Review: Fright Night (Blu-ray)

Twilight Time brings Tom Hollands 1985 genre homage horror classic Fright Night to a Limited Edition Blu-ray!

  • Director: Tom Holland
  • Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Amanda Bearse
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 106 Minutes
  • Company: Twilight Time
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 1
  • Video: 2.35:1 - 1080p 
  • Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Region: All
  • Released: 12/13/2011

I'll get this out up front, Fright Night is undoubtedly one of my favorite films of all time. I wholeheartedly mean it. Having seen it a ridiculously numerous amount of times as a kid till now, it's been solidified as a classic in my eyes. Even before I was a devout horror head I knew the film was special. Recognizing the films various homages, underlying themes and dark comedy today is paradise for genre lovers. With Twilight Time's just released (and now sold out!) Limited Edition Blu-ray, I've re-fallen in love with it thanks to the glorious clarity of 1080p.
Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a normal, good hearted high schooler that lives in a Norman Rockwell Anywhere, USA town. Just like any teenager, Charley has regular problems. He's failing Chemistry, his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) is afraid to take their relationship to the next level and the new neighbor who moved in next door to him is a Vampire. Scratch that last problem off from being regular. Said Vampire is a handsome, sweater wearing lothario named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) who is responsible for a series of missing women reported by the news. Charley witnesses this first hand as he sneakily views through his window Dandridge seducing a woman before spouting fangs. After failing to prove to a local cop that Dandridge is in fact a creature of the night, Jerry pays Charley a visit that nearly kills him. Knowing that he will strike again, Charley & Amy enlists their occult loving-outcast pseudo friend "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and washed up horror/television actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) to prove that Dandridge is indeed a vampire before he sucks his way through the whole town.
Before 1985, director Tom Holland was a seasoned screenwriter penning films like Psycho II, The Beast Within and Class of 1984 . Wanting to break into directing with a film that homaged his love of classic horror films, Holland's debut result was Fright Night. Holland's love of the genre is largely felt throughout the duration of Fright Night. Such as horror hosts (Peter Vincent) and late night cable stations (Fright Night) that were still around back then (Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs) but in 2012 are nowhere to be found. Holland even went as far as naming Roddy McDowall's character Peter Vincent, a tribute to legendary macabre actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Most idolized in Fright Night may be the illustrious Hammer Films for their atmosphere and striking color scheme. Fright Night truly is a horror film made by and for devout horror fans.
Coupled with the aforementioned homages, all involved actors elevate Fright Night past the mundane or cheesiness (for better or worse) that came with most 80's horror into likeable and memorable performances. Chris Sarandon is the definition of suave motherfucker as Jerry Dandridge. Even as a blood thirsty vampire he's still incredibly charismatic and charming. Roddy McDowall brings so much class and nuance as the reluctant, self deprecating vampire killer Peter Vincent. Watching McDowall act as the film unravels is a treat all in itself. Last but not least is the films iconic character, "Evil" Ed portrayed with method like quality by Stephen Geoffreys. Geoffreys brings "Evil Ed past a throwaway secondary character into one with lots of emotion, laughs and scares.
If I haven't made it clear, again, Fright Night is rightfully one of the holy grails in the horror pantheon. It's a perfect clash of humor and horror that still is relevantly entertaining as it was in 1985. Do yourself a favor and skip the abysmal 2011 remake which regurgitates many of the ideas found in the original but favors horrible CGI and lacks just about anything that makes a film entertaining. Fright Night is an ode to original, genre defining films that graced cinemas before countless uninspired remakes and sequels like today. Newcomers, seek this film out and welcome yourself to Fright Night...for real!

  • Video
When Fright Night was first announced it was making it's Blu-ray debut, I was overwhelmed with cautious excitement. I'd never heard of Twilight Time, a new video label dedicated to releasing films of yesteryear. That cautious pessimism highly alleviated after reading rave reviews for their BD releases of The Egyptian and Mysterious Island, I knew Fright Night was in good hands. I couldn't have predicted how stellar it actually is. Lovingly restored by Grover Crisp and his team at Sony, Fright Night looks incredible in 1080p. I've seen this film countless times on VHS, DVD and TV, I was in awe at this transfer, it's simply the best it's ever and possibly will look. A fine layer of filmic grain is present throughout, happy to report there is no DNR or digital foolery here. Detail is strikingly abundant and the film's excellent use of colors shine off the screen. There are times where the picture becomes a tad soft but I'd chalk that up to Jan Kiesser's Hammer Film inspired cinematography. Twilight Time has to be commended for their hard work on this release and being a die hard fan of the film I'm most gracious.
  • Audio
For the feature film, a sole native English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is available and it's quite glorious. One of Fright Night's greatest qualities is it's classic score provided by music maestro Brad Feidel. It's filed with a mood heavy synth theme, dark pop disco songs and shock stingers that remind you just how awesome the 1980's were. All are represented quite well in this brand new 5.1 mix that offers plenty of effective speaker use.

Bonus Features
  • Isolated Score Track
    Twilight Time has given Brad Fiedel's unforgettably creepy score it's own feature, allowing you to hear it's haunting beauty in an isolated DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. 
  • Theatrical Trailers
    Two original theatrical trailers are the discs sole video feature, both presented in HD.
  • Booklet
    Most welcome is a short but sweet essay by Julie Kirgo that really delves deep into Fright Night's underlying subtext themes. It's warming to see a shared love for Fright Night as many dismiss or overlook the film altogether which is a true shame. Having a physical insert booklet is very Criterion-esque and seems to be a dying breed amongst video labels, luckily Twilight Time is not such a label.
  • Magnet
    A cool fridge magnet is included donning the films iconic vampire cloud image. It's definitely a neat addition that would go well with other magnets from the companies Blu-ray releases.
  • Twilight Time Catalog
    A digital feature that allows you to scroll through the new founded companies catalog of current and upcoming releases.
It really is a shame no newly recorded bonus features could have been added to this disc as it totally would have benefited from having a great retrospective doc featuring the director, cast and crew. Apparently no inclusion of special features was beyond Twilight Times control which is a bummer but understandable. Have no fear though as genre website Icons of Fright recorded two audio commentaries themselves with many of the key players including director Tom Holland, Actors Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale and even Evil Ed himself Stephen Geoffreys. You can check out both of the commentaries here. Absolutely recommended listening.