Here’s a friendly tip from yer pals here at ScreamFish. Should you suspect that your neighbor is a vampire, don’t tell anyone.
If horror films have taught us anything, it’s that trying to convince loved ones, associates and the police that you’ve stumbled upon a creature of the night is about as futile as trying to pick a worthy 2017 Presidential candidate. Best case scenario, you’ll become the laughing stock of your high school; worst case, you’ll become the subject of a criminal investigation and/or be imprisoned or committed to a mental institution. Meanwhile, if the alleged vampire turns out to be legit, he’ll steal your girl while you’re locked up and likely make her his enthralling slave for all eternity—or he’ll swipe all your Jelly of the Month Club deliveries straight out of your mailbox. Either way, you lose.
So, do yourself a favor and cut out the middle men. If that guy next door stays out all night, transforms into mist or a bat and sports a set of choppers that makes Austin Powers’ grill seem attractive, whittle yourself a wooden stake, traipse over in the middle of the day and plunge that oversized toothpick right through old Nosferatu’s heart. Then go kiss your girlfriend.
Just check her neck first.
(Disclaimer: Vampires don’t really exist, so don’t plunge a stake through your neighbor’s heart, even if you suspect he may, indeed, be an undead bloodsucker. Instead, go with a sledge hammer to the head: it’s just as effective, there’s virtually no prep work and the cleanup is much more manageable.)
So many vampire movies; so many that suck.
There are a few pleasant exceptions, but few are more fun than 1985’s Fright Night (or, as I like to call it, Rear Window with Vampires). It’s a heartfelt homage to the late night cable access creature features of old (much like this whole ScreamFish bit) that would do Hammer (the legendary British horror production company of the 60’s and 70’s—not the iconic M.C. of the baggy-pant-90’s) very proud.
It’s a story that’s been done before—originally, as mentioned, by Hitchcock then The Flintstones and The Simpsons, to name a few—but this time, the spin revolves around the undead. Awkward teen Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) has two loves: his girlfriend Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) and horror movie vampire hunter Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall)—the aging host of the weekly midnight horror show, Fright Night.
When Charley suspects his new neighbor is a vampire, he confides in Amy and his best friend, “Evil” Ed Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys) but neither seems to believe him, despite the fact Charley’s sure he saw the bloodsucker sink his teeth into a helpless victim from his bedroom window. Amy and Evil start to worry that he’s finally watched too much scare fare and has finally tiptoed into the deep end. The cops agree; when Charley calls an investigator to check out the house, the vamp’s human minion, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) makes Charley look like a raving lunatic, laughing at Charley’s insistence that there is a coffin in the basement. And thus ends Charley’s clean cut relationship with the police.
Despite his misgivings, Ed gives Charley a crash course on how to protect himself (curious, since Charley should be a vampire authority after all those nights watching horror movies, but whatevs). But Charley’s plans get thwarted when he bolts downstairs only to find the neighbor sitting in his living room, compliments of his mother who invited him into their home, rendering all of Charlie’s supernatural tricks powerless.
And there’s no question that the neighbor, Jerry Dandrige, is indeed a vampire, regardless of how attractive and charming he may be when trying to woo Charley’s mom. Man, does he get ugly when he traps Charley in his room, nearly killing him. A quick pencil to the hand saves Charlie from joining the children of the night, and a timely awkward interruption from his mother forces Dandridge to flee to preserve his secret. But he won’t rest until Charley is silenced permanently.
Charley seeks out the only person he believes will help—vampire killer extraordinaire, Peter Vincent. Turns out he thinks Charley is as loony as everyone else does, reminding him that vampires don’t exist and, if they did, he is actually only an actor, not a real vampire hunter. So Charley takes it upon himself to take out Dandridge on his own, sharing his plans with Amy and Ed.
Frightened for his sanity (and potential incarceration for murder) Amy and Ed pool their cash and convince Vincent to accompany Charley to Dandridge’s house so he can perform a series of “tests” that will prove Charley’s suspicions unfounded.
Dandridge drinks a vial of Holy Water (that hadn’t really been blessed) as Vincent tries to pull a fast one and set Charley’s mind at ease. But when Vincent notices that Dandridge casts no reflection in his handheld mirror, he quickly becomes a believer and timidly agrees to help Charlie assassinate the bloodsucker.
Now, if they could only save Amy and Ed, who have fallen under Dandridge’s spell…
Though Charley is the protagonist, it’s his friends who are the real heroes of the film. They’re willing to put their lives on the line, not only to indulge what they believe to be his delusional fantasies, but to intervene on his behalf to protect him from going down a road he can never return from. And in doing so, they risk not only their human lives but their souls. If Dandridge turns them, they’ll spend eternity as his mindless slaves.
There are few things in life as valuable as true friendship. John quotes Jesus who tells us that it is, in fact, the greatest display of love. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13-17, KJV) Jesus was speaking to his disciples—his friends—when he said these words. They were part of a 123-verse conversation he had with them in the Upper Room at that Last Supper on the night before he died. He spent all that time after the meal—the Passover that he transformed into our Communion meal—trying to tell them how much he loved them. How important did he value friendship? Enough to make it a rather large portion of the final interaction he’d have with all of them—before he laid down his life—for them.
Like so many other times, Christ became the living (or, in this case, the dying) embodiment of his words. He loved his friends so much—he loves us so much—that he shared what he himself described as the greatest form of love: self-sacrifice.
The Disciples would go on to do more for the world than any human men ever had, but in order for that to happen, he had to sacrifice himself for them. It was the ultimate gift, the ultimate devotion and the ultimate display of love—and it changed the world—and it freed not only the disciples, but all Believers, from an eternity of darkness.
Now there’s a Gospel you can sink your teeth into.