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Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: Fright Night

December 11th, 2011

Fright Night - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo, 3D Blu-ray Combo

Fright Night came out in 1985 and earned tremendously positive reviews and has a cult following. The remake was treated with a lot of trepidation, as a lot of fans of the first movie were worried this one would be a mockery. It went nowhere at the box office, but did that mean it deserved this fate? Or should it find a wider audience on the home market?

The Movie

The film takes place in a housing development in the middle of nowhere. Built during the boom years of the real estate prices, since the crash more people are moving out than moving in. It is particularly distressing for Charlie Brewster's mother, Jane, who is a real estate agent. They do have a new neighbor, but even before they really meet him, Jane's not pleased with him, as he's got dumpsters on his front lawn. It's hard enough to get people to buy a house in a failing housing development without someone putting a dumpster full of concrete on the front lawn.

Charlie has bigger things to worry about. He's dating a popular girl, Amy, and that's helped boost his social standing. His rise in the social hierarchy at high school has meant he's stopped talking to his old friend, Ed Lee. When Ed finally does talk to him, he's a little agitated. Adam, one of their classmates and a friend of theirs, is missing and he's not the only one. Charlie agrees to go to Adam's house with Ed to see if Adam is okay. However, he instead skips out on Ed and goes to his place with Amy. That's when he meets Jerry Dandrige, the new neighbor with the dumpsters, who is flirting with Jane.

That's when Ed sends Charlie another message, this time threatening to release a video that would kill his new cool status. When Charlie gets to Adam's place, Ed lays a theory on Charlie. Jerry, his new neighbor, is a vampire. Since Jerry moved to town, whole families have been disappearing. Ed and Adam were tracking the cases and all of the evidence leads to Jerry being a vampire. Charlie thinks he's crazy, especially after Ed uses Peter Vincent, a stage magician, as an expert on vampires, Charlie's had enough and the two fight. On the way home, Ed first runs into Mark, a bully from school, and then Jerry. While he's able to run away from Mark, he's caught by Jerry.

The next day when Charlie is at school and realizes Ed is missing as well, he starts to take his threats more seriously. But is it too late?

Fright Night is a film that works in spurts, but drags for much longer stretches. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is good as Ed, the geeky former friend. David Tennant is great as the cocky and rude stage magician. However, both of these characters are underused and of the main characters, only Colin Farrell adds any real life to his role, which is ironic, since he is technically undead. Likewise, there are a few scenes here and there that really build tension and / or humor, but for larger stretches of the film, not enough happens to hold your attention. This includes much of the beginning of the film and the slow start really hurts the film's pacing. Dropping the humor of the first film and trying to make a more straight horror turns out to be a mistake. Having the film set in Las Vegas was a smart move; after all, if there's any city in the United States where a vampire would fit in, it's Las Vegas. However, nearly every other change made from the original weakens the film.

The end result is a film that is serviceable as entertainment, with enough parts that work that it is worth checking out, if you are a fan of the genre or of any of the main cast. But even then, there's not a lot of replay value.

The Extras

The film bombed at the box office, so it is not surprising that the DVD and the Blu-ray are not loaded with extras. Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind is a two-minute featurette with David Tennant as Peter Vincent describing his most recent show. The Official "How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie" Guide is an eight-minute making of featurette, but it is the longest extra on the DVD. Squid Man: Extended & Uncut is the full video that Ed blackmailed Charlie with in order to get him to come over to Adam's house. There are three minutes of outtakes and a music video.

The only exclusive extra on the Blu-ray are some deleted scenes. As for the technical presentation, there are some small issues with a couple of the darker scenes, but overall the picture is very good. Detail levels are usually very high, the many night scenes boast blacks that are deep, colors pop when needed to, etc. There's no compression issues, aliasing, etc. The audio is also strong with clear dialog, good ambient sounds, some directional effects, solid base. On the other hand, it does cost nearly 50% more than the DVD. It includes a DVD copy of the film, but that is still a bit much.

I don't have the 3D version to compare. It costs an additional 20% more than the Blu-ray Combo Pack, which is a good deal.

The Verdict

Remakes should really do something more with the source material and not enough of the changes in Fright Night are for the better. There is some good acting by some of the cast and some good action scenes and overall it is worth watching, but neither the DVD, Blu-ray Combo, nor the 3D Blu-ray Combo are really worth buying.


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