If ever a movie succeeds entirely because of its creature and makeup effects, it's 1985's Fright Night
. The story is dumb, the protagonists are annoying, the villains aren't nearly as effective as you want them to be, and Roddy McDowall delivers the kind of misguided performance only an actor confident in his abilities can deliver.
Yet I was rooting for McDowall more than anyone else in the film. Playing a character named Peter Vincent, he's supposedly an homage to Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, but there's a lot more Cushing than Price in the veteran horror actor known for playing a vampire killer. Wikipedia says the filmmakers failed to interest Price in the role which makes me wonder why they didn't try Cushing. Cushing playing this guy straight would've been so much funnier, and scarier, than McDowall's gratingly broad bug eyes and double takes as he discovers vampires are really real.
His schlocky grandstanding when he adopts the vampire hunter persona is even worse. I hate when actors play actors with false notes in their voice even when they're supposed to be playing good
Somehow the fact that he had a shred of Peter Cushing in him, though, made me like him more than anyone else. Certainly more than the main protagonist, William Ragsdale as the teenage boy Charley whom we're introduced to whining to his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), because she won't have sex with him and then ignoring her when she takes her top off because he sees the neighbours bringing a coffin into their house. The fact that Amy doesn't care that the neighbours are bringing a coffin into their house makes her equally annoying and I kind of felt these two deserved each other.
The neighbour ends up being a vampire named Jerry Dandrige, played by Chris Sarandon, an actor I recognised only as Prince Humperdink from The Princess Bride
, though apparently he was also the speaking voice for Jack Skellington. Without the Dread Pirate Roberts of Inigo Montoya around, all the charisma was with Humperdink, so I wanted him to gruesomely kill the kids until he passed up one opportunity to do so after another and I lost patience with him, too.
I was about to write the whole movie off until the climax which suddenly treated me to some of the most amazing practical makeup and creature effects I've seen. By Richard Edlund and his team, I was particularly impressed by this wolf to human transformation:
Topped maybe only by this sudden ultra fangy reveal: