During a late-night make-out session, a suburban teen spies two men carrying a coffin into the neighboring basement. Intrigued, he stakes out the nightly goings-on next-door, only to discover his suave new neighbor—played by Chris Sarandon—has fangs. Desperate for help, he turns to the local creature-feature host, an aging horror star played by Roddy McDowall.
McDowall channels Peter Cushing in a love-letter performance that reimagines the Van Helsing archetype as a vulnerable, reluctant hero who’s self-discovery arc gives the film an unexpected resonance.
Opposite McDowall, Sarandon is all sensual charm and sociopathic calculation spiked with a streak of black humor. I’ve seen this film countless times and struggle to name a horror villain performance I enjoy more. The script gives him all the best lines and Sarandon delivers them with such relish, his performance never fails to make me smile.
There are scarier, more intense, and more important horror films. But none are this much fun.