Fright Night - Chris Sarandon
Jay Dee (Chris Sarandon) © 2011 Dreamworks

I attended the press junket for the remake of the classic horror movie Fright Night on July 24th. Coincidentally, it was also Chris Sarandon’s birthday, who was in the original movie, made in 1985. He played Jerry Dandrige, who had just moved next door to Charley Brewster and his mother. As a vampire, he caused bloody havoc in the neighborhood.

In the new version Colin Farrell portrays Jerry, with Anton Yelchin as Charley, and Toni Collette is his mother, Jane. Chris Sarandon does a cameo in the update, as a passing motorist on the freeway, who is doomed by Jerry’s thirst for blood.

When you heard that they were redoing Fright Night, what was your reaction? Did you wonder, ‘What was wrong with the first one?’

No, not at all. Actually I think in my mind the first one was a perfect little movie. At the same time, I think that as in sports, records are made to be broken. If somebody can come up with an idea for doing the same thing in a different contemporary way, a way that works for the psych guys of today, then why not?

How did you get involved with this version?

Fright Night - Colin Farrell
Jerry (Colin Farrell) destroys his neighbor’s house in order to gain entrance © 2011 Dreamworks

My manager had spoken to the producer Mike Deluca because he knew they were doing a movie, and he said, ‘Is there some way for Chris to be involved? I think it would really be a lot of fun for you and for him.’ Mike said, ‘Let me send Chris the script and you can tell us what he thinks.’

I read the script and I thought, ‘They did it.’ They figured out how to contemporize it, to make it a movie that has something to say for 2011 and, at the same time, have kept the basic story structure, the same characters, but they’ve made it their own. So I said, ‘Yeah, this is great.’

They also combined the elements that I thought were most important in the original, which were terror, humor and a very important sense of the relationships between the characters, because in my mind the first two don’t work without the third. I thought they accomplished all those things in the script.

Then I had the good fortune to hear the people who were cast. I couldn’t imagine anybody better than Colin playing Jerry, and I thought Anton was a great choice for Charley. So I was very excited going in. Then I spent two days on the set with them and all my fears were completely laid. I just thought this is going to be great.

Did you choose the cameo you wanted to play?

Yeah, actually when Mike sent the script he said, ‘Tell Chris to tell us what he wants to do.’ I thought it was really fitting to play one of the characters that Jerry devours, so that Jerry is devouring Jerry, so that he can move on in a way.

Have you seen this movie with an audience?

I haven’t had a chance to yet.

When your cameo comes on, the response from the audience was instantaneous. There was a lot of common knowledge that this is just what you said, Jerry devouring Jerry. Are you surprised at how aware audiences still are of the first Fright Night movie?

I wouldn’t say surprised. The movie has tended to have a life through generations. I know I have gone to a couple of conventions where they have had reunions of the Fright Night cast, and we are all still friends and we stay in touch.

It is a wonderful group of people with the sad exception of Roddy McDowall, who was a close friend of mine, who passed away a number of years ago.

What did you think of the updated version of Roddy’s character, which David Tennant plays?

Fright Night - David Tennant
Self-proclaimed vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant) © 2011 Dreamworks

I thought it was a great idea, and very much in keeping with this updating of the script. It fits with the whole Vegas thing, Vegas being in a way the den of inequity, and this guy being a false prophet but in his own world, a Charlatan just as Roddy was in the first movie, but a nice contemporary view of it.

How do you feel about vampires? Do you think there is any basis to them, or is it just all crazy stories?

I don’t think we can dismiss it as being crazy stories because it has existed for hundreds of years. There are legends that go back in Eastern Europe hundreds of years to Vlad the Impaler. The letting of blood which is part of the rituals of any number of cultures goes back thousands of years.

That is the blood sacrifice that is part of the mythical culture of the world. So in my mind those things exist and they are very strong.

That was what Tom Holland (the writer and director of the original) was after when he wrote Fright Night, which was the return to the original feeling of being very scary, but an element that he wanted to add to it was that there was humor there as well.

Recently we’ve gotten into the Twilight phenomena, romantic versions of vampires, which is fine. They have served a very particular wide audience that has made a lot of people a lot of money and has also had a very strong following.

This movie to me is a return again to that basic elemental predator vampire, the one who is just after his next score; basically he’s a serial killer.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.