Friday, April 22, 2011

Fright Night

A talisman of my childhood and a representation of it at the same time. Fright Night has a callow dipshit love the late-night host of horror movies on local TV; then the callow dipshit flips out when two wafting men move in next door--because when two men live together at night next door they bring sinister elements of menace and contagion to your suburban idyll.

When I saw this again--as an adult--maybe five years ago, I was gobsmacked: I'd remembered it as a rompy paean to latenight movie madness turning into a quite good kid-against-the-vampire-evil picture--with real loss!--but it was actually a meditation on Gay Dudes Living Next to You. This is a film where the Gay Subtext is actually drawn so clearly and so thoroughly that it very nearly becomes just the text.

The vampires recruit both the girlfriend and the best friend. The elder with his big swinging cross and his fine robes proves little help, if any. This really isn't subtle at all.

The rewatch beyond the gobsmack didn't do much for me. Something like what John Carpenter once called 'taking a tour of your living room'. I found myself thinking

yeah, it's all here...movies are artifice and sometimes cheesy but still influence us/ dudes walk among us, sometimes you get let down, sometimes people come through for you, heavy shit changes everything, even if you're okay on the far side.

These are trite messages, all of them. I knew that five years ago. Growing up gay is trite, dirt-common and dull, and loving the movies is as controversial as liking food, and sharing those things that are cool with your child? that's just flat square. Or so do scaly aging eyes see. I did not always look through such eyes. I don't look through them now, either--Richard Hugo once said1

Is this corny? Okay, it's corny. But so what? All great art has some corn in it.

Fright Night is not great art. It has some corn in it. But it has sincerity and generosity, it tries hard to be good without being humorless, and there's a lot of talent, a lot of craft snuck into the genre exercise.2

My dad is dead. He was gay, and he loved movies. It was because of him that I saw Fright Night: he picked it out, put it on, played it. A child celebrated it, an angry depressive sneered at it, and now I nearly cherish it. It was because of my dad that I watched locally hosted horror movies on TV. It is because of him that I understand that the gays next door--or the otherwise different anywhere--pose no threat and deserve no fear or loathing. I loved my dad. This movie Fright Night reminds me of him.

1 From memory. In his lovely The Real West Marginal Way.
2 Mostly speaking of the cast here.

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