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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Fright Night (2011) (Blu-ray)
Fright Night (2011) (Blu-ray)
Touchstone // R // December 13, 2011 // Region Free
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 12, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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Look, I get that it's a remake of a pretty much universally adored '80s genre classic, and I cringed my way through the TV spots and trailers right there with you, but...no, Fright Night really is one of the good ones. It's
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smartly written, pretty brilliantly cast, a helluva lot of fun, and just about everything I want to see in a remake. I guess that's the capsule review. If you're ready for a longer one, then...well, here goes something.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) grew up in the suburbs on the outskirts of Las Vegas, so he's used to just about everyone around him disappearing overnight. I mean, people don't live in Vegas so much as pass through, and streetfuls of 'For Sale' signs and empty desks in classrooms have gotten to be awfully familiar sights. Okay, there are a lot of abandoned houses up and down his block these days, and it feels like the class roster has been gutted down the middle, but Charley still shrugs the whole thing off as business as usual. His old buddy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) thinks he has it figured out, though: Charley's new next door neighbor is a vampire. A vampire named Jerry (Colin Farrell). Right. Charley's a recovering dweeb who's found himself a spot with the Cool Kids at lunch, so he rolls his eyes at Ed's mountains of evidence. Jerry is out all night and sleeps all day! His windows are painted black! There's that creepy dumpster full of...something that's been in his frontyard for weeks on end! He doesn't have a reflection and can't be videotaped and has super-sharp-teeth and drinks human blood and...okay, I guess we're kind of past the whole circumstantial evidence thing now. Charley knows that Jerry's a vampire. Jerry knows that Charley knows. So...um, what now? Run. Bite. Stab. Boom.

Make a list of everything about remakes that leaves you doubled over in agony, and Fright Night does every bit of it right. This isn't one of those movies where everyone stands around and explains stuff; exposition and speechifying are kept to a bare minimum, helping to keep the pace screaming ahead. Its jolts feel earned rather than a bunch of lazy jump scares, and the movie's cacklingly dark sense of humor constantly gets a laugh. No winking and nothing distractingly meta along the way either, I'm happy to say. It captures that playfulness of the best '80s horror where it's not a campfest and also isn't unrelentingly bleak and grim...y'know, it's a thrill ride. Fright Night is also unrepentantly gory, fully earning that R rating rather than getting watered down to a PG-13. The skeleton of a story remains intact, but this remake of Fright Night often takes things in a very
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different direction, de-emphasizing several of the driving elements of the original film and swapping around some of the character dynamics. That's what I want to see out of a remake. I mean, the original movie is already out there, so why do the same thing the same way? Plus no quick cutting, no droning electronic score...oh, this is a movie after my heart.

Too many genre flicks, remakes or otherwise, throw in a bunch of who-gives-a-shit archetypes who have maybe one defining personality trait that's hammered into the ground over and over and over. Fright Night, meanwhile, has actual characters. A big chunk of the supporting cast is pretty thinly sketched, sure, but the ones who count feel rounded out...and without dragging down the momentum along the way either. In any other movie, Amy (an off-the-charts gorgeous Imogen Poots) would be some impossible dream girl who's there to get snatched and gradually fall in love with our obligatory hero type, or maybe she'd be the Type A Mean Girl bitch that's only around to get knocked down a couple of pegs. Nope. Here, she's not a stock plot device but something resembling a person, and that's kind of awesome. Anton Yelchin makes for a really great lead, radiating a
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certain intelligence and sincerity that's impressively compelling. Colin Ferrell wisely goes for more of a quiet menace as the vampire next door. He plays Jerry as someone who's always in control. He knows how to read his prey, and he doesn't play an ace when a six will do. Someone who's watchful, quietly calculating, and skillfully manipulative is a hell of a lot more eerie...more unnerving...than some schlocky, wildly over-the-top badnik. And, of course, I can't really say enough good things about the Tenth Doctor himself, David Tennant, and his heavily revised take on Peter Vincent. He's not a late night TV horror host this time around but a douchey Criss Angel type...a foul-mouthed, overentitled, insecure lush, and I kind of love him for it. Anyway, Fright Night is pretty much perfectly cast, and these are characters the cast can sink their teeth into (sorry) rather than the usual gaggle of dumb people doing dumb things to keep the plot machine churning along.

I'm kind of surprised that the response on a lot of my movie message board haunts has been so negative. Lots of scowls, crossed arms, and harrumph-ing, and I don't think that's really warranted. Everyone seems to grouse about the lack of a real seduction as well the remake's lack of interest in the cat-and-mouse angle with Charley knowing he has a vampire next door but unable to do much of anything about it. I don't see either of those as a negative. Different movie...different goals. My own gripes are pretty minor, like the monochromatic tints to a bunch of scenes and some less-than-great CGI, but none of that's even close to being a dealbreaker. I grew up in the '80s with premium cable, so, yeah, I've devoured the original Fright Night more times than I could possibly count, and I'm really protective of it too. Still, I'm happy to sit here and say that Fright Night isn't only a worthy remake, but it's a really great genre flick, period. Highly Recommended.


Video
As you'd probably expect out of a glossy studio horror flick, Fright Night looks pretty spectacular in high-def, boasting digital photography that's consistently sharp and detailed throughout. Black levels are appropriately deep and inky in the dead of night, although contrast does tend to flatten out somewhat in underlit interiors. The cinematography also has a tendency to skew monochromatic more than I'd have liked, but whenever any other trace of color creeps in, those hues are generally rendered flawlessly. The bitrate's also given plenty of headroom, staving off any sputters or stutters in the compression. I can't say I'm a card-carrying fan of the look of the movie at times, particularly its bad habit of drenching every square inch of the screen in one color or another, but on the strictly technical end of things, this Blu-ray release of Fright Night is pretty much perfect.

The AVC encode for Fright Night spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. Oh, and if you couldn't tell from the screenshots, Fright Night is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There's a separate 3D release, but between not being sent that to review and not actually owning a 3DTV, I can't really say anything about that.


Audio
Fright Night is lugging around a 7.1, 24-bit DTS-HD Master
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Audio soundtrack, and it's kind of a monster in its own right. I mean that in a good way too. The subwoofer frequently unleashes hellishly low frequencies that rattle the foundation, and the sound design is teeming with smooth, seamless pans from one channel to the next. Effects are constantly bounding from the rear channels up to the front, so no one could accuse the surrounds of being an afterthought in this mix. The score by Ramin Djawadi is rendered remarkably well, and it's appreciated that his music leans towards classic horror strings rather than the distorted guitars and cold, electronic bloops you normally slog through in remakes like this. The multichannel setup isn't used to reinforce the scares as often as I'd have thought, although there aren't a lot of scenes that would've called for that sort of thing anyway, and the vamped-out climax more than makes up for it. Fright Night's dialogue is also balanced flawlessly, never drowned out or overwhelmed in the mix. No real complaints or criticism at all...pretty awesome all around.

Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish as well as a stereo Descriptive Video Service track. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.


Extras
Not much. Um, more than the DVD, though, seeing as how around half of the extras are Blu-ray exclusives.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (5 min.; HD): A lot of this new footage would've come earlier in the flick and revolves around the kinda catty Cool Kids. It's better off scattered all over the cutting room floor since it makes Amy come off as sort of a bitch. There's also a little back-and-forth between Peter and Charley that's clumsily setting up a surprise down the road, and last up is a not-that-great fake scare as part of the whole aftermath thing. None of this stuff is missed in the final cut, so I guess it works out that they're deleted scenes.

  • Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind (2 min.; HD): David Tennant doesn't break character in this promo piece for Peter Vincent's "Fright Night" stage show in Vegas.

  • The Official "How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie" Guide (8 min.; HD): The last of the Blu-ray exclusive stuff is this kinda-sorta making-of featurette. Rather than march along to the usual behind-the-scenes formula, this one breaks Fright Night down into a bunch of quick bulletpoints, such as Jerry being revamped (zing!) for the remake, spelling out the rules of vampire lore, trying to set Fright Night apart from the glut of other vampire flicks out there right now, the barrel drums of splatter, production design, assembling Peter Vincent's arsenal, finding just the
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    right sense of humor...touches on a lot but tears through it so quickly that you don't get much more than a cursory glance at anything.

  • Bloopers (3 min.; HD): Okay, and everything from this point on can be found on the DVD too. This way-above-average blooper reel dishes out a lot of great stuff, including some hypervulgar improvs from David Tennant as well as Colin Ferrell gurgle-choking on stage blood.

  • Music Video (5 min.; HD): Kid Cudi chimes in with a video for "No One Believes Me".

  • Squid Man: Extended and Uncut (3 min.; mostly SD): If that quick look at Charley, Adam, and Ed's blackmail-worthy and awfully LARP-y home video wasn't enough for you, then...hey! You get the whole embarrassing thing as an extra. This footage is presented in 1080p, but because it's supposed to look like something a bunch of 16 year olds shot with a camcorder in a suburban backyard somewhere, it's sourced from standard-def and has been upconverted. Things like titles and transitions have clearly been tackled in 1080p, though, so there's that.

Fright Night comes packaged in a shiny, embossed slipcover. The version reviewed here is a 2-disc set that also serves up an anamorphic widescreen DVD. The 3D release, for anyone keeping track at home, piles on a digital copy along with a BD3D disc. It doesn't look like the 3D release has any exclusive extras.


The Final Word
Fright Night is pretty much exactly what I want out of a remake, and...well, it's what I want out of a horror movie in general too, really. Sharply written, well-acted, nimbly paced, sopping with splatter, legitimately funny when it's trying to score a laugh -- I mean, what's not to like? By swapping around some of the character dynamics and sometimes veering off in a different direction than the original, Fright Night doesn't feel like some shot-for-shot retread either. I get that there's always a lot of scowling and stuff at remakes of '80s horror flicks, but Fright Night really is one of the good ones. Highly Recommended.
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