The 2011 version of Fright Night has arrived on Blu-ray, which will hopefully result in a larger audience for this largely overlooked horror flick. Since the 1985 original is a much-loved cult classic, I’m guessing the appearance of a remake resulted in a lot of eye rolling. The movie flopped at the box office when it opened theatrically last summer. It didn’t even manage to out-gross the original’s rather modest take from over a quarter century ago. None of that really matters though, because the new Fright Night is an awesome blast of scary fun.
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, Chekov in the Star Trek reboot) and his mom Jane (Toni Collette) live a Las Vegas suburb, a terrifically isolated setting for a scary movie. Charley has a smoking hot girlfriend (Imogen Poots) and hangs with the supposedly cool kids, having turned his back on childhood best friend Evil (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad, Kick-Ass). Though he feels twinges of guilt over his dismissal of Evil, Charley has much bigger concerns when he discovers a vampire has moved in next door. As it becomes increasingly clear that Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) poses an immediate danger to his family and friends, Charley seeks help from the only credible source he can think of: illusionist extraordinaire and vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant, the tenth Doctor on Doctor Who).
This film doesn’t boast a complicated plot. It follows the basic outline of the 1985 original fairly closely. Where it excels is in the excellent performances of its first-rate cast. Tennant steals every scene he’s in, a frequent occurrence during the film’s second half. The Peter Vincent character represents the remake’s most drastic reworking of the original. The late Roddy McDowall’s Vincent was a past-his-prime actor hosting a late night cable horror movie showcase. The new film reinvents Vincent as flamboyant Vegas showman with an extravagantly produced horror/magic show. Tennant digs into the role and really owns it, drawing a lot of laughs.
No less effective are the other lead roles, with Farrell bringing a broody, dangerous allure to Jerry Dandrige. Yelchin makes Charley believable as a former geek who is still adjusting to being at a higher rung on the social ladder. In an effective supporting role, Mintz-Plasse goes beyond standard nerd clichés by imbuing Evil with a deeply bitter and resentful streak that keeps the character somewhat relatable. I’m not sure what drew Toni Collette, certainly one of the greatest actors currently working, to the rather thankless role of Jane Brewster. She’s still a credit to the movie though – it’s nice that the filmmakers cared enough to get quality talent for even the smaller roles.
I’m not a 3-D guy, but I need to mention that Fright Night was in fact filmed for that popular format. There are quite a few moments that were obviously staged for maximum 3-D effect that looked kind of silly in 2-D. There is a 3-D Blu-ray combo pack available that also includes the 2-D Blu-ray and a standard DVD. I haven’t seen the 3-D version.
The 1080p transfer looks very good on the 2-D Blu-ray. Fright Night, as the title might suggest, takes place mostly at night. In other words, it’s very dark. I don’t feel that the black levels are deep enough, but at least all the night scenes register a pretty good amount of detail. Overall there is a kind of a washed out look to the nighttime scenes; what should be black looks gray. This is moderately distracting, but doesn’t by any means spoil the film. Sharpness is never a concern, with every item of ornate décor in Peter Vincent’s residence well-defined. High definition is rather unforgiving to the more obvious digital blood/gore effects, but all in all this is a fine looking Blu-ray.
The 7.1 DTS- HD Master Audio track provides a satisfying mix of subtle tension and balls to the wall surround sound power. Big set pieces like the brief taste of Peter Vincent’s stage production or a room full of moaning vampires provide the most robust audio environments. In those instances the mix envelopes the viewer, with plenty of rear channel activity. Being a scary movie, there is thankfully plenty of contrast with those busier scenes and those in which every footstep or door creak combine to create suspense. This mix has it all, with absolutely nothing to complain about.
The supplemental features are fairly underwhelming. A few Blu-ray exclusives are included, the best of which are a selection of five deleted and extended scenes. That’s really not saying much though, because these tidbits don’t provide much of interest. Fans of David Tennant will likely be disappointed with “Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind,” a brief featurette that expands just a bit on what we see in the movie of Vincent’s stage show. An interview with the former Doctor Who would’ve been preferable. A “How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie” featurette is a fluffy, EPK piece. Features found on the Blu-ray and included standard DVD are a blooper reel, Charley and Evil’s “Squid Man” home movie, and a video for Kid Cudi’s “No One Believes Me.”
The 2011 remake of Fright Night is well acted, well written, and just an overall fun movie to watch. Maybe vampire overload in the current film and television marketplace made this one seem passé. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor can anyone claim it is thought-provoking or emotionally deep. But it’s definitely entertaining and the rare remake that equals its source.