Skip to content

Frank's Book Log

Literature is a relative term.

Fright Night Origins

2023 | Novel
A cover of Fright Night Origins by Tom Holland and A. Jack Ulrich (2023)
C+: 3 stars (out of 5)
on Nov 06, 2023

Tom Holland, director and screenwriter of the original Fright Night film, partners with A. Jack Ulrich to craft an expanded novelization of the film, proffering more backstory and setting up an expanded universe and sequel.

Like the movie, the novel focuses on teenager Charlie Brewster, who discovers his new suave next-door neighbor Jerry Dandrige is a vampire and recruits aging creature-feature host Peter Vincent for help.

Unlike the film, the novel transplants the action from Iowa to Rancho Corvallis, a small California town near Sonoma, and proffers additional scenes and backstory for Dandrige, real name Gellert cel Catura, and his servant, Billy, real name Wilhelm.

We also get details about Charlie’s absent father. He’d been an auto mechanic, a trade he learned in the Army. He died from injuries sustained saving a woman and her daughter from a burning car.

The result proves uneven.

I enjoyed the added scenes chronicling the police investigation into the rash of murders following Dandrige’s arrival. It lends a procedural angle absent in the film. A scene where two cops try to reconstruct what happened in the nightclub between Charlie and Dandrige and proffers one of the book’s best self-deprecating moments:

“What do you have?” Dent asked.

“Not a lot. Initial interviews are sketchy, but this is what I’ve pieced together.  A well-dressed man in his thirties, dark hair, intense eyes, was dancing with a girl, a bit on the young side.  Some kid rolled up and took a swing at our well-dressed man and he caught the punch mid-swing,” Gonzales paused.

“Bullshit,” Det. Deshawn managed.

“I’ve seen it, once or twice, an amateur swinging on a pro, but yeah, it’s rare outside the movies,” Gonzales said.

Another great in-joke comes when Peter Vincent bemoans how “even a stupid red-haired doll was more commercially viable than vampires…”

But Dandrige’s added backstory—like most villain backstories—robs him of mystery and edge. Likewise, the backstory for Charlie’s father helps explain Charlie’s motivation for standing up to Dandrige, but proves unnecessary.

Worst of all, the writing teems with lazy, awkward sentences. Consider:

Suddenly, the huge shadow of what might be a flying creature, a bat perhaps, was seen through his window. If only he were awake to see it, but he wasn’t.

Or the adverb-rich:

Peter stared at him and saw he was totally sincere, which meant the teen was crazy, certifiably insane.

And some chapters show signs of lazy editing. Chapter 57 opens with:

Peter smashed through the front door into the Brewster house after having just escaped Jerry and his ghoul, Billy Cole, on the stairway in their house.

Which recaps the prior chapter’s last sentence, reeking of outline splicing.

All that said, for Fright Night fans, the audio book makes it worthwhile. Chris Sarandon, who played Dandrige in the film, narrates.

The thrill of hearing him read the story overshadows the novel’s faults. This despite the glaring re-dubs in the narration where, for a sentence or two, Sarandon sounds like he’s in an echo chamber.

Disappointing, yes, but nothing Fright Night fans can’t overcome.

Reading History

    Mon Nov 06, 2023 via Audible (Read by Chris Sarandon)
    Listened to over 9 Days
    1. 29 Oct, 2023
    2. 31 Oct, 2023
    3. 04 Nov, 2023
    4. 05 Nov, 2023
    5. 06 Nov, 2023