Monday, January 11, 2010

Jerry's Lament: Romanticism in Fright Night

Tonight, I want to talk about a movie that modernized the vampire mythology and puts it into modern suburbia. That movie is Fright Night. It’s a movie that I love very much and though I am not a huge vampire fan, I find the movie highly entertaining and pretty scary… for younger audiences. However, I want to discuss the main antagonist Jerry Dandrige. Yes, for a bulk of the film he is an arrogant prick, a bastard and he loves torturing Charlie both mentally and emotionally but I want to focus on something that many people seem to pass by. He is really, in fact, a tragic hero.

Aristotle defines a tragic hero, in Shakespearean works, as a character who is of noble birth, has a tragic flaw, a victim of reversed fortune brought on by the tragic flaw, as a result he is self-aware and as an audience we feel pity or fear for this character.

In the movie, when Jerry confronts Charlie in the bedroom and shows him what he is capable of doing he says to him “I’m giving you something that I don’t have, a choice.” I think as a viewer we can assume that, in his previous life, he was a very wealthy man or a man of high stature who probably was a little greedy and therefore he was given the chance to be immortal… but it came with a price. There are several different interpretations of this but this is the one that comes to mind. Or perhaps, you can interpret it as he was born with this fatal flaw and that he had no choice in the matter.

About midway into the movie it is revealed that Jerry has a portrait of his lost love that looks suspiciously like Charlie’s girlfriend Amy. When Jerry’s henchman states, “She looks just liker her,” we can assume that Jerry has been around for a very long time and that Amy may have been Jerry’s love in a past life. We then realize that Jerry was once in love with somebody. I am positive that he loved this girl to no end but because of A) he was born a vampire B) he was turned into a vampire; it prevented him from coupling with her. Something happened to her that probably made him such a bitter person and turned him into the non-romantic vampire that he was all these years until Amy came along.

It’s because of this attraction and hints to the past that we immediately feel some sympathy for Jerry and at the same time we fear him. I think by leaving the bulk of the romance out of the film and only alluding to it, Tom Holland effectively created a great comedy horror flick. It still retains the classic vampire mythology but in a different way. I guess, you can say that skewed and indirect sequel to Dracula. I mean, Jerry may be a dick… but you have to admire his cockiness.

Note: I really looked in depth with this movie but rest assured, I spent most of my life watching this movie and enjoying it. I never looked this far into a character before.


Al Bruno III said...

This is a great article and a nice window on to what made Jerry a memorable character.

ZedWord said...

I always found the female love interest subplot to be very forced, yet I agree that Dandrige is a tragic character. I prefer to read his tragedy, however, through the lens of the film's gay subtext in which Dandridge's tragic qualities and fringe existence can be symbol of having urges that don't mesh with society.

Post a Comment