfriend Amy, who gets upset when he gets distracted by what his neighbor is up to, with Stephen Geoffreys as his nerdy friend Ed, who has a homoerotically charged encounter with Jerry and goes over to the dark side. (Of course, since everyone calls him by nickname “Evil” throughout, that’s not much of a stretch for him.)

And it is Evil Ed who, having received Jerry’s bite, transforms into a wolf (with red, glowing eyes) to protect him when Charley recruits down-on-his-luck horror show host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) to help him with his vampire problem. In fact, the scene where Peter confronts the lupine Evil Ed and stakes him is one of the film’s highlights, featuring some effective puppetry and transformation effects as the injured wolf becomes a wolf-boy and painfully reverts to his human form before expiring. As anybody who’s seen Fright Night knows, though, Evil Ed is the one who gets the last word, leaving open the possibility that he wasn’t entirely finished off. The makers of 1988’s Fright Night Part 2 declined to bring the character back, though, and the werewolf aspect was removed entirely from the official 2011 remake, which is just as well considering how poorly the unofficial one handled it.

I’m speaking, of course, of 2008’s direct-to-video trifle Never Cry Werewolf, which I covered a ways back. While the parallels between the two films are numerous and unmistakable, though, there are a number of crucial differences. For example, while Jerry has a human protector named Billy (Jonathan Stark), the later film’s werewolf next door has to make do with a big, black dog, which isn’t as useful for disposing of victims’ bodies. Also, McDowall may play his part with self-deprecating humor, but he never sinks to the level of jokey parody Kevin Sorbo does in Never Cry Werewolf. There’s nothing in that film, however, that comes close to the scene in Fright Night where Jerry seduces Amy in the middle of a crowded dance floor. And does Never Cry Werewolf have a soundtrack featuring songs by J. Geils Band, Sparks, Autograph, and Devo? I don’t think so.