Behind The Scenes Of 1985's Vampire Classic 'Fright Night'

It’s fair to say that Tom Holland’s (not the friendly neighborhood one) take on those infamous bloodsucking creatures of the night took audience members by surprise when Fright Night first hit the big screen back in 1985. Combining horror, amazing effects, and dark humor, Fright Night really has proven itself a timeless cult film. Not to mention, it gained so much notoriety that it even received a 2011 remake that attempted to revitalize that edgy vampire universe for old and new fans alike.

Where did it all start? In a movie that was jam-packed with variety, just how much went on behind the camera? From a cast member spending a full 18 hours in the makeup chair to getting the visual effects team to help rewrite the movie, we’ll be taking a look at the most interesting tales from behind the scenes of the original 1985 classic vampire flick. Welcome to Fright Night for real!

Photo: Fright Night / Columbia Pictures

  • William Ragsdale Suffered A Very Costly Injury On Set

    During a scene in which William Ragsdale (Charlie) had to run down some stairs in quite the hurry, Ragsdale injured his foot. What was initially thought to be a sprain by the crew and Ragsdale himself was eventually confirmed to be a break by the sound recordist, who claimed he could actually hear the bone break through his sound equipment. After being rushed to the hospital, Ragsdale’s action scenes were delayed, causing production to dip into its insurance in order to extend filming. 

    According to Ragsdale, after he recovered, he was constantly followed around by an angry producer who would hurl hostile comments at Ragsdale under his breath when no one was around, such as, “$100,000 - that’s what you cost me every day.”

  • Special Effects Sucked Up Most Of The Movie's Budget

    Although Fright Night had a relatively modest budget for that era (around $9 million), the movie's horrifyingly gruesome effects made it a cut above your average vampire movie at the time. Because the movie had a somewhat intimate setting, these effects sucked up most of the film's budget, as each penny was allocated where it could be used to the best of its ability... and it certainly shows.

    Richard Edlund’s Boss Film Corporation was able to provide prosthetics, ground-breaking puppets, and optical effects. His team had just finished up on the special effects for Ghostbusters, and although it had a much bigger budget, they went through a lot of trial and error. This ended up working to Fright Night’s advantage when they came on board. Holland stated in an interview:

    They had made all of their mistakes with how to do the matte shots and everything on Ghostbusters with their huge budget, and so they really knew how to do [the special effects] as inexpensively and efficiently as it could be done at the time.

    These flawlessly executed effects helped secure the film's place in the vampire hall of fame.

  • The Cast Wrote Their Own Characters' Backstories

    The performances of the movie's ensemble separate Fright Night from many '80s horror movies, allowing audiences to empathize with fuller, more compelling characters than the victims-in-waiting that populated the average slasher at the time.

    Not only did Holland allow two weeks for rehearsals, but in order to make them identify with their parts more, he also made the actors write fictional backstories. This approach could perhaps be credited to Holland’s stint as an actor. Stephen Geoffreys was hesitant at first, but when he was told he could be dropped from the production if he didn’t agree, he eventually yielded. 

  • Charlie Sheen Wasn't Allowed To Audition For Charley Brewster

    Charlie Sheen Wasn't Allowed To Audition For Charley Brewster
    Photo: Ferris Bueller's Day Off / Paramount Pictures

    William Ragsdale remains associated with his role as Fright Night's hero, Charley Brewster - so much so that it’s hard to see anyone else in that role (with the exception of Anton Yelchin’s interpretation in the 2011 remake, pitting him against Colin Farrell).

    Unlike Jerry Dandridge, however, Charlie Sheen didn't need an invitation, attempting to audition for the role of Brewster against the filmmakers' wishes. According to the director, Sheen was upset at being refused.

    Unfortunately, Holland’s vision for the character was quite clear in that he wanted a somewhat nerdy individual for the role. Sheen was deemed too good-looking and was not only turned down for the role, but was even refused an audition. Sheen apparently left quite upset, but when comparing Ragsdale’s boy-next-door look against the future Platoon star, it definitely seems Holland made the right call. 

  • The Contact Lenses Were Unbearable For Cast Members

    Given the wall-to-wall violence and gore inflicted on/by the characters within this '80s horror, it’s surprising to think that the most pain the actors had to endure came from the contact lenses they wore when vamping out. Similar to the experience the cast members faced in The Evil Dead, the lenses were made of hard plastic that was then lacquered, sanded, and simply painted (by Steve Johnson) with the desired design. 

    This caused the actors to be virtually blind when wearing them, and they could only be worn 20 minutes at a time because they were painful and caused the eyes to dry out. The only person who endured them for a total of 40 minutes was Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, but this, unfortunately, resulted in scratches on his eyeballs that tormented him for months afterward. 

  • Stephen Geoffreys Spent A Full 18 Hours In The Makeup Chair

    In the final act, Evil Ed, played by Stephen Geoffreys, transforms into a hound from hell, only to be bested by the great Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) with a stake through the heart. He then reverts back to human form in quite a painful, arduous, and beautifully gruesome sequence.

    However, the length of time it took Ed to bite it (no pun intended) took nowhere near as long as the prep to get Geoffreys ready for the scene. He spent 18 hours in the makeup chair for this scene alone, and he later said, “I don’t know how I endured it.”

    To make matters worse, what was initially thought to be a thickening agent, which was applied to Geoffreys’s mouth to simulate saliva, was later discovered to be an adhesive. It ended up gluing his mouth shut. So who knows, maybe his on-screen groans of discomfort were, in fact, legitimate.