Fright Night Blu-ray review

What better way to stave off the Christmas blues, than with the wonderfully timed Boxing Day release of this cult 80s classic, making a long overdue appearance on blu-ray here in the UK. This reviewer fondly remembers Fright Night as a video store staple of a bygone era, renting it multiple times over the years, and basking in it’s hilarious gruesomeness.

Writer-director Tom Holland, beat all those 90s post-modernists like Joss Whedon and Kevin Williamson by a good decade, with this sly and knowing comedy horror. Paying a loving homage to classic vampire and werewolf movies, whilst also referencing Hitchcock, and the contemporary teen movies of John Hughes, Fright Night dared to be different in an era where “nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins.”

William Ragsdale plays Charley Brewster, an ordinary enough teenager who lives on a street that kind of looks like the same one from The ‘Burbs, if every house was owned by the Klopeks. He has a girlfriend (Amanda Bearse), he lives with his spaced out single mum, he has a weirdo best friend (cult favourite Evil Ed, played with energetic gusto by Stephen Geoffreys), and enjoys watching Fright Night – a late night horror show presented by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a washed-up ham actor. A kind of D-list version of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Charley’s only real problems in life are that he sucks at trigonometry, and his girlfriend Amy won’t let him cop a feel. Then a vampire moves in next door.

Not just any vampire either, but the one and only Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) – the smoothest vampire in movie land! Charley tries to convince everyone that Jerry is a bloodsucking vamp, but no one believes him. His efforts ultimately achieve nothing, apart from pissing off Jerry. Not a wise move. With nowhere else to turn, Charley seeks out his idol, Peter Vincent and begs him for help. McDowall is undoubtedly the star turn in Fright Night. He plays Vincent with exactly the right amount of hammy earnestness, and is hilarious as a result.

It all builds to a superbly gory climax, with special effects legend Richard Edlund doing practical wonders with the film’s tight budget. One epic death scene in particular manages to be spectacular, gruesome, and emotional, albeit in a schlocky 80s sort of way. And thanks to Holland’s sharp direction, and winning performances from a game cast, Fright Night accomplishes the holy grail of horror comedies, by being both horrific and funny. Not as easy at it sounds.

To top it all off, the disc is packed with extras. Presented as both a dual-format special edition, and also a limited edition steelbook, the film has undergone a stunning sound and picture restoration. The prize feature, made exclusively for this release is You’re So Cool, Brewster, a new two-hour documentary on the making of the film. There’s also a series of new featurettes with cast and crew interviews, a focus on Tom Holland, and a loving profile of Roddy McDowall: From Apes to Bats, featuring archive footage of the great actor. The disc also includes the 2008 Fear Fest panel, which reunited the entire cast. Director Tom Holland is interviewed in a three-part video with Ryan Turek from Shock Till You Drop. The Steelbook comes exclusively with a new essay by horror film scholar Craig Ian Mann. All in all, it’s a bloody good release.

✭✭✭✭

This review first appeared on Entertainment Focus

John ParkerComment