Charting meta-horror terrain nine years before Scream would make it ubiquitous, Fright Night celebrates genre clichés even as it exposes them as such. In anonymous Small Town, U.S.A., teenage scary-movie buff Charley (William Ragsdale) turns away from his frigid girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) at the moment she’s about to spread her legs so that he might get a better look at new next-door neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon), who moves in with a coffin and soon begins entertaining hookers that are reported dead on the following day’s news. Charley’s suspicions that Jerry is a vampire are soon confirmed, but Amy and intolerably cackling friend “Evil” (Stephen Geoffreys) don’t believe him, nor does former horror icon-turned-late-night movie host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), at least until a visit proves that Jerry is lacking a mirror reflection. Writer/director Tom Hooper (Child’s Play) generates little outright terror and his gore effects are not only excessive but dull. Still, he makes up for a dearth of scares with cheeky self-referentiality, with his film – led by protagonists well-aware of vampire rules and regulations – underlining (and thereby playfully validating) the time-honored fictional conventions to which it adheres. Sarandon makes a devilishly menacing batman, exuding a mature sexuality that’s both at odds with Charley’s virginal pubescence, and that’s given some bi- undertones via his relationship with evil man-servant Billy (Jonathan Stark). Ultimately, though, it’s McDowall’s gleefully over-the-top performance as a washed-up Van Helsing – his name, Peter, an obvious nod to Hammer films legend Peter Cushing – that’s Fright Night’s true lifeblood.