By JOHN SKIPP, CRAIG SPECTOR (Tor; 1985)
Full disclosure: my feelings about the 1985 movie FRIGHT NIGHT, and by extension this novelization, will always be colored by my experience of seeing the flick for the first time. As I recall, the pre-release hype was tantalizing to this horror-obsessed twelve-year-old, with several claims of it being the “scariest movie ever made” (I hadn’t yet learned that nearly every horror flick is proclaimed as such). Therefore I was shocked when I finally saw this alleged scariest movie ever, and discovered it was actually a comedy--and an extremely dumb-assed one.
This novelization by John Skipp and Craig Spector brought back all those feelings, especially since these guys, in unforgettably visceral novels like THE LIGHT AT THE END and THE SCREAM, all-but invented the splatterpunk genre. You wouldn’t be able to tell that from this book (their one movie novelization), which in keeping with the film is jokey and disposable.
That’s not to say it’s a total bust, as the wit and energy that always distinguished the writing of Skipp & Spector are on full display, along with their characteristically hip, slangy prose. To the authors’ credit, they attempted to provide far more than the shabbily written hackwork that characterizes most movie novelizations.
If you’ve seen the FRIGHT NIGHT movie than you know the storyline, which Skipp and Spector follow extremely closely. It has the teenaged Charley struggling with the fact that a vampire has moved in next door to him, and enlisting the reluctant help of Peter Vincent, a has-been horror movie icon, to take on the bloodsucker. In the flick this entailed a lot of elaborate special effects, which the authors have a ball transcribing in prose.
Still, there’s clearly something missing. Skipp & Spector (who as of the early 1990s have gone their separate ways) were always at their best in unflinching and intense prose, which you won’t find here. If you’ve ever wondered how a PG-rated novel by John Skipp and Craig Spector might read, FRIGHT NIGHT has the answers, but I’d recommend reading full tilt Skipp & Spector efforts like THE CLEANUP or THE BRIDGE in its place.