Charley (Yelchin) is a high school senior who's on top of the world—he's running with the popular crowd and dating Amy (Imogen Poots, Jane Eyre), the most coveted girl in school. But trouble arrives when Jerry (Colin Farrell, In Bruges) moves in next door. He seems like a nice guy––at first. But there's something not quite right, and no one else, including Charley's mom (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense) seems to notice. After his classmates start to mysteriously disappear without a trace, Charlie discovers that there is more to his new neighbor than meets the eye.
Here's the credibility destroying disclaimer that I must mention before I say anything else: I've never seen the original 'Fright Night.' Not once. Not even in passing, not partially, nothing. Feel free to move along to the technical side of the review right now if this little tidbit of full disclosure upsets you.
Now, despite the fact that I can't make comparisons to the Roddy McDowall/Chris Sarandon film from 1985, I can say that the 2011 remake of the cult classic is definitely watchable, enjoyable, and somewhat fun. It's certainly a film that will keep viewers guessing, with a very different structure that doesn't follow the cliche plot points ritually found in vampire movies. In fact, when a few scenes happen way early in the film, I was left wondering how very far the film would go, with the third act reveals of many other vampire films happening in the first act of this one. Now, can I say that this is a vampire film for the ADHD crowd, considering? Absolutely. This is a vamp film that's high on action, and a bit low on dramatic effect and character development. Suspense does take a hit due to this formula change.
The premise of the film surrounds a simple enough thought: what would you do if you found out your neighbor is a vampire? That's the plight young Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is straddled with. His simple enough life in Las Vegas is hardly all that difficult, even if he's coming from a one parent (Toni Collette) home, with a girlfriend (Imogen Poots) that's far out of his league, and a group of friends (including Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed) from years gone by that he can use as a backup plan, in case is newfound popularity fails him. All that changes when people from the high school start disappearing, one by one. Taking note of this, Ed and Charley investigate the situation, and soon discover a plot that has vampire written all over it. Charley can't believe it, though, until he's faced with the truth in an undeniable fashion. The vampire next door Jerry (Colin Farrell) is not just handsomely rugged, he's also ruggedly handsome as well as manipulative and dangerously cunning, and his charm has won everyone over, and it's up to Charley and Las Vegas strip performer/vampire hunter Peter Vincent (David Tennant) to put an end to the menace.
This is one remake that isn't bad, by any means. It's not amazing, nor is it all that memorable, but it most certainly takes hold and doesn't let go. It's miles ahead of what passes for vampire flicks these days, and aims to rescue the genre from the sparkle-vision nightmare that has run rampant far too long. Vampires have been romanticized to the point of being neutered, and 'Fright Night' aims to bring the bite back.
The premise of the film actually really makes sense; the setting is ideal, as no one would ever expect such a creature in an area so sunny and hot, leading to all sorts of apprehension and disbelief, thus a situation where one could strive. The fact that entire families disappear, or kids vanish, in an area known to be rather transient, even for the actual residents, genius. The fact that vampire lore isn't abandoned, but played on, in a self-aware fashion that pokes fun at the myths makes for a number of fun sequences, while the characters are mostly believable in their roles, from the doubting Thomas initial reaction to the acceptance and fear that soon follows, as well as the obsession witnesses take, it's quite nice. Yelchin may be tough to believe in the age group he's portraying (he has the face of a kid, sure, but after playing an adult a few times now, it's a little off to time warp...), but does a fine job with the character who doesn't get to be all that layered.
The real star of this show is Jerry the vampire, mister Farrell himself. The man oozes charisma, and can take on nearly any role, so seeing him sink his teeth into such a violent, cruel character is really quite fun. The effects on his body can be a bit much at times, but the vampire teeth effects are awesome, and the character never feels like some kind of gothic Superman, even if he's definitely extraordinary compared to regular humans. Jerry is definitely the deepest character of the bunch, and you can feel the age of the creature, his experiences making him a crafty predator and an all too menacing manipulator capable of out-snaking a used car salesman. Any sequence in this film featuring Jerry is fun, sometimes a little tense, and generally interesting.
Sadly, the role crafted for Tennant doesn't work the same way. The Tenth Doctor's character really is a snooze. Sure, the backstory of Vincent is interesting, and his current occupation and dwelling are beyond neat, but there's really nothing to give a damn about with him, as he's given too little screen time, his character turning on a dime on a few occasions, and doesn't get to do a single thing worth a damn. He's a plot contrivance, and nothing more, which is a real shame, as I would have loved to have seen more sequences pitting Jerry against his most worthy opponent.
'Fright Night' is a decent vampire flick, even with all of its undoings. Sure, there are many more enjoyable films in the genre...they're just not being made these days. If you've run through the vampire section of your local rental haunt or streaming queue, you won't find anything all that original here, but that doesn't mean this remake isn't worth watching. It's quite interesting, and definitely has me salivating at the chance to view the original, which means it did at least a few things right. Don't go in expecting a genre redefining, brooding tale of fangs and you'll do just fine.
The Disc: Vital Stats
The 3D combo pack of this film includes the 2D disc, as well as an A/B/C coded BD50 disc with the 3D edition of the film. The DVD disc is changed, as it is now a combo with a Digital Copy that is exclusive in this combo pack. The packaging features a Disney-esque lenticular slipcover, holding a regular thickness three disc case with similar artwork. This release does not contain any DMR points, as it is not a Disney title. The menu and disc operation is the same as before, though the menu is now in 3D, and there is no special features tab.
'Fright Night' was filmed in native 3D, meaning it isn't some odd "conversion" movie with artificial effects that are more prone to not properly mesh to a cohesive, deep picture. That, of course, means it has a much higher upside than many other live action titles that have hit the Blu-ray 3D format this quarter. Sadly, there remain issues that keep this from being a "go to" disc.
When this disc looks good, it looks absolutely great, if I may say. Day shots in this film are phenomenal. The depth in the most mundane of shots, just looks at a house from the street, the way layers stack up, it's mighty impressive. It works wonders the way characters move through the picture, the way everything looks as though you could reach in and grab at something (or someone...), it's really a true to life bit of picture goodness. These day shots have great, sharp colors, including the shots of the silly convertible Volkswagen which are astounding in their realism. It's literally a portal.
But...the film does have the word "Night" in the title, after all, so day shots are not the majority of the film. Dark ones are, and they don't work as well. On the 2D disc, even in the darkest shots, you could make out outlines, discern characters from the shadows, and generally keep a sense of what is going on at all times. That isn't the case here. This dark film is often too difficult to make out, meaning a lot of information is lost along the way. There is no proper fix to this. Adjust scenes on the disc in the authoring process? That'd piss off people, for sure. Adjust your brightness settings? Yeah, there's no way that would affect the day shots... It's a no-win situation presented by this disc.
While I couldn't spot the DNR in the handful of shots that stood out on the 2D disc, I can attribute a lot of that to the fact that detail in general is a real pain to discern in some of those moments. Additionally, the sometimes wonky skin tones are a bit more exaggerated here, with some shots showing the characters with New Jersey spray-on tans. Ugh. There is one spot where a glasses frame looks a little jagged, and one sequence (the roll call) where ghosting was annoying as can be (your mileage may vary on these particular issues!).
Sadly, this film does have some absolutely amazing moments in 3D, making this one of the more annoying discs in the process. When vampires hit sunlight, and "explode" into embers, the way the debris floats through the room, it's one of the most remarkable shots on any Blu-ray 3D disc. Additionally, this film was designed with a handful of shots that feature objects coming out at the viewer, so fans of pop out effects will surely get a good kick out of this. The 3D is great. Really, really great. But what it does to the rest of the picture...not so much. Your mileage may vary on this title, based on equipment brands and technology types, as well as screen sizes, but on the system I review all 3D content on, I just can't get fully on board with this one, even though I really wanted to.
The lossless audio found on 'Fright Night' is...well, not anywhere near as good as I'd expect from a film in this particular genre in this day and age. Sure, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 can be a beast (when it wants to be), but for the most part, this is a very unfulfilling track, in regards to surround activity. I counted a handful of bits early that had nice localization and movement, but as the film went on, it all became a blur, with the soundtrack dominating anything that hit any channel besides the fronts. There's great thunder and power in the opening sequence, and a few bits with positive bass thump, but for the most part, there's really nothing worthy of being called even a demo worthy sequence or scene (let alone the track as a whole!). Dialogue is always clear and discernible, and dynamics are perfect, but I would have killed for some more localized dialogue, for some more splatters going through the room. Ah well.
All supplements featured here are found on the 2D Blu-ray disc. The 3D disc is film only
I suppose the best feature isn't a feature at all, but a bonus DVD copy is always a plus in my book. The rest of the extras? One good one, the rest a bunch of skippable nothingness, including the one Blu-ray exclusive.
The Blu-ray 3D release of 'Fright Night' presents one of the more troubled live action 3D titles natively filmed in 3D. It definitely has pop, and there are some astonishingly powerful moments, but this dark film just swallows detail and won't spit it back up for us to see. This combo pack is barely priced higher than the 2D standalone, so a crafty buyer can get it, keep the 3D disc, and pass along the 2D edition for nearly the entire cost. Those not wanting to go that route may want to wait for a good sale before partaking on this one.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.