Released by: Eureka Entertainment
Released on: April 10th, 2017.
Director: Tom Holland
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse
Written and directed by Tom Holland in 1985, Fright Night stars William Ragsdale as a teenager named Charlie Brewster. He lives alone in the suburbs with his mother, Judy (Dorothy Fielding), but on the night we’re introduced to him he’s alone in his bedroom with his girlfriend Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse). They’re watching TV, a show called Fright Night, in which a vampire hunter named Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), slays fanged evildoers in typical Van Helsing-ish style. What’s on Charlie’s mind, though? Amanda is, but once she decides she’s ready to let him do the deed Charlie looks out the window and sees two men carrying a coffin into the house next door.
Later, Charlie looks out his window and sees a man come up behind a naked woman and bite her on the neck. Convinced that his new neighbor is a vampire, Charlie talks to his friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), the weird horror movie obsessed kid from school, to figure out what to do. It turns out that the new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), really is a vampire but of course, nobody will believe Charlie. He even tries to get Peter Vincent to help him out, but Peter, he’s not the fearless vampire killer in real life that he plays on television.
Fright Night is a lot of fun. It never asks you to take things too seriously but at the same time manages to offer up some decent suspense and a few good scares alongside some clever laughs. It does this, in part, by creating interesting and likeable characters. Charlie is easy to relate to – those around him figure he’s got an overactive imagination, but we know he’s right. His character is reasonably well grounded though, we’re able to harken back to our own teenage years and the dilemmas that they carried through his own plights and Ragsdale plays the part just fine. Stephen Geoffrey’s tends to steal a few scenes as screwy supporting character Evil Ed while Amanda Bearse, a few years before she’d play Marcy on Married With Children, is really just as cute as a button as the female lead.
The real stars of the show, however, are Sarandon and McDowell. Sarandon exudes both confidence and menace, easily winning over the female characters in the film with his suave sex appeal and intimidating the men with his strong physical presence. He’s excellent in the part and goes a long way towards carrying the film. On the flip side is McDowell, playing a sort of cowardly counterpart to the type of brave, noble vampire hunters Peter Cushing played so well in the Hammer Films made in the decades preceding this picture. His character is the source of much of the film’s humor but it’s interesting to watch how a seasoned actor like McDowell lets his character evolve over the latter half of the film.
Not surprisingly, the film is also fairly effects heavy. The work on display here is both creative and effective and it adds to the film without taking away from what the performers are able to bring to the table. The end result is a film that is able to playfully reconstruct the genre without ever pandering or lowering the bar (so in that regard it works on many of the same levels as An American Werewolf In London). Briskly paced and endlessly entertaining, Fright Night stands the test of time as a highpoint in the eighties horror canon, a film completely deserving of its devoted audience and all the praise laid upon it.
Eureka presents Fright Night in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer from a new 4k scan and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The image quality here is excellent, the 50GB disc gives the movie the right amount of breathing room and the bit rate here is solid. The transfer is remarkably clean but never to the point where it looks artificial. Grain is present but never distracting and you’ll be hard pressed to spot any print damage at all. Although the movie does have a soft look to it (it always has), generally speaking detail is nice and strong and colors are reproduced very accurately. Things are slightly improved over the already very nice looking Twilight Time disc – Eureka gets the edge for slightly stronger detail and texture, though the differences aren’t massive. The transfer also features solid black levels and very organic looking skin tones. There aren’t any obvious compression artifacts of note nor is anyone going to notice any noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. Fright Night looks great here, there’s no room for complaint.
Audio options are offered for the film in English only in your choice of 5.1 or 2.0 Stereo tracks in LPCM format with removable subtitles provided again in English only. No problems to report here, both tracks sound quite good, offering decent dynamic range and crisp, clear dialogue. Levels are properly balanced throughout and hiss and distortion are never an issue.
This disc is absolutely stacked but the biggest and best of the extras on this release from Eureka is the two and a half hour documentary, You’re So Cool Brewster: The Story Of Fright Night. Directed by Chris Griffiths, this is mostly made up of new interviews with the likes of Tom Holland, Brian Thompson, John Gries, Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Julie Carmen, Art Evans, Jonathan Stark, Tommy Lee Wallace, Chris Sarandon and loads more. Along with the interviews we get plenty of behind the scenes clips and photos, clips from the film and occasionally some cool animated bits (mostly the opening credits). This is insanely thorough and very well put together, making it quite a treat for Fright Night fans. Previous commentary tracks on other releases have done a great job of covering the film’s history but this really goes above and beyond.
What Is Fight Night is an all new ten minute piece that features Chris Sarandon talking about Holland’s idea to make the movie, how the movie was a ‘return to the great convention of the past’ in how it portrayed vampires while still maintaining humor and putting a modern spin on it. We also get input from the music supervisor, the director of photography, the editor and a few others, all of whom offer their thoughts on what makes the picture so enduringly popular and such a cult favorite. Tom Holland: Writing Horror spends nine minutes with Holland who talks specifically about how his love of horror inspired him to create Fright Night and how when he was a kid being into horror meant that you were uncool – something he’s happy to have seen change over the years. Amanda Bearse pops up here, as does creature design Randall William Cook, actor Bob Corff and a few others – all of whom talk about how great Holland was to work with and their thoughts on his writing and directing work. Roddy McDowell: From Apes To Bats is an excellent twenty-one minute piece that pays homage to McDowell’s career through use of some great archival interviews, new interviews with Holland, Corff and others. Nobody here has a bad word to say about the guy, they all seem to have absolutely loved working with him and really appreciate the work he did on Fright Night and the legacy that he left behind with his massive body of work. These three featurettes look to have been originally created for the stand alone You’re So Cool Brewster Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release (which also included quite a few other supplements not ported over to this disc – things can be tricky if you’re a Fright Night completist!).
Moving right along, check out the ‘First Ever Fright Night Reunion Panel’ which was recorded at Fear Fest 2 in 2008. Here Holland, Sarandon, Ragsdale, Geoffreys, Stark and Amanda Bearse take part in a roundtable talk about their experiences working on the film that’s moderated by Rob Galluzzo. This runs just over fifty-four minutes and it starts with Holland talking about he became a director, then segues into why he made a vampire movie. The cast pop up and share some memories of working with one another and their thoughts on the film and quite a bit more. It’s a spirited talk with Galluzzo asking some good questions of the participants. It’s also unique in that it’s the only extra on the disc that has Bearse involved (and she’s got a great sense of humor about herself).
Shock Till You Drop Presents Choice Cuts with Tom Holland and Ryan Turek is a three-part series that is essentially an interview between the two men that takes a look back at the history of Fright Night. They start the discussion by lamenting the absence of a Fright Night special edition DVD (something that this release corrects) and then go on to talk about the making of the movie. Holland talks about having to travel to catch monster movies and cult films on the big screen in his younger days, the dedication involved with being a serious film fan and his acting and writing process as it relates to some of his work. They also cover the impetus to direct Fight Night, the themes that are explored in the film and how Peter Vincent is based on just who you think he is! The first part runs just under eleven minutes, the second just under seven and the third part just shy of eleven minutes. Not surprisingly, these also cover some of the same ground as the commentary tracks do but it’s fun to see Holland here as well as to hear him as he’s quite animated and he and Turek have a good chemistry together here.
Also very impressive is the Vintage EPK. More often than not, EPK featurettes are quick little ten minute spots that are basically commercials. This time, that’s not the case. This thing runs over ninety-minutes in length and while it’s sourced from an old tape (it would have been shot on tape to begin with) and is included here with time code over top, there’s a TON of stuff in here for the Fright Night fan to geek out over. The J. Geils Band song that is included in the movie? We get the video for there here with both English and Spanish opening bits and a bonus interview with the vocalist. We get loads of behind the scenes footage, some great bits and pieces showing off the effects work and scores of archival interviews with all of the principal cast and crew members as well as with Tom Holland. The picture quality won’t blow you away but there’s just a ton of very cool stuff included here – don’t skip this section.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is an extensive still gallery including a load of Tom Holland’s archival material, two different versions of the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.
It is worth noting that the Twilight Time release featured two commentary tracks and an isolated score option that are not found on Eureka’s disc.
The Final Word:
Fright Night was, is and probably always shall be a whole lot of fun and Eureka are to be commended for really putting together an amazing package with this release. The audio and video presentation is top notch and the inclusion of the feature length documentary makes this release the one to beat.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!