Writer-director Tom Holland’s Fright Night is a both a time capsule piece that harkens back to a more innocent time and a survivor of its era. Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a typical high school kid, obsessed with old school vampire movies and perpetually trying to score with his chaste girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse). “Evil Ed” (Stephen Geoffreys) is Charley’s offbeat friend, but he’s a weird creation. As played by Geoffreys, “Evil” is a unique combination of geekiness and saaviness that transcends the standard-issue ‘80s outcast. Each of these young actors has terrific moments, especially during the fast-paced first half in which Charley attempts to convince his friends that an honest-to-God bloodthirsty vampire has moved in next door.
As good as the kids are (especially Geoffreys), the grown-up leads confidently steal the show. Chris Sarandon is the embodiment of dangerous charm as vampire Jerry Dandrige. Turning on a dime between friendly charm and icy anger, Sarandon creates an indelible villain. And as has-been horror actor Peter Vincent, fired from his basement-scraping job as host of a late-night TV horror showcase, Roddy McDowall goes from timid English gentleman to fearless vampire hunter with unparalleled grace. He’s funny and touching, even when accepting Amy’s savings bond as payment for helping convince Charley he’s out of his mind. Of course, Charley’s been right the whole time and Peter eventually takes up the cross and holy water to combat Jerry. The climactic battle overstays its welcome by a good ten minutes or so (the first and second act are suitable lean; a bit of F/X-driven bloat creeps into act three), but Fright Night remains a funny, scary classic.
I’m entirely satisfied with the visual presentation offered on this 30th anniversary edition. Full disclosure, I have never seen the original 2011 Twilight Time offering of Fright Night so I cannot compare. From what I gather, this is a new encode. Having seen the film many times on various standard definition formats over the years, I was quite happy with this clean transfer. Note there have been some reports about macroblocking (apparently visible only occasionally, for a fraction of a second, when pausing and advancing frame-by-frame). But even though some trustworthy sources have reported this issue, it has evaded my eyes. The movie looks great. Two audio options are available and both are solid choices: DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0.
The original Twilight Time Fright Night contained only a pair of theatrical trailers and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated score track as special features. All of that is repeated here, plus a whole lot more. There are two audio commentaries. Both have writer-director Tom Holland. He’s joined on one by actors Chris Sarandon and Jonathan Stark. On the other he’s with actors William Ragsdale and Stephen Geoffreys, plus FX artist Randall Cook. The most surprising piece is listed simply as “Vintage EPK with Behind the Scenes Raw Footage.” Despite rough, VHS-grade quality, this 95-minute piece includes all kinds of cool things like music videos, on-set footage, interviews, and featurettes. “Shock Till You Drop Presents Choice Cuts” is a three-part interview with Tom Holland that totals about a half hours. There’s also a Fright Night “Reunion Panel” from the 2008 Fear Fest 2 with a number of participants which runs just under an hour.
If you like Tom Holland’s Fright Night but skipped the Craig Gillespie-directed 2011 remake, I urge you to check it out. The Fright Night remake—with Anton Yelchin as Charley, Colin Farrell as Jerry, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as “Evil Ed,” and David Tennant as Peter Vincent—is inventive and inspired, yet respectful of the original. It’s also easier to come by than the now sold-out original, but keep your eyes open for good deals on Twilight Time’s 30th anniversary edition. Visit Screen Archives for more about Twilight Time’s line of limited edition Blu-ray releases.
All images, courtesy of Columbia Pictures, are strictly promotional in nature and not indicative of the 1080p Blu-ray presentation (for one thing, the film is in color).