It was Chris Sarandon's idea to have Jerry eating apples throughout the film. While researching Vampire lore, Sarandon looked at information about bats and concluded, "Jerry had a lot of Fruit Bat in his DNA."
At the time this was being filmed, the studio was sinking all its efforts into making a hit out of Perfect (1985), and they also gave high priority to The Slugger's Wife (1985). "Nobody paid any attention to Fright Night," commented writer/director Tom Holland. "It was wonderful!"
In 2015, when asked if he could do a sequel to any of his movies (ignoring existing reboots) for a You Tube fan questions video, writer/director Tom Holland replied that he'd like to do a follow-up to "Fright Night" utilizing the original cast. His proposed plot was that single-father Charley Brewster inherits his mother's home and, soon after taking up residence, his two teenage children become convinced that there's something "evil" in the house next door - namely Evil Ed, who is squatting in the abandoned mansion, attempting to resurrect Jerry Dandrige.
Although the part of Peter Vincent was based upon and originally written for Vincent Price to play, Roddy McDowall decided Peter Vincent was not in the same league as Price. "My part is that of an old ham actor, I mean a dreadful actor," McDowall commented in a 1985 interview with Monster Land magazine. "He had a moderate success in an isolated film here and there, but all very bad product. Basically, he played one character for 8 or 10 films, for which he probably got paid next to nothing. Unlike stars of horror films who are very good actors and played lots of different roles, such as Peter Lorre and Vincent Price or Boris Karloff, this poor sonofabitch just played the same character all the time, which was awful."
The film's genesis came in Tom Holland wanting to do a vampire story crossbred with The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Avoiding using special effects at the expense of good acting, Holland included plenty of humour, warmth and relationships. He also wanted to make it valid to a modern audience by rooting it in reality - hence the suburbia setting.
Frustrated that they'd never been asked to do DVD extras, all of the principal cast members except Amanda Bearse (who was unavailable at the time) recorded two "pirate commentaries" which were released as free mp3s on the Icons of Fright website in 2008. Due to a contractual stipulation with Sony, distributor Twilight Time was unable to produce original content for their 30th anniversary edition blu-ray release in 2015, so they included both commentaries and other preexisting bonus materials.
Because of his theatrical roots and the long hours spent in the makeup chair, Chris Sarandon helped apply his own vampire makeup and often worked on the finger extensions while the makeup artists were putting appliances on his face.
Amanda Bearse was required to remove her top for a scene in the film in which her back and shoulders are viewed, but she was uncomfortable being topless in front of the crew so she covered her breasts with duct tape.
Charlie Sheen auditioned for the role of Charlie Brewster, but the director decided his looks weren't right for the character, so William Ragsdale was ultimately cast. "Charlie Sheen was a hero," Tom Holland commented in an interview with The Projection Booth. "Bill Ragsdale in playing Charlie Brewster was the guy next door."
The crew spent a lot of time and money composing the scene where Jerry walks through Mrs. Brewster's bedroom and casts no reflection in the mirror. "It doesn't work," director Tom Holland has frequently commented. "The audience never notices it because I framed it badly."
While blocking a scare scene, director Tom Holland asked visual effects man Randall William Cook if he could devise a "shark mouth" for one of the vampires. There was neither time nor money left in the budget to create an elaborate prosthetic, but Cook agreed to concoct a rig over a weekend with the proviso that it would only be seen on-screen for a few seconds. Ultimately the crudely made mouthpiece was not only featured extensively in the film, it was also utilized in the movie's famous poster art.
William Ragsdale injured his foot running down a staircase during the last shot filmed on 24 December 1984, just three weeks into principal photography. Ragsdale's action scenes were postponed until he was healed sufficiently to perform them and the director filmed other scenes to stay on schedule.
A puppet that was created for the ghost librarian's monstrous visage in Ghostbusters (1984) was rejected as being too terrifying for a PG-movie. When the FX crew subsequently went to work on Fright Night (1985), they realized the rejected model resembled the vampire bat that they'd created, so they repurposed and utilized it for the vampire's fiery destruction.
Writer/director Tom Holland conceived the role of Peter Vincent with Vincent Price in mind, but Price's health was declining and he was trying to shy away from accepting horror roles by that point in his career.
Roddy McDowall's idea for the 'Fright Night' TV show within the movie was that Peter Vincent had had minor success playing a vampire killer in a series of films in the 1960s, but his career puttered out 15 years before the movie takes place. Trying to make a living, Vincent conceived the 'Fright Night' TV show and traveled with it to various syndicated markets in the United States. "He'd go six months in Iowa, six months In Podunk," McDowall stated in a 1985 interview with Monster Land magazine.
Because of the horrible experience he'd had making The Sentinel (1977), Chris Sarandon was apprehensive about taking a role in another horror movie. Meanwhile, writer Tom Holland decided to direct 'Fright Night' himself because he was so disgusted by the film that had been made from his last screenplay, Scream for Help (1984). Both movies were directed by Michael Winner.
Writer/director Tom Holland encouraged each of the actors to pen 1-2 page biographies so they would fully understand their characters and motivations and be able to draw upon that information for subtext.
When playing Peter Vincent, Roddy McDowall based his character's movie persona on some bad actors from the films he used to watch as a child. To depict how his character reacted to the situation he was thrust into, McDowall found inspiration in The Lion from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
For the scene in which Jerry picks up the night club bouncer by the throat, the actor was crouched on top of a large wheeled box out of the camera's view. As Jerry grasped his throat, the actor gradually stood up to create the illusion he was being lifted high into the air and dragged across the floor.
Roddy McDowall was interested in playing Peter Vincent because the character was featured from ages 30 (in the old film clips) to 60 (when the events of the movie take place). "I'd never played anything that old," the then 57 year-old actor commented in a 1985 interview.
The character of Peter Vincent claims he has been fired from hosting Fright Night because "all they want are demented mad men running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins." - an obvious reference to the Friday the 13th franchise. The bouncer (Nick Savage) at the club, who first confronts Jerry, plays one of the 3 motorcycle gang members killed by Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th Part III (1982).
Pays numerous tributes to Salem's Lot (1979), such as the house with the large staircase and window backdrop, the basement finale at dawn, the older man/younger boy vampire hunters, the human guardian and his final demise on the stairs. The head vampire in Fright Night is also similar to the Barlow character in the novel by Stephen King, which was drastically altered in the teleplay.
Jonathan Stark was supposed to be wearing a pair of vampire contacts when he came up the staircase, but the actor was blinded by the lenses and kept tripping on the stairs, so the director told him to remove one.
The nightclub set used in "Fright Night" was a former hardware store near the studio which had been renovated for the Frankie Goes to Hollywood sequence in Brian De Palma's Body Double (1984) the previous year. Both films were released by Columbia Pictures.
While fending off a bat with a bone for the climax of the film, Roddy McDowall accidentally cracked the puppet's skull. The crew scrambled to fix the bat so they could continue shooting, but such extensive damage occurred that it took two days to properly reassemble, so they had to temporarily delay filming further close-ups of the creature.
When Stephen Geoffreys received the script, he presumed he was being asked to audition for the Charley Brewster role. Geoffreys was baffled and upset when the casting director informed him that she wanted him to audition for Evil Ed.
Tom Holland had total control in the casting decisions. The only suggestion he got was from Guy McElwaine who asked Holland to meet his friend Roddy McDowall, who'd be cast. In an interview Holland said that "it was a terrific suggestion".
In 1988, Now Comics adapted the film in the first two issues of a comic book series which was followed by 20 more issues chronicling the further adventures of Peter Vincent and Charley Brewster. Amy was quickly phased out of the comics but Evil Ed made frequent appearances and Jerry Dandrige was ultimately resurrected. Gradually the comics became serialized but running storylines were never neatly tied up because the publisher filed for bankruptcy in 1990.
"You could say Evil Ed is the gay kid who was bullied," director Tom Holland told Dread Central," "but I wasn't thinking that. I was thinking he's the kid who reads all those E.C. Comic Books." He commented on the implied gay relationship between Jerry and Billy, "The stuff with Chris Sarandon and Jonathan Stark, that's me."
In 1988, the film was adapted as a PC game for Commodore Amiga computers. Players portrayed Jerry Dandrige, who had 12 hours of darkness to visit every room of his sprawling mansion and kill intruders. All of the principal characters from the film were included (even bit-part "hooker" Cheryl Lane) with the glaring exceptions of Detective Lennox and Jerry's henchman, Billy Cole.
The phrase "Children of the Night" as mentioned at the beginning of this film refers to wolves howling at the moon as mentioned in Dracula (1931) as well as Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel of the same name.
The vampire contact lenses worn by actors Stephen Geoffreys and Chris Sarandon, as created by make-up effects designer Steve Johnson, were molded with actual flecks of glitter inside to achieve their bilious yellow reflective quality around the pupils.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Stephen Geoffreys is buried under the werewolf mask, the FX team poured a solution into his mouth to add a thick saliva-like texture and then realized they'd used dental adhesive, which was gluing the actor's mouth shut.
According to Chris Sarandon, He wanted Jerry to whistle "Whistle While You Work" rather than "Strangers in the Night" when first confronting Charley, but Disney would not give their permission to use the song.
Originally the script featured a radically different ending which was revised prior to filming. As Charley and Amy lie on the bed making out, "Fright Night" comes on TV and Peter Vincent declares, "Tonight's creepy crawler is 'Dracula Strikes Again.' Obviously about vampires. You know what vampires look like, don't you? They look like this!" Charley and Amy are horrified as Peter begins to transform. Once his transformation into a vampire is complete, Peter stares into the camera, says, "Hello, Charley," and then the picture freeze-frames and the credits roll.
The custom contact lenses were hard plastic, handmade and excruciating for cast members. Stephen Geoffreys was temporarily blinded and suffered severe scratches; Amanda Bearse found herself extremely uncomfortable with her second pair and had to stop shooting to have them sanded down.
For her final transformation into a vampire, Amanda Bearse donned a prosthetic breast plate to enhance her cleavage. In 2012, Bearse brought them to a horror convention and encouraged fans to feel her boobs while she signed autographs.
The novelization fills in some background details on the characters. Despite Charley saying he and Amy had been a couple for nearly a year, they'd only been seeing each other for three months. His father had left the family years ago. Charley's middle name is Alan. He was planning to propose to Amy someday. Peter Vincent's real name is Herbet McHoolihee. He auditioned for a bit part in a horror movie and instead got the lead role, so he changed his name to Peter Vincent. He's been an actor for 25 years. After being fired, he planned to move to Cleveland to host a new show. Jerry Dandrige is at least 400 years old, possibly more. He'd been the first to publicly claim to the vampire community that chemical additives upped blood's nutritional value to the undead. Dandrige is highly rated in vampire society. He comes from Transylvania originally and can implant psychic commands into people's minds. He knows right away that "Evil" failed to kill Peter. Billy Cole has served Dandrige for 113 years. Although not a vampire he's not human either. But he does eat and drink, and the book implies he's a necrophiliac. Billy sometimes envied Jerry's powers. Jerry and Billy claim to be business partners. Dandrige deals in antiques which is how he made his fortune. He finds them and Billy restores them. He claims the coffin he and Billy were carrying into the basement was a 16th Century Bavarian chest. The reason why Peter is hosting Fright Night at the climax is because after he was fired, one of the stagehands got the job. The teen audience were outraged and Peter was back by public demand. The end scene is supposed to be set three months later. Even though Amy's human again, she still has the breasts of a vampire. Much to Charley's delight. And Charley and Amy's relationship has moved onto the sexual level.
Jonathan Stark was covered in green and red gore after he shot the scene in which his character melts, so he asked to take a shower and was told that there was a plumbing problem in the building. On his way home, he realized he was about to run out of gas, so he pulled into a full-service gas station. "Some guy comes out and when he looked at me he turned white," Stark said at a reunion. "He gave me the gas, but when I left I saw him on the phone and I'm sure he was calling the cops!"