Fright Night (1985, Blu-ray)
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.
5 out of 5
2 out of 5