I'm one of those people who didn't grow up with Fright Night but discovered it later airing late at night on basic cable and slotted in between B movies like the ones Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) airs on his incredibly campy TV show.
There's something very special about this movie – the story of a Billy Peltzer-like teen (William Ragsdale) who discovers that his neighbor is (gasp!) a vampire – that somehow makes me forgive its 80s cheesiness and its clichéd story and pulls me in every time I watch it. Maybe it's my love for McDowall, who I'll always remember as Cornelius from Planet of the Apes. Maybe it's the movie's chilling effects, which reach freaky gross out levels in the climax.
The entire cast, especially McDowall and Chris Sarandon as the big bad, is great. Their performances elevate the movie from teen horror schlock to an engaging, entertaining and funny monster flick. Here's hoping Anton Yelchin and David Tennant can deliver the goods in the remake. (I'm guessing the 1989 sequel doesn't live up to the greatness of the original, but I'm still looking forward to tracking it down.)
Cabin Fever, directed by Eli Roth
It's hard to knock the critics who dismissed Eli Roth's directorial debut as a brainless homage to B-level gross out horror flicks. But the small surprises, innovations and twists to the conventional "cabin in the woods" horror tale kept me engaged, and I actually loved the movie's bleak point of view and pitch black ending.
Cabin Fever isn't as innovative or as fresh as I'd like it to be, but Roth crafted a fine, funny and scary little film loaded with nods to pros like George Romero that manages to celebrate and sometimes defy genre conventions at the same time.
Angel, Season 3, created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt
The third season of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff is dark, suspenseful and full of unexpected twists and turns. It's the season where Angel's crazy ex, Darla, shows up on his doorstep pregnant with his child, an old foe returns to take his revenge on the vampire with a soul, and one of Angel's own betrays him and sets in place the events that eventually lead to his own downfall.
But it's not all doom and gloom for Angel and crew. Season three is also loaded with hilarious moments and episodes that balance dark character drama with elements of horror, time travel, mysticism and romance.
I love Angel's ultra-serialized fourth season and its inventive fifth and final year, but the consistent third season always manages to pull me back to this show every year or so.