The 13th Floor

Which Jerry Dandrige Is Your Kind Of Vampire?

Earlier this week, I took in a double feature of the original 1985 FRIGHT NIGHT paired up with its 2011 remake FRIGHT NIGHT 3D. Revisiting both films really got me thinking about their lead vampire villains. Despite being based on the same material, both were completely different interpretations of the same character. And in terms of preference, it really comes down to what kind of vampire YOU like.

Granted, I know all the purists out there will think there’s no competition. The majority should go to Chris Sarandon who originated the role of Jerry Dandrige in FRIGHT NIGHT. But the whole point of this “character showdown” column is to really analyze and break down what we like about these characters, and the performances of the people that inhibited them. Colin Farrell’s version merits another look.

In the first FRIGHT NIGHT, Sarandon has a certain sense of awe and romanticism behind his portrayal of Jerry. He’s young, sexy, attractive and extremely charming. Also, immediately likable. Charlie’s mom Judy Brewster is instantly smitten by their new next door neighbor. And Jerry exudes a certain confidence that would never lead anyone to suspect his true nature. “What’s the matter Charlie? Didn’t think I’d ever drop by without being invited first?”

The depth of his character only becomes more evident as the movie progresses. Yes, he is a monster, but as he tells Charlie, “I’m going to give you something I don’t have. A choice.” When he first spots Amy, he’s reminded of his long lost great love and suddenly a vague picture of what Jerry’s backstory could have been begins to emerge. For a monster, he sure as hell shows a tremendous amount of sensitivity for everyone he comes across. First with Evil Ed, extending his hand and offering him a new life. “They won’t beat you up any more.” And immediately, Evil Ed bursts into tears showing for the first time behind his constant jokes his vulnerability. Even when he seduces and bites Amy for the first time, the level of care he exhibits at taking her is exquisite.

In the 2011 version of FRIGHT NIGHT, Jerry Dandrige is a whole different animal, and I mean that in the literal sense. Our first glimpse of him is in the opening scene where he viciously tears apart a kid and his whole family. Then Evil Ed tries to warn Charlie of his predatory new neighbor and actually refers to him as “the shark from JAWS.” When we meet this Jerry, he’s definitely good looking and charming, but there’s that underlining sinister cynicism beneath it all. He’s got the bad-boy thing going for him and it definitely attracts Charlie’s mom, as well as the other local gals in town. The difference here is the setting. In the original, it’s just a small suburban community that Jerry settles into. Here, it’s the transient backdrop of Las Vegas, where people disappear all the time and most sleep by day and work by night. It’s one of the best tweaks to the remake.

"FRIGHT NIGHT" FN-005 Charley Brewster’s (Anton Yelchin, left) defenses are useless against a powerful vampire like Jerry (Colin Farrell, right) in DreamWorks Pictures’ horror film “Fright Night.” Directed by Craig Gillespie, “Fright Night” is produced by Michael De Luca and Alison Rosenzweig. ©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC.  All Rights Reserved.
Also, the Colin Ferrell Jerry relishes in being the creature. He likes killing. He likes intimidating. He comes off with a certain arrogance in his interactions with everyone that he’s always got one over on you and could tear you apart at a second’s thought if he really wanted to. But once his antagonistic relationship begins with Charlie, it’s almost like he enjoys messing with him the way a cat would fiddle with a mouse.

Unlike the original, this Jerry has no affiliation or connection whatsoever to Charlie’s girlfriend Amy. He just wants to seduce her to mess with Charlie. And in that regard, this version is far more an evil bastard that 85’s Dandrige.

Also worth noting, there is a wonderful scene in FRIGHT NIGHT 2011 where Chris Sarandon cameos as a concerned motorist in a car accident. And almost as soon as he gets out of his car, he’s feasted upon and devoured by Farrell’s Jerry. The new Jerry eating the old one.

Which one is better? Well that’s up to your personal tastes. Do you prefer the romantic tortured Jerry Dandrige as played to perfection by Chris Sarandon? Or do you like the evil, manipulative creature of the night that Colin Ferrell represents? Let us know!


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