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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 9/16/99

Fright Night
1985 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Fright Night Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C+/D

Specs and Features

106 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), French and Portuguese (DD mono), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (I don't know which dialect), & Thai, Close Captioned

Like many other film fans out there, I grew up watching weekend "fright theater" shows on television. I remember watching The Mummy for the first time at my grandfather's house in upstate New York. I sat there with my eyes just fixed upon the TV screen -- no one could have pried my eyes away. I fell in love with monster movies at that moment, and there has been no looking back since then.

Fright Night is a film steeped in that same love for Saturday matinee horror films. In the story, Charlie Brewster is also fan of horror, and is a horny teenager and grade B student as well -- your typical, everyday teenage boy. One night after some heavy petting with his girlfriend Amy, he looks out the window and sees a mysterious twosome carrying a coffin into the basement of the house next door. His curiosity peaked, Charlie begins to poke his nose where it doesn't belong, and quickly learns that his new neighbor is a vampire. Soon, the vampire is out to get him, Amy and his best bud Ed (aka Evil Ed). Can Charlie, along with his favorite B-movie star-turned-fright-theater-host Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowall), save his family and friends before it's too late?

Fright Night came at a time when slasher films were tres cool. It was a very different film at the time: a stylish, modern, brat pack type of film, with a Gothic, Hammer-horror edge to it. You can easily liken it to Scream in its approach to the genre. The story is really great, the script shines (with nifty bits of comedy and horror), and the acting is all pretty good. The standouts here are Roddy McDowall (as Vincent), Chris Sarandon (as the vampire neighbor, Jerry), and Stephen Geoffreys (as Evil Ed). Amanda Bearse, better known to us as Marcy Darcy from Married With Children, also appears along with William Ragsdale as Charlie. Although visually the film hasn't aged very well, the tone, comedy and frights all translate very well into the late 1990s. I've seen worse horror films.

As a DVD, Fright Night isn't special editioned, which is slightly disappointing. With these special effects (a few ground-breakers among them), you'd expect a slight overview on the "making-of". The film itself translates okay to DVD. The print has aged a bit, and shows a little of it. The night shots (and there are a great many) show an excessive amount of digital compression artifacting around the edges -- this is not just heavy grain. I blew the picture up for 16x9 exhibition, and it looks a lot better that way, but folks without that luxury are going to see a "heavy digital fog" over a lot of the darker scenes. Initially, the colors are bit muted, but my LD looks the same way, so I'd have to say it was the original vision. Once the vampire hunt is on though, the colors get rich and deep. Skin tones are pretty good too. Take note of the hooker who asks Charlie where "99 Oak" is (8:36 in chapter 2) -- her bit of sun tan, and Charlie's own pale color are really good. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, and it's just as okay. No solid audio punches are scored, but you can hear what's going on. Personally, I would have liked some more effort put into this film. But it's on DVD now, so I'm at least a little happy.

Fright Night may not be on anyone's list of the greatest horror films ever made, but it's definitely up there in the horror/comedy arena. Do yourself a favor, and pick this one up for those late night pizza parties. Curl up with some friends, turn off the lights and let the frights begin.

Todd Doogan
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