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31. Fright Night (1985), dir. Tom Holland

I saw this in late October when I went to the Whitby Goth Festival for the first time in some 17 years (yikes!). I don't think I ever wrote about that at all here on LJ / DW, but anyway it was very nice - I attended a Dracula-themed literary salon, hung out with multiple chums and of course did a bit of shopping. The festival has naturally evolved a little since Ye Olden Days, but this year also saw a particular change in that a completely different set of organisers booked the Spa for the dates of the usual Goth weekend, and put on some more recognisably Goth bands than have been booked in recent years, as well as dipping a toe in the waters of associated film screenings and related talks. Hence it was that I got to see Fright Night, along with big_daz, avaritia and her partner.

Its OTT black comedy style and special effects reminded me a bit of An American Werewolf in London, and Roddy McDowall was a great as you would expect him to be as Peter Vincent, a washed-up horror film star making a living in TV. His trajectory in the story is the same as that of the star-ship crew in Galaxy Quest - an enthusiastic fan turns to him in the belief that he's a 'real' vampire hunter, and after initially trying to protest that he is no such thing he eventually rises to the challenge. It's a motif I like, both because it's a nice meta poke at the relationship between drama and reality, but also because the way the character it's happening to both adopts the role as a kindness to another person and finds themselves living up to that person's expectations, giving a heart-warming perspective on human nature. Other than the lovely Roddy, though, the rest of the cast failed to wow me. There was a lot of very mannered acting going on, by people who don't seem to have had much of a subsequent career.

I also felt there was a distinctly homophobic undertone to the portrayal of the main vampire, played by Jerry Dandrige. He moves into the house next door to the main point-of-view character (the enthusiastic teenage fan of Roddy McDowall) with a male human companion, and they are shown at various points with their arms draped around each other, and in one scene with the human on his knees and his head in the general vicinity of the vampire's groin. (There's a nominally non-sexual explanation for this, but the director definitely intended it to look like giving head). When the vampire turns the main character's friend, 'Evil Ed' down a dark alley, he says some dialogue to him about he knows what it's like always feeling different and being an outsider, and when Ed is later staked (in wolf form), there are some very suggestive shots of his hand grabbing at the stake in his own chest. Since the vampire is (obviously) the villain, this all basically boils down to coding him as an Evil Gay, and I think two particular contemporary fears are played out through him as well: him moving in next door with his human lover makes him a Gay Neighbour, and his interaction with Ed equates to Recruiting Your Children. It's all very AIDS-hysteria, and really tainted the film for me.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2019 01:16 pm (UTC)
I had never considered the homophobic subtext before - interesting!
Jan. 24th, 2019 02:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's definitely there... :-/
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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