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Fright Night




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: October 24, 2009

Released by: Columbia Tri-Star
Release date: September 7, 1999
MSRP: $14.94
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes | P&S: Yes (side b)
1985



Fright Night was released smack dab in the middle of the 1980s, in the midst of the horror craze at both the theater and on home video. And its thanks to that explosion of home video that we have many of the horror classics that we still know and love today. Fight Night itself has a theatrical release and a successful one at that. With a budget of $9 million, it went on to make $25 million at the box office. It was the directorial debut for Tom Holland, who also wrote Fright Night. Holland would go on to direct Child's Play in 1988.

Many of us grew up on these 80 horror classics, yet we all know some don't age very well. Does Fright Night fall to time? Or does it manage to stand the test? Let have a look and find out.

The Story

inline Image Charlie Brewster's is your typical teenager, whose main interests are trying to convince his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), to have sex with him. One night while things are getting hot and heavy between the two, Charlie hears some commotion next door. He takes a look out the window and sees the two men carrying a coffin into the basement. When Charlie arrives home from school the next day, he sees a beautiful woman entering the same house. He asks his mother (Dorothy Fielding) about their new neighbor but she doesn't have much to tell him, only that he has a live-in carpenter. Later that night when Charlie's at the local burger joint, a news report comes up showing a picture of the woman he saw that morning and that her mutilated body was found under a nearby bridge.

inline Image Charlie decides to do some poking around at his new neighbor's house but is chased away by by the carpenter. That night Charlie finally bears witness to his neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), fangs and all, about to munch on a young woman. Jerry spots Charlie peeping and closes the shade. Charlie panics, trying to wake his mother up for help. He goes outside and hides in the bushes as he sees the carpenter dragging out a body. Charlie brings the police over to Jerry's the next day, claiming he saw them drag a body out. Charlie is quickly dragged out of the house by the detective after he claims a vampire is sleeping in a coffin down in the basement.

inline Image Charlie turns to his friend "Evil" (Stephen Geoffreys) for help. Evil doesn't believe the crazy story of vampire's but is quick to offer some advice after being offered some money to do so. Jerry does show up in Charlie's bedroom that night and threatens to kill him due to all his meddling. Charlie manages to survive after he stabs Jerry with a pencil, but he knows Jerry will be back. He goes to Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), host of the local Fright Night TV show and self-proclaimed vampire killer, for help and is quickly turned away. It's not until Amy pays Peter off does he agree to show up and prove to Charlie that hs neighbor is not a vampire. It's all for show, however. Peter shows up and has Jerry drink some holy water that is simply pure tap water and promptly claims Jerry is not a vampire. As they are leaving Peter takes out a pocket mirror and sees that Jerry does not cast a reflection. Peter quickly drives away, leaving the three to fend for themselves. After Jerry takes both Evil and Amy, Charlie must convince Peter to join him in a final battle with the vampire in a last ditch effort to save his friends.

inline Image Writer and director Tom Holland delivers a successful mix of horror with ample doses of humor sprinkled about in the 80s horror hit, Fright Night. Holland manages to create characters we care about, characters that seemingly care about one another, and his efforts pay off in the final product thanks to a talented cast. Roddy McDowall is perfect at the reluctant vampire hunter that is quivers at the thought of facing one in real life. Williams Ragdale as the nosy Charlie also delivers a dead-on performance of a teenager who discovers a vampire next door. His belief in the vampire really helps to sell the idea to the viewer. Even Amanda Bearse, future Marcy D'Arcy and self-proclaimed lesbian, puts in an acceptable performance as Charlie's girlfriend, who doesn't believe for one instant that vampires are real, but will do whatever necessary to put Charlie's mind at ease simply because she loves him. Lets not forget Chris Sarandon as Jerry the vampire. He is brilliant! Cool, calm, collected, and not a care in the world. Charlie is nothing more than a pest to him and he intends to squash him like a bug. Yet when he's pushed to the limits and tested, the pure evil and anger he portrays is indeed that of one pissed off vampire. And of course last but not least is Stephen Geoffreys as "Evil", Charlie's kind-of friend that is always in the background to give Charlie grief over something. I initially thought he didn't get enough screen time, yet that whiny voice of his can get to you over time. In retrospect I think he gets just enough screen time to be effective with his character yet not annoy viewers too much.

inline Image If there's anything hokey about Fright Night it's the story itself, yet the same could be said for any vampire movie. There's a nice blend of tongue-in-cheek moments with all the vampire mythology that is poked fun of, along with genuine dark tones to the movie. The effects are top notch and to this day are among some of the best in a vampire movie. The various transformations that are done for Jerry are all gorgeous and effective. The final battle boasts some impressive effects as well.

Fright Night is one of the highlights to 80s horror and even manages not to reek of the era, like so many others. If anything, it's the 80s that enhance the movie and make it that much better. The music is brilliant and helps set that dream-like tone. I love the entire dance-club sequence, the dream-like music, and the whole seduction between Jerry and Amy that ensues.

Fright Night stands the test of time quite nicely and it's one of those movies I find myself revisiting on a regular basis. It works on all fronts. Highly recommended!

Image Quality

inline Image Columbia Tri-Star presents Fright Night in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio that is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is ten years old now and is on a single-layered DVD, albeit double sided, yet it has held up well over time. There are some light compression artifacts visible at times but it's minimal. Light grain is also present at times, most notably in some of the nighttime scenes. No real print blemishes were found and the image itself stays consistently sharp. Colors are a bit subdued, though flesh tones appear accurate. It's an acceptable transfer, yet an aging one that is screaming for a modern day restoration and subsequent blu-ray release.

Sound

A Dolby 2.0 track is included that doesn't have too much life to it (pun intended). It's sufficient, though I can't help but wonder if it would have benefited from a 5.1 remix. Some of the scenes in this movie really benefit from the score and I think a better track would have exemplified that. The dance club scene is a perfect example where the track just seems a bit under-whelming when it should be just the opposite.

Supplemental Material

inline Image We've seen the cast and crew out and about at Fright Night showings, so why no love on the supplements? Your guess is as good as mine, but this release is about as bare bones as they come, with only a theatrical trailer included. Lets hope it's revisited someday.

Final Thoughts

This DVD was released at the very time this site was launched, and I'd say this review is about 10 years overdue. My apologies for that, but here you have it. The disc, although dated and woefully lacking in the supplements department, is a must own for all horror fans. The audio and video quality are acceptable enough, though a blu-ray release is certainly needed to bring it current. As for the Fright Night itself, it's some of the finest horror that the 80s has to offer, with a perfect blend of horror and humor. Recommended.

Rating

.
Movie - B

Image Quality - B

Sound - B

Supplements - D



Technical Info.

  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 26 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Surround

Supplements
  • Theatrical trailer

 

 

Extras
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Old 10-26-2009, 02:14 AM
HackMaster
there were some independently recorded commentary tracks with tom holland released online around the same time as the recent childs play dvd, weren't there? might be worth looking for. i tried to listen to the one for childs play, but it was pretty amateur.
 
 
Old 10-27-2009, 03:53 PM
Screamy Bopper
I saw this movie as a kid and made myself a gorehound for life!
Fright Night and Gremlins are among the best horror comedies ever.
 
 
Old 10-29-2009, 12:40 AM
Don't Monkey With Me!
A "B"!!!! It deserves an A!!
 
 
Old 11-01-2009, 07:43 PM
HackMaster
Spot on review. I rewatched this recently and found it enjoyable. But as far as horror movies go, it's light fare - but most mid 80's horror movies are.
 
 
Old 12-28-2009, 04:58 PM
Remaking My Soul
I agree with Shannafey. B is definitely too low.
 
 

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