Fright Night (2011) (US - BD)
Gabe witnesses the most orange and teal vampire battle in cinematic history...
After years of awkward adolescence Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has come out of his shell, and is one of the cool kids at his Las Vegas high school. He has a great girlfriend Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots), he gets along with his divorced mother Jane (Toni Collette), and he’s more or less living the teen dream. Then Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. Despite a fair bit of construction, Jerry seems like a normal enough guy, until Charley’s childhood friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) explains that people started going missing when Jerry appeared in town, and that Jerry shows all the signs of being a vampire. Charley initially disregards Ed’s suspicions, attributing them to his obsession with the occult, but soon realizes that Jerry is, in fact, a vampire.
Usually I don’t really care when I don’t love popular movies, but I’ve always been a little sad that the original Fright Night didn’t connect with me. I enjoy most of writer/director Tom Holland’s other film’s ( Class of 1984, Psycho II and Child’s Play specifically), enjoy the general concepts found in the amusing script, and I quite enjoy Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall’s performances, but as a whole Fright Night never quite clicked with me. But this is good news in remake terms, considering the original has all the ingredients for something I love. Surely someone else could take them and concoct them into something truly magical.
This Fright Night’s modernization of the original film’s basic character elements is perhaps a little too on the mark, occasionally even awkward (we really don’t even need to mention Twilight at this point guys, it’s understood), but it’s also a necessary part of the remake process. Teenagers aren’t afraid of their moms dating debonair types like Chris Sarandon anymore, they’re afraid of raw, dirty, sexy mother f**ckers like Colin Ferrell. This particular subtext is the original film’s best and most novel subtext. Ferrell is very well cast here, and is clearly enjoying himself with the role. He’s hammy without tripping over himself, and his occasional sardonic one-liners are among the film’s biggest laughs. I also kind of like the fact that Jerry the vampire watches reality TV trash and likes beer. The more that’s different about the character, the better. There’s also little reason for teenagers to be watching late night horror hosts anymore, and readjusting the Peter Vincent character to be a Chris Angel type douche bag magician is rather brilliant. Roddy McDowall’s original version (which he played in two films) is a more likeable person, but there’s room for a pricklier Vincent in this film. David Tennant threatens to over do it with the whole filthy cuss-bucket thing, but he reels it in just enough, and sells what could’ve been a one-note joke. However, the original Fright Night has become a part of the pop-culture horror lexicon, and even those who haven’t seen it have seen parodies, references, and rip-offs. There’s a heavy sense of déjà vu throughout the film, which isn’t unusual for a remake, but shouldn’t be this prevalent. The first half of the film ticks away pleasantly enough, but the changes struck me more as clever than good.
What’s ironic is that just when Marti Noxon’s screenplay starts moving away from the original film the movie starts to lose me. A lot of this stems from the film’s relatively low budget, and Gillespie’s inexperience with special effects and action. The car chase that kicks off the third act looks cheap, the apparently digital backdrops are empty, and there’s never any real sense of taking place outdoors. The following fight scene lacks physical and emotional weight, none of the scares really land, and I was disappointed by the lack of heavy gore (which was also a problem I had with the original film). But this would be pretty easy to overlook had I felt any real emotional investment in what was going on. There are neat ideas aplomb, even some genuinely creepy ones (especially the basement-cum-dungeon nest), but there’s little sense of inevitability, as if the film wasn’t quite written, but made up on the spot based on set availability. There’s also a lingering sense of Noxon and Gillespie showing their cards way too early. The original film has much more of a build, which leads to a shorter, but more satisfying climax. Farrell’s sly and libidinous performance is bereft of enigma too early, turning him into an equally libidinous monster without an entirely satisfying build up. And Farrell’s performance isn’t the only one robbed of impact thanks to the action heavy focus of the film’s second half. We’re forced to take Yelchin’s relationship with everyone around him for granted. His scenes with Collette and Poots are affecting enough to make some sense, but Mintz-Plasse is an afterthought (along with the first act bullies and hot neighbor), only acting as a somewhat backhanded reference for the original film’s fans. In fact, only Tennant is given more to do thanks to the strange division of style between the first and last halves of the film.
So a friend of mine linked me a blog article about the dreadful place digital grading has left modern Hollywood. The original writer was pointing out the fact that a scary number of movies that are effectively orange and teal. All I can do now is notice how right this is, and it’s sort of ruined everything I’ve seen since. The good news is that Fright Night isn’t exactly orange and teal. The bad news is that it’s almost fetishistically yellow and teal. Or perhaps amber and teal. Sure, there are reasonably warm skin tones, some brownish furniture, and there is a strong sense of red as a poppy hue (you know, blood and all), but for the most part Gillespie and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe appear to have a hard on for teal specifically. The costume design is even based almost entirely in the colour. Dark sequences are the biggest offender, appearing quite literally monochromatic save the deepest black shadows. Besides the ridiculous colour timing, there’s nothing much to complain about with this 2D transfer. The consistent colours look solid, details are sharp enough that you can count the discoloured spots on Ferrell’s t-shirt, and the digital HD photography ensures some really nice, subtle blends. There’s practically nothing in the way of digital noise and artefacts, outside of some minor ghosting, low level noise in the darkest backdrops, and a few minor pieces of edge enhancement. The biggest issue I have with the transfer is the utter darkness of the night scenes, specifically night scenes that take place indoors. Perhaps the 3D process somehow magically separates these over-shadowed images, but I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on for entire chunks of scenes, especially the central car ‘chase’.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this particular DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack outside of the fact that it sounds good, and its minor shortcomings are found in the scope of the original tracks. There’s quite a bit going on throughout the channels, some of it noisy, some of it soft and subtle, all of it clear and warm. There aren’t many excessive directional effects (injured vampires have a cool habit of scurrying into the rear channels, and the front part of the end credits are a bit of a surround sound celebration), but there’s plenty of general ambient business throughout the film. Ramin Djawadi’s score is delightfully brassy, hitting some really aggressive, high volume notes, deep, vibrating bass, and is active throughout the stereo and surround channels. The heavy, uber-theatrical nature of the score is genuinely awesome, even when it’s overselling generally un-frightening scares. There’s also (apparently required for this type of film) a club scene, which will give your sub a decent workout. My only complaint here is that I found the overall volume levels of the center channel dialogue too soft.
The extra features here begin with Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind (2:09, HD), an amusing mock-advertisement featuring Tennant discussing Vincent’s stage show in character. This is followed by The Official “How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie” Guide (8:00, HD), which is a general behind the scenes EPK all gussied up in a fun framing device. This includes interviews with writer Marti Noxon, director Craig Gillespie, producers Alison R. Rosenzweig and Michael De Luca, actors Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Colin Ferrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette and Anton Yelchin, effects supervisor Howard Berger, prop master Ben Lowney, and production designer Richard Bridgland. Subject matter includes Colin Ferrell’s performance, the vampire rules, the film’s gore quotient, the film’s props, music, production design, and the mix of comedy and horror. The disc also features five deleted/extended scenes (4:50, HD), Squidman: Extended and Uncut (3:00, HD), a blooper reel (3:20, HD), Kid Cudi’s ‘No One Believes Me’ music video (5:20, HD), and trailers.
I’d love to say that Fright Night is a member of the incredibly rare remakes that tops the original, but it’s such an overall disappointed it only makes me appreciate the original film more than I previously had. If that disc wasn’t so bloody expensive I might’ve ended up buying it. This isn’t a bad film, and it features some great performances, but it’s frustratingly uneven. The Blu-ray looks good (assuming you’re a fan of orange and teal), and sounds decent, but features very little in the way of extra material.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th December 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, DVS 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind, The Official How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie Guide, Bloopers, Music Video, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Squid Man: Extended and Uncut, Trailers, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 106 minutes
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