The next entry in our 80’s Vampire movie Spectacular is My Best Friend is a Vampire, starring a pre-Dead Poets Robert Sean Leonard, Rene Auberjonois and David Warner. Although it came out after Fright Night, I saw it before FN because Best Friend is rated PG and I believe FN was R. Best Friend is also a little more campy and fun than FN, which made it great sleepover viewing.
Best Friend is about teenager Jeremy, who is nursing a crush on a band geek (who is somehow inexplicably able to blow him off with the same snottiness as if she were Queen of the Cheerleaders) and just trying to survive high school. One day, as he’s going about his job delivering groceries he encounters Nora, the kind of 80’s hot girl that pops up in these movies like high-tops–sultry, alluring, and for some reason interested in sweaty, inexperienced teenage boys. She turns him into a vampire, and wacky hijinks ensue as he tries to figure out exactly WTF is going on. Moments after Jeremy’s deed is done, David Warner enters the scene as psycho vampire killer Leopold, who kills Nora and chases Jeremy from the house.
Enter Rene Auberjonois as Modoc, a super-smooth vampire with a bitching BMW and a cup overflowething with awesome. He’s shown up to help show young Jeremy the ropes and keep him out of trouble. It’s kind of nice if you think about it–sure, it ensures the survival of the vampire species, but it’s also kind of nice to think of an older, experienced vampire out and about, on the prowl for some claret, and suddenly slamming on the brakes and declaring ‘My NOOB-sense is tingling!’ Then making up a care package of pig’s blood, sunglasses and arty hats.
While Fright Night approached the gay thing obliquely, coding so hard you’d think it was 1990 and the film a LINUX enthusiast, Best Friend hits it head on–Jeremy’s parents observe him hanging around with an older, ‘European’ fellow, driving the fellow’s car with its suggestive ‘NITEMAN’ vanity plate, partying all night and sleeping through the day, and react accordingly for an 80’s parent: they begin reading books on how to talk to their gay son. The entire thing becomes a secondary-story joke, as Jeremy goes about his vampiric adventures battling the vampire killers his parents are often in the background trying to come to terms with the fact that their son probably won’t be producing grandchildren.
There are other literal gay winks, as well: Jeremy, in the throes of bloodlust, visits an all-night butcher and requests a pint of pig’s blood. When the butcher presents it, he winks at the young man and asks if it’s ‘his first time.’ I have no idea what this could be a double-entendre for, but the direct meaning is that the butcher knows all about vampires and is amused by this awkward young man.
Best Friend was also one of the first vampire movies I’d seen that posited that being a vampire wasn’t all that bad: sure, it’s a lifestyle change, but there’s a LOT of good stuff that goes into it. The eternity thing is tempered when Modoc tells Jeremy that for every decade he will age only a year, so there’s still the ‘you get to watch your loved ones grow old and die’ thing, but the rest of the package is awfully alluring. Plus its all a moot point since Jeremy can’t be changed back, unlike in other films where killing the head vampire cures all the ones he’s changed.
There’s a lot to like about Best Friend. Sure, the jokes are sometimes groan-worthy and its fashion hasn’t aged well, but at its heart it’s a story about accepting and even celebrating who you are, even if that is different from the norm. Even now, that’s an awfully positive message: how many films about gay men and women today have to explore their feelings rather than just accept that they are gay? When will we see a mainstream horror or action movie with a gay protagonist that isn’t an allegory or that offers some explanation for the character’s orientation?
Jeremy may hang around with vampires in the future, but he’ll still have time for his human friends. Cheesy? God yes, but cheese makes everything better, even salads.