Fright Night (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

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Fright Night (1985)

Director: Tom Holland

Starring: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse & Stephen Geoffreys

Released by: Twilight Time

Reviewed by Mike Kenny

 

Marking the directorial debut of Tom Holland (Child’s PlayThinner), Fright Night focuses on suburban boy next door, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), whose convinced his mysterious new neighbors are vampires.  When his attempts for help fall on deaf ears, Charley seeks out Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a washed-up actor best known as an infamous vampire killer, to restore peace to his quiet neighborhood.  Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride), Amanda Bearse (Married with Children), Stephen Geoffreys (976-Evil) and Jonathan Stark (House II: The Second Story) co-star.

 

Released at the height of the slasher movie boom, Fright Night pays tribute to the gothic tales of bloodsuckers, set in the modern suburban landscape of the 1980s.  William Ragsdale (Mannequin: On the Move) perfectly emulates the prototypical boy next door, Charley Brewster, struggling with trigonometry and increasingly horny.  Head over heels in love with his attractive girlfriend Amy (Bearse) and a horror movie aficionado, Charley becomes suspicious of his new neighbor, the suave Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon).  Only seen at night and caught ushering a coffin into his basement with his assistant and suggested male lover, Charley is certain vampires have moved into his neighborhood.  Sarandon with his handsome good looks and charming smile captures the sexual essence of screen vampires before him while, reinventing the mythic figure for a new decade.  The lovely Amanda Bearse shines as Charley’s better half who falls under Jerry’s hypnotizing will leading to an erotically charged dance sequence at a quintessentially 80s discotheque.  Unsurprisingly, the late Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) hams it up as horror host Peter Vincent who helps Charley in his mission after much convincing.  As an established cult icon, McDowall fits into the role like a glove with his performance ranking among one of his best.  Meanwhile, Stephen Geoffreys, playing Charley’s odd best friend “Evil” Ed, steals the show with his high-cracking voice and maniacal laughter.  Uncomfortable in his own skin and potentially shunning his own homosexuality, Ed is seduced by Jerry and comforted by the connection to another likeminded soul.  The effective emotions and suggested subtext separates Fright Night from being just any other ordinary vampire film.

 

With well-paced suspense and memorable humor (once again, courtesy of Geoffreys), Fright Night has all the ingredients to make a modern day classic.  Matched with spectacular visual effects, most notably a wolf to human transformation on par with Rick Baker’s work on An American Werewolf in London, from Richard Edlund (GhostbustersBig Trouble in Little China) and Randall Cook (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Fright Night leaves the viewer equally tickled and frightened the way all great horror films should.  A personal favorite, Tom Holland’s debut picture is righteously entertaining and one that stands proudly, along with The Lost Boys andNear Dark, as one of the finest vampire films to emerge from the 1980s.

 

Twilight Time welcomes Fright Night back onto Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  With only a slight and personally pleasing contrast boost, the transfer is identical to its already impressive 2011 counterpart.  Colors are rich and plentiful with detail bursting in facial features and the actors’ costumes.  Retaining its natural filmic grain, Fright Night absolutely stuns on Blu-ray!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Fright Night’s sound levels remain consistent with its previous release, delighting with crisp dialogue and 80s pop music adding an intended boost while, Composer Brad Fiedel’s (The Terminator) score sets the atmosphere with utmost clarity.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  While, its previous release was virtually bare bones, Twilight Time’s 30th Anniversary Edition comes bursting with content!  Special features included are an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Actors Chris Sarandon & Jonathan Stark, moderated by Filmmaker Tim Sullivan plus, an additional commentary with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Actors William Ragsdale & Stephen Geoffreys and FX Artist Randall Cook, moderated by Journalist Jeremy Smith and Tim Sullivan.  In addition, the 1st Ever Fright Night Reunion Panel at Fear Fest 2 (2008) with Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark and moderated by Rob Galluzzo (54:22).  Broken into three parts, Shock Til You Drop Presents Choice Cuts with Tom Holland and Ryan Turek has Holland interviewed at his house about his various credits including Psycho IIThe Beast WithinChild’s Play and of course, Fright Night (27:38).  Furthermore, a Vintage EPK with Behind the Scene Raw Footage (1:34:52), a Stills and Memorabilia Gallery from the Tom Holland Archives (73 in total), Original Theatrical Trailer “G” Rating (1:23), Original Theatrical Trailer “R” Rating (1:26), an Isolated Score Track and a 6-page booklet carrying over Julie Kirgo’s essay from the original 2011 release round out this impressive supplemental package.

 

Long cherished by horror enthusiasts, Fright Night never overstays its welcome with an entertaining cast and its effortless ability to inject humor and instill terror simultaneously.  Joined by a slightly belated and underrated sequel in 1989 as well as a mediocre remake in 2011 and adjoining sequel in 2013, Tom Holland’s debut opus gave slasher obsessed audiences a modernized tale that made vampires hip once again while, tipping its hat to its gorgeously gothic predecessors.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Twilight Time welcomes Fright Night back onto Blu-ray with stunning technical merits and a whopping supplemental package that ranks as one of Twilight Time’s most comprehensive to date.  Simple and endlessly satisfying, few vampire films have achieved such praise with its tongue implanted so firmly in cheek but, the children of the night are all the better for it.  Welcome to Fright Night…  for real!

 

RATING: 5/5

 

Previously available in a limited edition of 5,000 units, Fright Night 30th Anniversary Edition is officially sold out.

 

For more Blu-ray/DVD reviews from Mike Kenny, head over to Mike’s Pop Culture Playhouse!

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