Transformations are the makeup and visual effects utilized to turn actors from the original Fright Night into monstrous beasts.
Writer/director Tom Holland was adamant that he wanted the vampires' eyes to "glow," and it was initially planned that the studio's rotoscoping department would animate glowing eyes, but this proved impractical. During the era when the film was made, soft, flexible contact lenses were modern and it wasn't yet feasible to utilize them for monster makeup, so hard plastic lenses had to be utilized. The actors had to have an optometrist create a hard plastic shell which covered the the entire eye. They were difficult to fabricate, highly uncomfortable for the actors to wear, and they could only be tolerated for 20 minutes at a time.
FX man Steve Johnson had learned how to make the contacts while working on An American Werewolf in London. Mentor Rick Baker had told him, "They've gotta be as bright as possible, they've gotta be florescent so the film picks it up," Johnson recalled. Trying to one-up Baker, Johnson decided to add iridescent powder and glitter. "I actually put glitter on top of the paint and then just sprayed the holy Christ out of it with layer upon layer upon layer of Krylon" spray paint sealant. For one scene, Johnson had lacquered so much sealant on Stephen Geoffreys' contacts that they were still wet when it came time to shoot. "I thought, 'Okay, I can't do this to Stephen, I'll put it in my eye first, just to see if it blinds me,' and I sat there [applying them] in the rearview mirror, going 'Oh, fuck! It's almost ready, it's almost ready..."
For Jerry Dandrige's makeup, Randy Cook noted, "I based its design on one of my favorite creature makeups -- John Barrymore's Mr. Hyde, which featured an extended skull, scraggly hair and long claw-like fingers." One part of Hyde's monstrous visage, a sloped forehead, didn't work on Chris Sarandon. "He has this wonderful, noble cranium that Barrymore didn't have, which was interesting as it gave the makeup an entirely different look."
The makeup process varied depending upon which scene they were shooting and how full into the vampire transformation Jerry had evolved. "The first, or transitional stage was comprised of a brow piece and a nose tip sculpted by Steve Neil," Cook said. "The second stage included a pair of ears and a full one-piece, paper-thin mask - beautifully applied by Ken Diaz - that resulted in an entirely new face for Chris."
Holland wanted to create spindly Nosferatu-like fingers for the character. Initially it was planned that only the right hand, which was referred to as Jerry's 'killing hand,' would be exaggerated, but partway into production the crew realized it would look silly if Dandrige had one oversized mitt. Molds were made of Sarandon's hands, which Cook utilized to create the finger extensions that Sarandon wore throughout the film. He "started out sculpting very small ones -- something like a quarter of an inch out," said Johnson. "But after discussing the matter with Tom, we realized that if we were going to go to all of the trouble of applying fingers on this guy every day, we might as well make sure the audience noticed." Straight extensions were used in most scenes, but if Dandrige was supposed to be using his hands a lot they applied curved extensions which conformed to the natural arc of the actor's hands when he bent his fingers. Sarandon has often joked that the rubber fingers caused difficulties whenever he had to urinate, so gay costume supervisor Mort Schwartz constantly offered to help him. Quipped Sarandon, "I said to Morry, 'Thank you, no, I'll just use a coat hanger!'"
It took up to 8 hours to prepare Sarandon's makeup. Sarandon was uncomfortable spending that long sitting in a chair doing nothing, and since he'd had experience doing his own makeup for his work on the stage, he volunteered to help. He did some of the stippling and, while the makeup men were applying prosthetics to his face and head, he worked on the finger extensions.
Co-star Ragsdale recalled one instance when Sarandon spent an entire day in the makeup chair and when he was finally fully transformed into the monster, a producer informed him that they weren't going to be able to shoot the scene that day. "And Chris said, 'Okay,' and turned around and went and took it off, it was amazing!" Ragsdale exclaimed. "I would have gone through the roof but he didn't. His will had been broken by that point!"
For Amanda Bearse's transformation, "Tom Holland wanted Amy to be very sexy and punkish," said Johnson. Some viewers have commented that Amy seems to have undergone breast enhancement surgery after being bitten by Jerry. "I went to some warehouse somewhere in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning and had three guys slapping plaster Paris on my chest," Bearse recalled. The FX team molded a larger pair of breasts which fit her natural contours thanks to the body cast. In 2012, Bearse discovered the breast plate preserved in a candy box in her garage, so she brought them to Monsterpalooza, held a silent auction for them, and encouraged fans to touch her boobs while she signed autographs.
Three sets of contact lenses were created for Amanda Bearse. When she put in the second pair, she realized that they were painful but she tried to power through so as not to seem unprofessional. It ultimately got to the point that she said something, and when the crew members removed them from her eye, they realized the plastic hadn't been sanded down.
The makeup for Evil Ed's wolf transformation took 18 hours. While he had the wolf head on, the crew began pouring what they thought was Methylcellulose into his mouth to create the illusion of saliva, but when Geoffreys began to complain about the taste, Mark Bryan Wilson realized they'd been using prosthetic adhesive, which was gluing his mouth shut.
The actors were only supposed to wear the contact lenses for 20 minutes at a time, but the shooting of the scene in which Evil Ed is in Mrs. Brewster's bedroom dragged on long. "I think that went on for a little more than 40 minutes and my eyes were scratched for months after the film wrapped," recalled Geoffreys.
The crew attempted to achieve the illusion of the cross-scar vanishing from Evil Ed's forehead live on-set, but effect was a resounding failure. In that pre-digital age, Edlund's crew was able to alter the film utilizing optical photography to achieve the effect.
Jonathan Stark encountered an entirely different set of problems than his costars with his contact lenses. Billy Cole's transformation unfolded on a staircase, but the actor was virtually blind in the contacts and kept tripping on the steps. When it became clear that they had to do something different to get the scene to work, Holland instructed Stark to remove the right lens.