[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 10 – Fright Night (1985)

 

Director: Tom Holland

Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall

Screenplay: Tom Holland

106 mins. Rated R.

 

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you aren’t getting any. Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale, Left Behind, TV’s Herman’s Head) gets it. He gets it all too well. He and girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse, Skirtchasers, TV’s Married with Children) have been hot and cold a lot, so Charley’s been searching out other forms of entertainment, like watching his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, I Smile Back). But when Charley sees Jerry committing some truly horrific acts next door, there’s really one answer: Vampires. But who will believe him? His annoying friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, 976-EVIL, Lazarus: Apocalypse)? His mother? Not even the famed vampire-hunter-actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes, A Bug’s Life) believe Charley. So what does he do?

Fright Night is a classic of 1980s horror film. Writer/Director Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner) weaves together an interesting play on voyeur films like Rear Window and then takes it to somewhere different with the terrific Peter Vincent character. In fact, all the characters are well-rounded, like the lead vampire Jerry. Jerry is incredibly complex and enjoys his hunt as he tracks down Charley.

I think the best element of Fright Night, though, is its fun and inventive effects. This has some of the goriest goofiest effects I’ve seen and they age really well, playing to the silliness of the whole thing.

Fright Night is a rare property in that the original film and its remake are both damn enjoyable and impressive for very different reasons. I think you should give it a try, and I also suggest the hard-to-find sequel Fright Night Part II (the remake has a sequel too but I haven’t ever tried watching it). This is exciting campy horror at its finest, its only flaw being one of pacing in the first act or so.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, click here.

For my review of Tom Holland’s Thinner, click here.

[Hobbit Day] The Return of the King (1980)

Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.

Cast: Orson Bean, John Huston, William Conrad, Roddy McDowall, Theodore Bikel

Screenplay: Romeo Muller

98 mins. Not Rated.

 

Happy Hobbit Day, y’all. September 22 is Bilbo Baggins’s birthday and Tolkien fans around the world celebrate with all sorts of fun festivities. Well, I thought we would take a look at the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of the back half of The Lord of the Rings today.

But first, a history. Hobbits love history. After Ralph Bakshi’s sequel to The Lord of the Rings was cancelled, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (The Last Unicorn, Frosty the Snowman) took on the task of adapting the follow-up. They had previously adapted a version of The Hobbit. The style between the two directors is drastically different in almost every way.

The Return of the King opens at the end of the tale after the ring has been destroyed and recounts the events that caused the end of the ring and Sauron (an interesting idea but one that is not wholly successful in the larger framework of the work) as Frodo (Orson Bean, Being John Malkovitch, TV’s Desperate Housewives) explains how he lost ring finger and became “Frodo of the Nine Fingers.” He tells of the bravery of Samwise Gamgee (Roddy McDowall, Planet of the Apes, A Bug’s Life) taking on the role of ringbearer in his absence. Meanwhile, Gandalf (John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Black Cauldron) escorts Pippin to Minas Tirith to bring warnings of war to Denethor (William Conrad, The Killers, TV’s Cannon).

Overall, The Return of the King has some major missteps in its adaptation. The choice to place a framing device on the story further separates itself from the interesting and far superior Bakshi film. Rankin and Bass said they always planned to follow-up their adaptation of The Hobbit with The Return of the King, but I call bullshit on that one.

Then there’s the issues of the characters. Aragorn (Theodore Bikel, My Fair Lady, The African Queen) barely has a presence in the film and Legolas and Gimli do not appear whatsoever. It’s as if they for forgot to include them at all. I get it, they have less purpose in the latter half of the story, but to omit them completely is an extremely poor choice.

Now, there are some nice musical interludes (an area where the Rankin/Bass adaptations usually make good on the source material), and I rather enjoyed the Denethor scenes, but the wins of this film are too few and far between.

The Return of the King is easily the lesser of the three animated Tolkien films. It just misses the mark on so much that anything good to say is quickly overshadowed by its flaws. Even Rankin/Bass’s work on The Hobbit is far better. Sadly, this is a poor finale to an interesting animated journey.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, click here.

 

 

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