[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.



-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.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Psycho II (1983)


Director: Richard Franklin

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia

Screenplay: Tom Holland

113 mins. Rated R.


Who would ever believe that a sequel to Psycho, twenty years later, would actually be successful? Psycho II was just that, earning roughly $34 million at the box office. It spawned two further sequels and a slew of other media properties. Crazy. Today, after years of avoiding it, I looked at Psycho II.


Twenty-two years after the unspeakable crimes he committed, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, Crimes of Passion) has been released from the mental institution against the wishes of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Initiation), sister of his victim Marion Crane, who amassed 743 signatures to keep him locked up. Once Norman gets comfortable, he takes on a job at a nearby diner where he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly, The Big Chill, Body Snatchers), a nice young woman who quickly becomes friends with Norman. But as things in Norman’s life start to look better, trouble starts, and bodies pile up, and all eyes are on Norman. Is he responsible? Or is something far more sinister happening?

This sequel appears in many ways to be heading down the same path as the original Alfred Hitchcock classic, but then director Richard Franklin (Road Games, Cloak & Dagger) and screenwriter Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner) throw in some genuinely intriguing twists and turns that kept me guessing the entire runtime. Not every plot point plays out the way it should, but overall, Psycho II does offers some shocks and surprises as a worthwhile sequel.

The film is further elevated by standout performances from Vera Miles’ return as Lila Loomis and franchise newcomer Robert Loggia (Scarface, Independence Day) as Norman’s doctor Bill Raymond, who does his best to transition Norman to the real world, however difficult the task becomes.


Now, I felt that the last half of the film gets a little too convoluted in trying to play mind games with the audience, and I’m still not sure I walked away with all the answers, but maybe that’s the idea. It just didn’t work as well as it could have. Psycho II is still the kind of sequel that further develops its characters and provides an interesting if somewhat similar and easy plot. I actually enjoyed it. There you have it.



-Kyle A. Goethe



For my review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 10 – Child’s Play (1988)


Director: Tom Holland

Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent

Screenplay: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland

87 mins. Rated R for adult situations/language, violence.


I have a faint memory of being a child and sneaking upstairs in the middle of the night and into the living room. My parents were watching a movie. There was a doll in it that had come to life and was murdering people. The scene was burned into my memory and I was forever terrified and fascinated by the killer doll Chucky.


In Child’s Play, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) just wants a Good Guy Doll for his birthday. Unfortuntely, Good Guy Dolls are very expensive and his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks, TV’s 7th Heaven, Poison Ivy: The Secret Society) just can’t afford one. That is, until she comes across a homeless guy near her office who has one. Now Andy has a Good Guy Doll named Chucky. But when people close to Andy start dying, Andy starts to look rather suspicious, but he says Chucky is to blame, but nobody, especially Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Safe) believes him.

The original Child’s Play is, to me, not nearly as good as the follow-up from 1990, but it definitely provides enough chills to keep the story rather engaging and entertaining. In this film, there is a heavy focus on the unbelievability of the tale and a lot of blame gets placed on Andy as being a mentally unstable child.

I really like Alex Vincent’s performance for his age and previous experience, it actually works pretty well. Add in some solid work from Hicks and Sarandon and you have a pretty great cast for this little horror film.

Also, how have I not mentioned Brad Dourif yet? Brad Dourif gives such an inconic voice performance to Chucky as well as his limited screentime as the unhinged Lake Shore Strangler Charles Lee Ray as a human in the film’s opening. Only Brad Dourif could play Chucky this perfectly, making him an incredibly underappreciated actor both in the genre and the visual medium in general.


Child’s Play is nicely paced, nicely played, and hauntingly memorable. Brad Dourif and director Tom Holland (The Langoliers, Thinner) have crafted an amazing character shepherded by screenwriter Tom Mancini. The original film still stands tall, even if its killer does not.



-Kyle A. Goethe


For more 31 Days of Halloween, click here.

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