Fright Night (2011/Blu-ray)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Audiences weren't exactly screaming for a Fright Night remake, an anemic box office haul which barely covered production costs attests to that. But, as it stands, this new version is a modestly entertaining endeavor.
The story's essentially the same as it was in 1985: The new neighbor's a vampire and it's up to Charley (now played by Anton Yelchin, Chekov in the 2009 Star Trek reboot) to protect the 'hood.
This time the 'hood is suburban Las Vegas, in a brand new development of suburban hell that looks like it was pinched from Poltergeist (1982). While the actual filming was primarily done in much less sexy Albuquerque, the story's location change allows for the standard aerial shots of Vegas all lit up at night and affords the opportunity to recast Peter Vincent, the vampire expert Charley turns to for vampire-busting assistance. As originally played by Roddy McDowell, Peter was a TV horror hack along the lines of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Now he's played by David Tennant (Dr. Who) a big shot star of Fright Night, an extravagant new stage production at the lavish new Hard Rock Las Vegas.
As for Jerry, the neighborhood vampire, he's now taken the form of Colin Farrell (London Boulevard), but the original Jerry, Chris Sarandon, puts in a cameo. It's a brief bit in which Sarandon's character encounters Jerry and, well, that's all that'll be said here.
The Evil Dead
Fright Night is still billed as a horror/comedy, but the best scary bit comes before the movie's title card and the laughs are equally limited. There's nothing particularly witty about the dialogue and, while the action is couched in some humorous elements, sometimes the humor simply feels stale and the awkward blend of comedy and horror ultimately makes the horror less than chilling.
Charley (Anton Yelchin) has quite the cross to bear
That stale feeling is one of the dangers of trying to resurrect a modestly successful '80s flick (particularly one which spawned a sequel that flopped spectacularly).
The story doesn't feel fresh, the humor feels forced; the visual modern splashiness seems to be the biggest driving force for revisiting the Fright Night story.
At least the new cast is appealing... well, mostly so. Yelchin and Ferrell are quite good, as is Imogen Poots as Amy, Charley's sexually-eager girlfriend. One of the highpoints of the movie is when Amy goes on the warpath in Peter's palatial Vegas penthouse that doubles as a museum of arcane monster artifacts. Silver bullets, holy water, and a mace all come in handy.
On the other hand, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) takes on the role of Charley's best friend, Ed, and he's pretty much the same geeky dude he is in every other movie; like Michael Cera, he can't seem to escape the eternal hell of high school.
Even with the cast appeal, there still isn't all that much to get excited about.
Perhaps the most fun is in seeing how special effects have advanced during the past 26 years. One novel little scene involves Charley's mom (underused Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense) attempting to slay Jerry with a real estate yard sign; a squirming, writhing, contorted Jerry scrambles around in the street in a scene of grisly, nasty blend of horror and humor that the bulk of the movie lacks.
But this bridge to 26 years ago is full of potholes, making for a bumpy ride. Notably weird are some incongruous pop culture references thrown around between Charley and Ed. Sure, they're both geeks down to the core. But their conversations involve a reference to Jaws (1975), the contemporary Twilight book series, and Charley doing some highly inappropriate things with a Stretch Armstrong (a toy line discontinued in the late '90s).
Yeah. That's a stretch all right.
This review covers the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo edition. Also available is a three-disc bundle with the 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy; there's also a single-disc DVD version for those so inclined.
It's been a popular tactic to offer up extended and unrated cuts with a feature film's home video release. It's a little disingenuous, then, that the packaging for this Blu-ray/DVD combo release includes a sticker on the jacket proclaiming "UNRATED." Alas, the fine print below it says "Bonus Features," as in "unrated bonus features." No duh.
All things considered, though, the Blu-ray offers a decent dose of supplemental features. What it lacks in sheer volume it makes up for in pure entertainment value.
The best is Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind, a 2-minute mockumentary about Peter's Las Vegas stage show. It exhibits the kind of humor that should've had more play in the feature film and it's well worth a look.
The Official "How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie" Guide is an 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that also exhibits a sense of humor absent from the movie, most notably references to rules and regulations of the vampire union.
There are also five deleted and extended scenes (exclusive to the Blu-ray editions) totaling 5 minutes. The best is "Midori & Kerosene," a brief scene between Charley and Peter that should've been left in the final cut; it's got a couple rapid-fire jokes that play extremely well. The other scenes are non-essential, although "Once a Freak, Always a Freak" does offer a good, geeky laugh about Hobbits.
The following items are included on both the Blu-ray and the DVD:
Squid Man: Extended & Uncut is a 3-minute version of the home movie backyard adventures of Squid Man, Kid Comeback, and Gladiator Man, the video Charley watches while recalling innocent days with his geeky friends. It's actually pretty funny and successfully recreates the very real feeling of three best friends making a (really bad) home movie.
A blooper reel offers 3 minutes of behind-the-scenes gags which offer a look at the light-hearted vibe on the set of this horror/comedy flick.
Rounding out the package, Kid Cudi's "No One Believes Me" (uncensored) music video is a decent song set to some nice, creepy atmospherics. The real treat is the quality of the audio presentation, which is very well done.
Picture and Sound
Technically, the Blu-ray's picture quality (presented in 1.78:1) is top notch, but there are some scenes that reveal shoddiness in the filmmaking process, namely lousy green-screen effects work.
The audio is also quite good, with the music in particular benefitting from the English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
Also available are English 2.0 Descriptive Audio Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
How to Use This Disc
Check out the movie, of course. But also be sure to watch Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind. It's a good, 2-minute extension of the feature film.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.