While the late night horror movie plays on television, hosted as always by faded film star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) is getting amorous in his bedroom with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse). Unfortunately for Charlie, Amy doesn't want to go too far and he's frustrated considering they've been going out together for a year, so in a burst of sympathy, she climbs into bed. But wait - what's this? Can there be someone moving around in the garden of the abandoned house next door? Can there really be two figures carrying a coffin outside? That's what Charlie thinks he sees, and he'll be seeing a lot more soon...
Classic horror monsters, and in particular vampires, had a bit of trouble in the eighties, because how would the new audiences accept the hoary old clichés that made up the majority of those movies with their hackneyed mythologies? Werewolves managed to weather the storm thanks to being ideally suited to the craze for elaborate special effects, but would anyone really be bothered by Dracula moving in next door considering the slasher movie villains that Vincent laments had taken over the genre? The answer, as writer-director Tom Holland worked out, was to add knowing humour and, naturally, all those new fangled effects.
Our vampire here isn't the famed Count, but one Jerry Dandridge (a suave Chris Sarandon), who is the height of sophistication compared to the panicky Charlie. Charlie twigs right away that his new next door neighbour is a dangerous bloodsucker when he sees that one of the women he has witnessed going into the Dandridge house has appeared in a news report telling of her violent demise. But it's that old story (even modern movies had to resort to clichés) - nobody will believe him. Amy is in the huff with him due to Charlie becoming obsessed with the monster, and when he calls the police to the house, his pleas are laughed off.
Obviously someone has to start listening to him, but we are in no doubt as to the truth of Charlie's claims when we see Dandridge invited into his home by his mother (Dorothy Fielding) - big mistake. Now Dandridge shows up in the middle of the night to threaten Charlie, transforming into a blazing-eyed, sharp-fanged creature before being forced out, but not before making it plain that he'll be back the next evening. So Charlie has to round up a few helpers to fend off his foe, and although they don't believe him, Amy and his eccentric friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys, yes, the one who became a gay porn star) decide to assist in banishing his demons, which they think are purely psychological.
Peter Vincent (named after Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) is reluctantly recruited, and a visit to Dandridge almost makes him dismiss the claims, that is until he notices his host has no reflection. Add in a Mummy movie convention about Amy being the reincarnation of Dandridge's lost love and the stage is set for some lively mayhem. This being the eighties, our swish villain is as much at home in his creepy old house as he is on the dancefloor of a nghtclub, and Holland makes sure that Charlie and his allies are outclassed almost every step of the way, which is a good idea in view of how vulnerable vampires can be. The winning cast enter into the spirit of the thing, with McDowall especially entertaining as the hasbeen redeeming himself by finally fighting the real McCoy. Overall, Fright Night may be a flip, glossy product of its time, but none the less enjoyable for that. Music by Brad Fiedel, and listen to the lyrics of the J. Geils Band's theme song.