BECAUSE TIME IS OUT OF WHACK—Found-Again… Tuesday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christm… Valentine’s Day With Fright Night (1985)

Mom’s treatment is done! and I am finally back at the helm of the Omelet. I see somebody somewhere was actually reading the Highlander posts in my absence, which is thrilling for at least one of us!

But we have unfinished business: I promised you Sarandon. I promised you vampire(s). I promised you an outpouring of praise for what may be my all-time favorite horror film—and if I didn’t, brace yourselves. I wrote the first part of this before rewatching and before my schedule got rearranged, so with a few corrections, this should do just fine for a heart-based holiday:

And here we are. I can’t think of any better way to ring out this year celebrate Valentine’s Day than with Fright Night—one of my favorite vampire movies, one of my favorite horror movies, and one of my favorite movies full stop. I won’t pretend this one is really “found again.” It’s not even an every-other-year creepy pleasure like CandymanFright Night is, not to put too fine a pointy fang on it, The Good Stuff.

The Premise: Angsty, amiable teen doofus Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale, who like one of last week the last review’s stars was in Herman’s Head) likes making out with his girlfriend Amy while the late-night horror show Fright Night plays in the background. His sexual frustration is the least of his troubles when he starts to suspect his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, perfectly cast), might be a vampire.

When his weird friend Ed can’t provide enough protective vampire lore, Charlie seeks out the Fright Night show’s host, Peter Vincent. Instead of Van Helsing, however, Vincent is more Peter Cushing by way of Elvira, a washed-up actor annoyed by Charlie’s request for help and terrified when he realizes there really is a vampire. Once Jerry discovers they’re on to him, he begins to prey on Charlie’s friends, and Charlie and Peter must fight the vampire and save Amy from the extremely sexy clutches of a fiend.

I’m going to blow the “Verdict” section on this one. If you for some reason haven’t seen Fright Night, recently or ever, you should do that. Don’t even finish reading this. It’s that good. (And if you’re squeamish like me, it’s not even particularly gory until the end; I suspect a lot of the R rating was for boobs and swears.)

There is so much to like about this movie:

  • Fright Night is a crucial link between subgenres of vampire film, in that Jerry  is both a suave fanged seducer in the Christopher Lee mold and a gnarly* bat-monster in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other screen vamps who came after Fright Night’s 1985 release. (That the plot involves a Hammer-horror-style actor coming up against gritty reality indicates that this duality is intentional, making the whole thing even better.)
  • Similarly, the mortal characters are all recognizable ’80s stock movie people, but so well-realized they rise above it. Stereotypical “horny teen” Charlie ends up worrying more about his math grade—and, you know, the vampire—than he does about getting laid. Charlie’s mother is to some extent written as a typical checked-out working parent, but it’s not ennui: it’s that this single mother has just started working nights and isn’t at her best for the duration of the film. And the quirky friend, “Evil” Ed, gets the most wrenching scenes in the movie. Fright Night is a little like Pumpkinhead, I think; if you go a while between viewings, the genre starts to blot out how nuanced and generally good the characters are. (It’s also nice that they look and dress like real people—looking at you, enjoyable-but-not-at-this-level remake.)

  • The characters often act the way you’d expect real people to act in such a situation. One of the first things Charlie does when people start disappearing is what so many protagonists should do… call the cops. They (quite realistically) think Charlie is nuts–as do his friends, who stage an intervention when they’re afraid he might endanger someone. All of this gives the movie a nice grounding when the monsters really get going.
  • The vampire. I imagine it’s hard to be an iconic bloodsucker with a name like “Jerry Dandridge,” but my goodness does Chris Sarandon make it look easy. Anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes on this site knows I’m susceptible to what you might call “villain cute,” and you may never find a better example than some of the scenes in Fright Night.  Even so, Jerry is by no means a one-note baddie: by turns amused and frustrated by Charlie’s campaign against him, he also shows a certain amount of weariness with his immortality and need to prey on others that makes him almost a tragic figure. (Me being me, I sat in front of my screen thinking “Oh, yeah. This is what I’m supposed to feel about Connor’s situation in Highlander. ….Yep, still don’t.”)
Wears red, flies around, makes holes in people…what’s Cupid got that this guy doesn’t?

To sum up: Fright Night is a literally great movie that is also very entertaining. (If you want more on this, there’s a documentary I haven’t seen yet, and the Faculty of Horror podcast did a very good episode on the film. That’s where I learned that Chris Sarandon actually researched bats for his role as Dandridge; I thought I couldn’t love Fright Night more, but that tidbit proved me wrong.


*It is my belief that there are actors you simply cannot make ugly (readers here can probably name most of them by now), but the filmmakers certainly have a good go at it near the end of this movie—which is only a spoiler if you’ve never seen a vampire movie before.


Next time: Music post for Friday because we haven’t had one in a very long time; Jonny Quest posting resumes on Monday. Against steep odds, let’s get normal!



Belated Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With The Resurrected (1991)

Why Found-Again? It’s only been a year or so since I watched this one, so it really never left. One thing about the fictional character Charles Dexter Ward: he gets portrayed by some very good-looking guys.

The Premise:  Wealthy, slightly dorky chemist Charles Dexter Ward (Sarandon) gets progressively weirder about his secret experiments, eventually leaving his wife Claire (Jane Sibbett) in the middle of a party. With the help of a mysterious associate, Charles takes his studies to a rural cottage, but things take a dark turn after a neighbor complains and human remains are discovered. More confused than ever, Claire hires private investigator John March, who soon realizes Charles has been replaced by his wizard ancestor and that people and things are being—surprise!—resurrected.

They’re pretty bloody and sticky about it, too.

The cast is very good: I’m both old enough and weird enough to geek out seeing Jane Sibbett in this movie because I loved her in an old Fox Network show called Herman’s Headof which I may have been the only loyal viewer.

She more than holds her own in a role original to the movie, as does John Terry as the PI who would really like not to believe in necromancy. But of course, it’s Sarandon who steals the show in his dual role as Ward and his revivified ancestor Joseph Curwen. (Curwen subsists on red meat and scenery, and I’m not complaining at all.)

A decidedly non-chronological before…
…and ancestor after.

The Verdict: The Resurrected is a modernized, noir-ified version of the classic Lovecraft story, but the bones of the plot are largely the same: man dabbles in genealogy, discovers lookalike ancestor, dabbles in the occult, recovers lookalike ancestor, and lives to regret it but not much longer. The movie suffers from some of the common complaints of horror films—the effects can be a little goofy, the detective plot sometimes sits awkwardly over the source material, and I personally despise the set design for the PI’s office to an incredible degree—but it does a very good job as an adaptation, especially in the last half.

The mystery is compelling (assuming you haven’t read the story…or indeed this review), the villain is scary, and the creatures are downright chilling. This is probably the goriest thing in my DVD collection, and I regret nothing except the few seconds of eyeball violence.

Might go well with: The Haunted Palace, any of the other movies I’ve covered this month, and any vegetarian recipes you might have lying around.


Next time: We go from doubles to dubloons.


Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With Child’s Play (1988)

Why Found-Again? The *mumblety* years since my last viewing of Child’s Play are a rare example of self-control. I find creepy dolls disturbing (especially Annabelle from The Conjuring and the horrible revenge doll from that Night Gallery episode), and for once this didn’t lead me to watch every Chucky movie in existence in an attempt to compensate for my wimpiness.

The Premise: Fatally wounded by the police who are hunting him, killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif, who deserves a theme month of his own sometime) sends his spirit into a Good Guy doll, which is a fictionalized one of these:

The possessed doll is purchased by a hapless mother and son, and the evil “Chucky” snarls, bashes and slashes his way to horror-icon status.

This is about as happy as it’s going to get, and we’ve already had one murder.

As for the subject of our December celebration, Sarandon plays Det. Mike Norris, who bookends the movie by shooting Charles Lee Ray in his various forms.

Sort of looks like he taught Dennis Miller that look from Bordello of Blood, doesn’t it?

A few assorted thoughts:

  • Instead of a gritty New York movie, we have a gritty Chicago movie this time! In fact, a case could be made that Child’s Play functions as a dark counterpart to that least gritty of Chicago movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: a child running loose and being tempted into bad ideas while harried parents are off working. Norris’s partner even looks a tiny bit like Principal Rooney!
  • The murals in Charles Lee Ray’s apartment make me wonder if Child’s Play wasn’t also inspiration for some of the visuals in Candyman, my favorite movie I can barely stand to watch, also set in the Windy City.
  • Catherine Hicks, who went on to play the mother on Seventh Heaven, is one of the most put-upon screen moms of all time.
  • Perhaps I’ve just watched too much Criminal Minds—check that, I have definitely watched too much Criminal Minds—but I’m really at a loss why a strangling serial killer with voodoo murals and sorcerous abilities has a getaway driver in the first place. Why was the Eddie character even there?

The Verdict: Mixed, but in a good way. It turned out I remembered very little from my first viewing, and since “person is framed by own evil doppelganger” is a plot peeve of mine, the first half verged on excruciating. What saved it for me was my love of movie voodoo and the Law & Order: Demon Doll vibe of the second half, as well as the fact that Chucky really is simultaneously terrifying and entertaining. This one is definitely worth rewatching, especially for the scene in which Andy’s mom realizes the doll is alive.

Might go well with: Some of the later Nightmare on Elm Street movies; Kolchak: The Night Stalker.


Next time: “What Jonny and Hadji do to these turtles will shock you!” How’s that for clickbait?

Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With Tales From The Crypt: Bordello Of Blood (1996)

Why Found-Again? As a kid, I’d occasionally get overwhelmed by horror. My first Stephen King novel ended up in a faroff closet, only to be pulled out every other weekend. I did the same thing with the first two books of Anne Rice’s vampire series. And when I saw my very first Tales from the Crypt episode, “Lover Come Hack To Me,” I was both thoroughly freaked out and ready to watch some more. In fact, a creature from a Tales episode ranks with Pinhead and Samara Morgan among the few horror-movie things that have given me nightmares.

That’s one reason I ended up in the theater when Bordello of Blood came out. Others include an ill-advised crush on Dennis Miller and a thoroughly understandable crush on the subject of our theme month.


The Premise:  Some leftover explorers from an unmade Indiana Jones movie find the mummified vampire Lilith (Angie Everhart) and restore her to bloodthirsty life, significantly shortening theirs.

Back in the US, the chaste Katherine (Erika Eleniak) has a fight with her loser brother (Corey Feldman), and he storms out of the house. When he doesn’t return, Katherine hires detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) to find him. The trail leads to a secret vampire brothel hidden beneath a mortuary. Lilith is an entrepreneur now! And brother Caleb has been good and chomped.

Like Dennis Miller, I made this face a lot during this movie.
Like Dennis Miller, I made this face a lot during this movie.

Rafe, Katherine, and Katherine’s boss JC (Sarandon as a televangelist with a guitar!) must band together to rout the fanged legions… with Super-Soakers full of holy water, among other things.

This picture may the the best thing about... well, this picture.
This picture may the the best thing about… well, this picture.

I’ve been watching a lot of Jason Statham movies this year–I didn’t write them up for the Omelet; you’re welcome–and the comparison that kept coming to mind was Crank and its sequel, the weird action movies that got so much easier to enjoy when I realized they were a kind of live-action Roadrunner cartoon. The kills and the big fight in Bordello of Blood have the same manic, unreal, goofy quality. And yet…

The Verdict: I tend to be optimistic about my Friday rewatches. Usually I rediscover what I liked about a film; at the least, I’ll make peace with not liking it or find something interesting there. Rarely does a movie I watch of my own free will seem worse with every viewing, but Bordello of Blood is that rare case. It has its moments, but the tone of the whole thing seems more like a Cryptkeeper monologue than a fully fleshed-out (sorry) episode of Tales from the Crypt.

To put it bluntly, I could not get over the stupid.

Unless you are a hitherto untapped Dennis Miller enthusiast, you’d be better off with the first Tales movie, Demon Knight.

Might go well with: Cherry Jell-O salad.


Next time: Jonny Quest isn’t Aquaman. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Found-Again Friday: Putting The Chris Sarandon In Christmas With The Sentinel (1977)


Why Found-Again? A few days ago I mentioned a theme month, and here we are! What I didn’t mention is that I’m going to be reviewing these in rising order of expectations. If it ticks you off that a horror classic like The Sentinel is at the bottom of my list, well, I totally sympathize. Maybe this viewing will be better.

The Premise: Alison (Cristina Raines) is a model, a bundle of nerves, and the girlfriend of a lawyer (Chris Sarandon in a terrible little mustache).

It takes a +20 Face of Handsomeness to defeat that facial hair.
It takes a +20 Face of Handsomeness to defeat that facial hair.

Once she gets an apartment of her own, she’s also the winner of the 1977 My Neighbors Are Super Weird Award—including a blind priest who inhabits the building’s top floor. When her orgy-loving, Jesus-hating father dies, Alison’s traumatic past returns to haunt her in lurid visions, and her health begins to suffer. Is she all there?

Indeed, is anybody?

Well, demons, it turns out. Guess who’s living on a hellmouth?

In a discussion about the best casts in movies, The Sentinel would be at the top of my list, and not just because it forms an important nexus in my Four Degrees of Jeff Goldblum game.

“I’m going to have a British phase?”

Visually (and ideologically, in its ironclad faith in Catholicism), the movie is a close cousin of those other classic dark-panelled 1970s horror films, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. The Sentinel is also an interesting confluence of subgenres: in addition to the church-versus-Satan plot, there are traces of zombies, haunted houses and a psychological thriller lurking here—even a touch of police procedural as Sarandon’s character is investigated for murder. It’s a very powerful film. However…

The Verdict: It’s a failing of mine that I can appreciate bleak movies in a lit-crit kind of way but rarely like them, and make no mistake, The Sentinel is bleak. It’s probably perfect for what it is, though: if someone tried to turn a Hieronymus Bosch painting into a 20th-century story, this is exactly what you’d get. All the glamor, the hopes, and the humanity of the characters gets burned away in a story of ecclesiastical good against evil. I have the same beef with mortal sin as a plot device here that I do when it turns up in Hamlet, and I can’t really get over it.

You can get me to admire The Sentinel—I was much more taken with it this time around— but you can’t quite get me to enjoy it.

Might go well with: Prince of Darkness, The Omen.

Apropos Of Fridays In December: Theme Month!

While making a list of things to watch during October, I noticed a certain… similarity about my choices. An actor who kept popping up again and again like a bad penny or a relentless supernatural killer.

Then I wondered if I’d have time to watch all this stuff by Halloween.

Then, like a certain other holiday figure, I got a wonderful, awful idea.

This December, I’m going to focus on putting the Chris Sarandon back in Christmas.

The Sentinel, Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Resurrected and Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood are all coming at you this month. After all, red is a holiday color.

If you've ever secretly rooted for Humperdinck, have I got a month for you.
If you’ve ever secretly rooted for Humperdinck, have I got a month for you!

Finally! Friday: Moonlight (2007)

Why Finally? A few weeks ago, we covered a vampire detective I didn’t like—and I have to say I enjoy (for a given value of that word) watching Forever Knight far more now that I go into it knowing I’m going to mock it. A very silly weight has been lifted.

My hunt is still on for that TV equivalent of The Vampire Files’ Jack Fleming, though, so I thought I’d check out Moonlight, which ran for one season in 2007.

The Premise: Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) is a relatively recent vampire; he was a hard-boiled ’50s PI who fell in love and got vamped on his wedding night. This would make a great opportunity for a Moonlight/Highlander: End Game-based crossover where Mick and Duncan MacLeod’s ex bond in some kind of group therapy, but instead Mick is still being absurdly cute solving crimes.

Or, as in this scene, doing both.
Or, as in this scene, both.

One investigation brings him into contact with a reporter named Beth (Sophia Myles), whose life Mick saved from his ex when Beth was a child, and a relationship begins to bloom. Between fanged villains and Beth’s Lois Lane-like talent for finding trouble and running toward it at high speed, it’s a (un)life of adventure.

You know I love a good case-of-the-week show, but it turns out I still hate internecine vampire politics, so Moonlight occasionally became hard going. The series also plays around with the idea of a cure for vampirism, one of my pet peeves. (I don’t know why it should be, but from the Dark Shadows revival to the romance novels I read as a teenager, I’ve never really clicked with the concept.) Mick is a great character, but I didn’t really like Moonlight itself enough to stick with it.

The Verdict: I honestly wonder if this one might be me; perhaps I’m just in the wrong mood at this point in time. There were a lot of good moments in Moonlight, but they just didn’t add up quite right. I may revisit this in a year or two and see if I find it easier to get into.

Someday, though,  it’ll happen: the thing I’m looking for will get made—heck, maybe someone will put the actual Vampire Files on a screen of some size—and when it does, I’ll be nodding and grinning and thinking “Perfect. A little bit X-Files, a little bit Remington Steele, and a little bit Moonlight.” But this show by itself doesn’t seem to be it.

To put it in perspective with other recent reviews here at the Omelet, while Mick is no Mildred Heavewater, neither is he a Nick Knight (thank god).

Might go well with: A nice glass of whatever you like to drink. May want to err on the side of intoxicant.

(Note: some of the roles were recast after the pilot, so the trailer differs from the actual show. On the other hand, the “absurdly cute” quotient is strong.)



The Quest For Monday! Part 48: Catching Some Wild, Probably Dangerous Zs

(Episode: “Shadow of the Condor”)

Synopsis: You know those horror movies with a group of people stranded at the house of a delusional madman and forced to compete in strange ways for survival? Well,  Jonny Quest has one too;  Race Bannon is in the sights of Snoopy’s old foe, a WWI flying ace, and Bandit is in the sights of a horrific owl-eating condor. Not a Peanuts/JQ crossover, sadly, but there is a wiener dog named Wili.

Tip 48: Refresh yourself.

Think of your typical day: pushing papers, fighting goblins, building killer robots, maybe even proofreading. Whatever it is, you’ll do it better if you’re well-rested.

I assume these are official Special Forces PJs...or maybe just some of that performance sleepwear I've been reading about.
I assume these are official Special Forces PJs…or maybe just some of that performance sleepwear I’ve been reading about.

Sweet dreams…



Never mind.


Next time: I plan to review 2007 TV series Moonlight, whether I manage to finish watching Season the Only by Friday or not.

Next time on TQfM!: It’s up in the air, literally.

Finally! Friday: Murder With Monsters by K.T. Katzmann

(I’d like to say I’m kicking off a spooky theme for October, but this differs from my usual Friday how? Also, I’ve never reviewed anything by someone I follow on Twitter before, so I’m a bit nervous: this plays into my twin fears that 1) people will never read this site and 2) holy crap, people might be reading this site. Anyway…)

Why Finally? After lots of eager reading, a few years ago I found myself no longer enthused about paranormal books—and just when the genre and its assorted subsections really took off, too. Part of this might add up to some hipster suspicion of “things other people like,” but really, why did I stall out on the fifth book of  more than one series?

Eventually I decided it had to be the multiple mythical creatures. I’ve been reading books about only ghosts, only vampires, and the like since childhood and never getting tired of them, but when you have enough monsters running around that you need interspecies politics and logistics, my interest wanes like a werewolf’s light source. That makes sense, right? Question answered!

So along came K.T. Katzmann’s Murder With Monsters and its whole monster manual of characters to prove that, like that guy on Game of Thrones, I know nothing.


The Premise: Forever sixteen on the outside, vampire police detective Mildred Heavewater works in a very diverse section of the NYPD staffed by humans, Universal Studios refugees, and creatures you will have to look up. A new murder case seems to point to a golem as the culprit, but the Jewish Mildred can’t believe that: after all, they’re “programmed” not to hurt people. Assisted by her human partner and the cute new sasquatch M.E., it’s up to Mildred to investigate in the Orthodox area of Brooklyn while being very, very unkosher.

Know that I am waving my arms and yelling “THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!”

“J.A.,” you are likely saying, “is this one of your silly things again?” It is! and thank you for noticing. But it’s not just a book that reads like Lovecraft wrote a season of Law & Order and the whole thing was sent up in a Kent Montana novel; there’s a lot of heart here, even if the protagonist’s generally refuses to beat. Watching Mildred navigate her cases, her friendships, and a personal life she doesn’t quite seem to feel the right to have, we get a sense of a complex character for whom too many things have been put on hold, and whose “girl detective” appearance is the final layer of awkwardness on top of her other problems. The supporting characters—which include a werewolf, a harpy, a shoggoth with an excellent phone manner,  and some ghosts— are also (pardon the pun) fleshed out, and I found the whodunit reveal genuinely shocking.

Me being me, the cameos by Isaac Asimov and Carl Kolchak didn’t hurt, either.

The Verdict: *waves arms and yells “THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!!” again*

I am delighted to see that this is intended as the first of a series; there are so many characters to follow in Murder With Monsters, and I will be delighted to do so. Especially if the shoggoth gets her own story, but I’m weird like that.

Might go well with: Sushi.


Next time: An aeronut. That’s a pun, not a typo.


Nothing Could Be Found Friday! …Um.

It finally happened: Thanks to some plotting for October and December (which, surprise!, will look a lot like most people’s October in terms of Friday posts), I’ve kind of cordoned off my possibilities for slow viewing weeks. As a result, I am all out of  Friday at the moment.

When TV shows hit this sort of obstacle, they often do a clip show, so I will too.

Apropos Of Our Cynical Omelet: Search Terms And Me

I love reading search-term posts on other sites, but having few readers means it’s taken almost two years to amass enough for one of my own. I also think it might be fun to grade the Omelet in terms of providing service, so let’s see what people have been looking for!

“Hellboy’s heroine”—This was my first-ever search term, and though I’ve since referred to the end of the Hellboy movie, all this person got was a photo of my 2014 Hellboy Halloween costume. I’m so sorry. Grade: D+

Here's Liz...
To make it up to you, here’s Liz…
...and just in case, here's Kate Corrigan.
…and just in case, here’s Kate Corrigan.

“Sean Connery and Carol Sopel”—Apparently these two were married. I didn’t know that before seeing someone look for it, and I can’t imagine the searcher felt edified by my bitching about Highlander and Darby O’Gill.  Grade: F

Highlander absorbance”—This is the search term I’m most proud of; when I first noticed the spelling of “absorbance” on Brenda’s printout in the movie, I couldn’t find any confirmation that it was correct. That was several years ago, however, and the internet is much improved. I’m oddly pleased to be a resource to the three other proofreading Highlander fans out there. Grade: A+

“The Big Easy movie”—I like it for no compelling reason! Grade: A

“Jay Sherman and his sister Margo”—I mentioned the sibling relationship in my Friday post on The Critic, but didn’t really get into it. Margo’s great, though. Grade: B-


“Count Blah”—I used the Count—a Greg the Bunny character veeeeerrrry loosely based on the other famous vampire puppet—as a sight gag in my review of Frankenstein. I should probably do a Found-Again post for Greg the Bunny one of these days. Grade: C

“Kurgan fanfic”—Dude, I have tried: not to write any, but to find some, especially when I was doing the There Can Be Only Monday! posts. After on-and-mostly-off searching since I first saw the movie in the early 2000s, I have found maybe five stories. Highlander’s villain is such a beloved bad guy…by me, for one…but apparently does not inspire people to churn out reams of prose. Grade: does effort count?