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Fright Night (1985, Blu-ray)

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Fright Night on Blu-rayStarring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark

Written and Directed by Tom Holland

Distributed by Twilight Time


Fright Night is a film that really needs little to no introduction around these parts and for good reason. One of the more popular titles in Sony’s genre catalog, Fright Night is a much beloved classic not only to the horror crowd but fans of 80’s cinema. Tom Holland’s directorial debut is a loving homage to the vampire films of the 1950’s and 60’s featuring then cutting edge make-up effects (which still hold up amazingly well today) and some of the most heartfelt and memorable performances from an already seasoned and established cast of performers. As a storyteller Holland wanted to cross a vampire story with splashes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and The Boy Who Cried Wolf as well and wrote the Fright Night screenplay filled with unusually rich characters at a time when slasher flicks with disposable characters were all the rage (as evidenced by one of the tirades made during the film).

In Fright Night we meet horror film fan Charley Brewster (Ragsdale), who has taken a macabre interest in his new next-door neighbor, the charming and charismatic Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon). After seeing Jerry and his ‘live-in carpenter’ (Stark) carry a coffin into the basement and Jerry sprouting fangs behind the girl he’s brought home to snack on, Charley is convinced his new neighbor is a vampire. Unfortunately for Charley, neither his girlfriend, Amy (Bearse), nor his best friend, “Evil” Ed (Geoffreys), believes him; but Jerry is fully aware of what Charley knows, and if the teenager doesn’t stop interfering with his new neighbor’s nocturnal activities, Charley’s doomed to end up like all the decapitated people the nightly news has been reporting about recently.

Charley’s only hope seems to be his idol- the late night horror host of “Fright Night” and self-professed vampire killer Peter Vincent (McDowell). Peter isn’t convinced and being only an actor, he dismissed the teenager as a crazed fan suffering from delusions. But once Peter and Charley’s friends realize that the teenager wasn’t just ‘crying wolf’ about his dangerous and blood-thirsty neighbor, it’s up to Charley and Peter to rescue his friends and stop Jerry from ‘sucking his way through the entire town’ before it’s too late for everyone.

For a 26 year old film, it’s rather remarkable how Fright Night still manages to feels fresh and timely when age hasn’t nearly been as kind to many of its peers from that era of genre cinema. Holland’s script has a perfect blending of witty comedy with some great horror moments throughout featuring a cast of characters that are smart, complex and more importantly- identifiable and that’s what makes Fright Night a true horror classic that’s been able to stand the test of time for over two decades now.

As someone who has owned and watched Fright Night in various incarnations from VHS to DVD to a 35mm print I saw a few years back, nothing so far has even come close to the beauty of this anamorphic 2.35 transfer presentation by Twilight Time. Fright Night has always been a very grain heavy film (especially on VHS and DVD), but this Blu-ray not only manages to keep the film grain texture intact but tone it down to reveal an amazing amount of background detail that I’m shocked to admit I never noticed during the hundreds of times I’ve watched this flick. The textures that make up Jerry’s house are incredibly vivid, the atmosphere of Charley’s candlelit room has a feeling of warmth and intimacy that it has never had before and so many tiny details throughout Fright Night (including the contents of Peter’s vampire kit) really pop here. The coloring throughout the film is far more vivid than I’ve seen before and the transfer really breathes new life into special effects by Richard Edlund and Randall Cook, which have never looked better.

In terms of sound quality, the Fright Night DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is also nicely presented with background sounds finally coming in clear as a bell, especially during the Club Radio sequence when Jerry seduces Amy on the dance floor- the scene has never been more claustrophobically busy than it is here (but in a good way).

The main supplemental material for Fright Night is, for many film score enthusiasts, one of the horror genre’s holy grail that has been sought after since the film originally opened in 1985- Brad Fidel’s complete original score. Presented in a strong stereo mix on an isolated track, every note of Fidel’s haunting score is here for the first time and sounds incredible and immersive to boot. Fans also get a pair of theatrical trailers on the Fright Night Blu-ray that were definitely fun to revisit as well (upon reflection, it’s amazing how spoiler-heavy the trailers were back then) and while I would have loved to see some bonus materials or a commentary track, that’s generally not how Twilight Time handles their limited releases of classic films so I won’t get too worked up over not having more bonus features to indulge in here.

For longtime fans, picking up the Fright Night Blu-ray is a no-brainer; you’ve never experienced Holland’s modern genre classic quite like this and even with a $30 price tag attached, it’s still worth it as Twilight Time’s presentation here managed to reinvigorate the look and feel of Fright Night in ways I could have never expected.

To pick up the Fright Night Blu-ray for yourself, make sure to head over to the Screen Archives website to place your order since it’s not being offered through traditional retailers.

Special Features

  • Isolated score
  • Trailers

    Film

    5 out of 5

    Special Features

    2 out of 5

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    Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product

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    DesolationStarring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols

    Directed by Sam Patton


    I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.

    The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.

    So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”

    As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.

    • Film
    2.5

    Summary

    Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.

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    User Rating 2.87 (15 votes)
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    Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political

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    Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

    Directed by Eitan Gafny

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

    Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

    Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

    The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

    The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

    So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

    Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

    The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

    Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

    • Children of the Fall
    2.5

    Summary

    While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

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    User Rating 3.25 (20 votes)
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    Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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    Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

    Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

    The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

    Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

    The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

    While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

    All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

    • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
    3.5

    Summary

    Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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    User Rating 3.58 (19 votes)
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