With the current Twilight craze, it’s hard to imagine a time when vampires weren’t in vogue, but that wasn’t the case in the 80s. As late night horror movie host Peter Vincent proclaimed, “Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see are slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” Well, with all due respect to Mr. Vincent (that’s not even his real name, you know), he was dead wrong. Tom Holland’s horror comedy Fright Night revamped the vampire movie, bringing bloodsuckers to the 80s with critical and commercial acclaim.
And then there’s the music.
The film soundtrack was some sort of perfect musical alchemy, one half comprising of varied 80s tunes and the other an electronic score that somehow made it all come together. The soundtrack LP featured only the songs, neglecting the other half, but decades later Intrada Records has finally addressed that omission.
At the time electronic music was replacing orchestral music, and since Fright Night was to be a modern spin on the vampire tale, the director opted for Brad Fiedel, who’d provided an iconic synth score for The Terminator. And as a result what we get is a mix of the modern and the traditional. “Window Watching” features an electric violin performed as if it were a killer guitar solo, and the baroque synth of “Charlie’s Cathedral” resembles a John Carpenter version of a dark Romanian tango.
There is a charm to the moody yet dated synths. Not just that they’re genuine, but that the music is sincere. In the liner notes, director Tom Holland says that “while there are some things about Fright Night that date it to the 80s, there’s nothing about Brad’s score that sounds old. You could put it out there with any other movie score and it would still work. When you hear it, you know he was a guy who helped revolutionize electronic music in film.” Fiedel had the pulse of the time, and while the Carpenter/Goblin homage groups out there now focus on making their music sound like an 80s artifact, Fiedel was there in the moment, channeling all his energy into the music and the notes and the melody. And boy did he come up with one hell of a theme.
Introduced in “Window Watching,” the main theme is a repeating synth figure that winds throughout the score, an earworm of a tune that underscores Jerry the Vampire’s afterdark exploits, luring unsuspecting women into his lair, all building up to an epic performance in “Come To Me (Seduction Scene)” that sounds like the steamiest, hottest vampire sex you’ve ever heard. Twilight yearns for music like this.
The album then descends headlong toward the climax of the film. And it’s here where those driven to this album for its hip 80s qualities will be thrown for a loop. Fiedel removes all melody and improvises the lengthy fifteen-minute-plus climax of the film on keyboard, playing along with the visuals like a silent film organist, then carefully layering the tracks with innovative electronic flourishes of sounds and percussion, a collage of old-school improvisation and modern technique. Since the music wasn’t designed to stand alone, this behemoth of an ending is a challenging listen, but aficionados of the avant-garde will likely admire the composer’s bold and uncompromising approach. Like the film itself, it begins with tongue planted in cheek and ends with fangs bared.
Unfortunately, because of licensing issues, the only rock song from the original soundtrack LP featured here is the composer’s own vocal version of “Come to Me” that wraps up the album, and it’s too bad because the other songs are part of the cult appeal, but let’s be honest: it’s a miracle this CD even exists. The original elements were long thought to be lost, and after years of digging, here they are.
Because of the absence of the tunes from the LP, the appeal may be diminished for some, but this release is for those of us who have had that infernal theme stuck in our heads for over twenty years, and pn another positive note, the liners finally clear up what happened to the composer. Absent from the Hollywood scene ever since scoring True Lies in the 90s, he turned his back on Hollywood and faced the sea, fulfilling a lifelong love of surfing, all while producing his own musical projects.
You’re so cool, Brewster.
You can get the album at Intrada’s website here.
And here’s the track “Come To Me (Seduction Scene)”…
Finally, for all those readers out there who have patiently read all of our October reviews, wondering when the hell Los Grillos would get off this Halloween kick, here’s one last treat that should make it all worthwhile: a recording of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic “Masque of the Red Death” read by none other than William S. Burroughs. It’s the strangest yet most fitting reading of the tale you’re likely to hear, sounding as if it were recited by the Red Death itself. It’s a staple of the season here at Los Grillos and just may be for you too.