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By JASON COMERFORD

Tom Holland’s 1985 horror-comedy Fright Night is very much a product of its time, but its key story hook -- a suburban teenager squares off against the vampire next door -- remains irresistible, regardless of the decade. In other hands, the mixture of 80s-style sex comedy, Hammer-style gothic horror and then-cutting-edge visual effects might have toppled into ludicrousness, but Holland’s light touch with the material turns out to be its greatest asset. Fright Night has a charming innocence at its core, and a real empathy for its young protagonists -- qualities which lent themselves well to Craig Gillespie’s 2011 remake (a fine film in its own right).

Fright Night’s key scene may be the perfect summation of the appeal of 1980s horror. Hormonal young Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), already curious about his new neighbors, awakens in the middle of the night to see a woman being slowly undressed by Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, in the performance of a lifetime). Charlie first thinks he’s getting a peep show, but when Jerry sprouts fangs and leonine claws, Charlie’s suspicions are shockingly confirmed. This being a horror film whose adult characters have apparently never seen a horror film, Charlie’s story goes ignored, but it also turns him into a target -- and his friends as well.

The dreamlike sequence is arguably the film’s most memorable, charged with taboo sexuality and the fantastic, and Brad Fiedel’s scoring, while firmly rooted in the synth-pop sound of the mid-eighties, gives it the resonance it requires. Fiedel’s “Window Watching” cue begins with circular keyboard figures swirling around a slow, seductive beat, as Charlie watches Jerry manipulate the woman under his spell. As Daniel Schweiger recounts in his fascinating notes for Intrada’s 2011 release of the score, the rock-styled melody that follows as Jerry’s demonic nature reveals itself has a much more ancient ancestor:

Many fans believed this to be the sound of an electric guitar (the theme would even be included on the Guitar Hero videogame), but these solos were actually performed on an electric violin by Ross Levinson. ...“The first time I saw Jerry, I thought he was Mr. Cool, the older guy who’s going to steal your girlfriend,” Fiedel says. “While Chris Sarandon certainly wasn’t acting like Bela Lugosi, I thought it would be interesting to go back to the Eastern European idea of equating a vampire with a fiddle, then twisting it to sound like a guitar. Ross did an incredible job of chopping with his bow to get that sound.”

Throughout his score, Fiedel turns the apparent limitation of electronic equipment into a creative asset, freeing him up to incorporate any number of different styles and approaches, from gloomy gothic textures to more modern impressionism. A true innovator in his field, Fiedel, with Fright Night, expanded the vocabulary of synthesizer music in horror films in a way that few others even attempted, let alone succeeded with, and Intrada’s recent limited-edition restoration of the score (long thought to be lost to the ages) is an essential listen.



 



The Moment in Question:

Click below to listen to a sample of
“Window Watching,” composed by
Brad Fiedel. [clip]

Brad Fiedel portrait
......Brad Fiedel

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Awesome Websites!

Brad Fiedel (Wikipedia)

Fright Night by Fiedel at Intrada


Next Installment:

Marc Shaiman meets his Number
One Fan. MISERY

Jason Comerford Bio


READER COMMENTS:

Jonathan  
What an opening for another 13 chills! I love Intrada's release of Brad Fiedels score, even though I've never seen the movie. I love that sound of that electric violin.
     
Keya  
I love how haunting a violin can sound, it gives Jerry a classically terrifying appeal while also being incredibly alluring. Perfect for a vampire.
     
Pooter  
This is one of the first albums I ever bought. It was on vinyl, and while I enjoyed the songs, my favourite part was always "Come to Me." I'd Listen to that alongside my tape recording of the film for which I had held my tape recorder up against the TV. Before the internet, and all you fantastic specialist soundtrack stores, it was one of the only ways of getting the music to things!
     
Dino  
One of my favorite movies from the 1980's and the score will forever ring in my head and my heart ...from the songs to the great release (finally) of the score.
     
Jeff  
I was ecstatic when I found out this was being released. It captures the mood of the movie so perfectly. It's sexy, scary, and mysterious all at the same time.
     
David Kessler   I must say that this is one of the true 80's classics and the score was finally released on a great official CD. This along with the song soundtrack is a must own in everyone's collection and let's hope that a Fright Night 2 score will appear too.smiley face