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
Touchstone and Dreamworks bring this vampire remake to Blu-ray across two different editions, with 2D and 3D combo packs that feature differing artwork. This 2D edition is a two disc package with a BD50, Region A/B/C Blu-ray and a DVD disc of the film, housed in a slipcover with a blue trim. The Blu-ray disc operates just like any Disney title, with a pre-menu language prompter, a side menu, lingering timelines, and the ability to skip all pre-menu content. It must be said that the menu is definitely the most frenetic, psychotic thing ever associated with either company on this format, though it does reveal a bit much about the film...
This Blu-ray release of 'Fright Night' is neither stud nor dud. It just is. Presented in 1080p with the AVC MPEG-4 encode (at 1.78:1), the picture can be positively delightful, but there are some serious issues that can't be overlooked. The picture is regularly deep and very active, with tons of sharp details in the most minor of accents. Textures can be an absolute delight, stray hairs are always poppy and sharp, and, most importantly, the dark sequences, even the superbly dark chase scene, maintain clarity and detail. There's no crush, even if it becomes harder to see some elements, nothing is actually lost in the darkness, which is a major issue on a number of discs.
Sadly, the opening of the film is beyond problematic. The early scenes with the blue tint, that's not a big deal, even if skin tones get massively affected. The problem is the fact that textures become absolutely awful and unbelievable, hardly something that will engross the viewer, while skin tones can glow a bit warm in shots they aren't all tinted or hinted with blue. Another issue is the fact that DNR can be seen in a few shots, particularly our first shot of Jerry. Look at his chest area, and tell me that's normal. Go on. Better still, check out the shots of the young Yelchin that go opposite the Farrell scenes, and it's hard to say that there isn't some serious blurring going on. Detail is just gone. Vanished. Kaput. Noise, surprisingly, is kept to a minimum, and aliasing never rears its head. There are a number of scenes that look absolutely fantastic on this disc, but the few stinkers, man, they ruin everything.
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.
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 remake of 'Fright Night' isn't a genre redefining film, but after a few years worth of horribly emasculated vampires, actually seeing a sexual, brooding, nasty baddie is a welcome change. This film has heart and some humor, but definitely has its issues, as well. The Blu-ray release of this film is much like the film: has its moments, works well when dark, but also has its glaring flaws. This Blu-ray has a price tag a bit too high for what you get, but is definitely worthy of a pick up once it hits its first good sale!
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.