Welcome To Fright Night ...For Real

Finally, finally, finally, Fright Night has a special edition! For those who haven't been keeping close track, Twilight Time originally released a limited edition blu-ray of Fright Night in 2011. Well, all 3000 copies of Twilight Time's blu, despite having no real extras except for an isolated score (a standard feature for Twilight Time), sold out surprisingly fast, and fans clamored for a copy as second-hand prices sky-rocketed into the hundreds of dollars. In the interim, Sony released non-limited blu-ray editions in Japan and Australia, and included the film in a 4 movie 2 disc DVD set here in the US, but the demand stayed high. So now Twilight Time has brought it back for a 30th Anniversary Edition, this time packed with the extras we've been begging for, and limited to a greater number of 5000 copies. Well, that sold out within two days, and those of us who pre-ordered are just now receiving our copies. Woohoo!

Update 1/25/15 - 10/8/22: Well, there's been a bunch of limited and imported Fright Night blus in the last several years, but all of that is over now. Sony has issued this directly, as a 3-disc UHD/ BD combo pack, with a superior 4k transfer, broad distribution (you can walk into a Best Buy and pick one up) and all new extras. Everything else, now, is history.
Tom Holland's Fright Night is just one of those perfect 80s horror flicks. It's fun without losing its serious edge. It's serious yet still manages to be genuinely funny. It's got a perfect concept and an iconic cast. It's the kind of horror movie that people who don't like horror movies will still enjoy, without alienating actual, hardcore horror fans. Not a lot of movies slam dunk on both sides of that fence.

It starts out a little Rear Window-ish, with William Ragsdale as our likeable every-man watching his neighbors suspiciously with binoculars... have they just committed a murder? Worse than that, they seem to be vampires! Of course nobody believes him and they all want him to stop telling crazy stories, even as the vampire gets dangerously closer to killing him and everyone he loves. Just when you think: maybe I'm starting to get tired of the "no, you've got to believe me!" schtick, the film takes a new angle. Ragsdale decides the only person in the world who can help him is Roddy McDowall, the vampire hunter he watches all the time on television. Of course, the actor who plays him is nothing like his character, but somehow he manages to press the cowardly and unbelieving McDowall into accompanying him, and they find themselves facing up against real life vampires!

Sony released Fright Night as a DVD flipper disc way back in 1999, and it became increasingly frustrating throughout the HD years that it was still the default disc up to the 2010s.  Twilight Time finally came to the rescue in 2011, and again in 2015, as discussed above.  Both of those pretty much uses the same transfer, but with minor adjustments to the contrast and bit-rate, as the film graduated to a dual-layer disc (also to accommodate the great number of extras, of course).  I highly recommend this HighDefDigest review, which fully compares the two, if you're still concerned about the pros and cons of the dueling Twilight Time editions.  Since then, Eureka's UK release became pretty popular, both for not selling out within hours of its pre-order availability, and its inclusion of (a cut down version of) the documentary, You're So Cool Brewster.  But now, who cares?  Sony has finally decided to stop passing off responsibility for this classic to boutique labels.  As a consequence, we've got a brand new UHD/ BD combo pack, with all new extras and all legacy stuff from the Twilight Times and the Eureka to render everything that came before it obsolete.
1) 1999 DVD; 2) 2015 BD; 3) 2022 BD; 4) 2022 UHD.
So yeah, they're genuine upgrades with each generation of media, but they've been top notch transfers since Sony's anamorphic 2.33:1 DVD back in the 90s. The colors are a little more natural on the 2015 blu and the detail is stronger, while also tweaking the aspect ratio to 2.40:1. You can see the geometry is a little pinched on the DVD.  Of course, the grain is much more evident on the blu; Jonathan Stark almost looks freckled compared to the DVD, which just doesn't capture detail that small. There's just more to see now in his eyes. And the DVD's also got that softer-edged, splotchier look that you routinely get between SD and HD.

And now of course, it's on UHD.  Even the new 2022 BD is updated, though.  The colors are stronger, plus a bit warmer, and the AR's been adjusted again ever so slightly to 2.39:1.  Both blu-ray encodes really do a pretty excellent job of capturing the grain, but there are little hints of macro-blocking and digital flaws that even the new 1080p blu corrects (look under Jonathan's eyes, for example).  Then of course the added resolution of the UHD keeps the image organic even when you get in super close.

Oh, and didn't I say the old DVD was a flipper disc?  Yeah, it had a 1.32:1 fullscreen version, too.  Out of curiosity, we might as well take a look at that.
Oof, it's not even open matte. And with the film being 2.35ish, that's like literally half the picture they're chopping off! But, okay. I really don't think anybody was thinking, hey, maybe the full-screen version will turn out to be the definitive one! So let's get back to the important stuff.

There is one flaw with the new UHD, and it's in the audio.  The DVD started us off with the original stereo mix, which is faintly hissy with occasional pops, but still perfectly satisfying.  It also has a French dub with English and French subtitles.  Twilight Time bumped the stereo up to DTS-HD, added a DTS-HD 5.1 remix, which cleans up the hiss and pops, and dropped the French stuff.  And this new set keeps the old mixes, still in DTS-HD, plus the English subs, restores the French options and also adds Spanish audio and subs.  All good so far.  But one big deal they make in the marketing of this is a new 7.1 Dolby Atmos mix.  And for the most part, it's great (putting aside the revisionism), except for one substantial mistake.  The song that takes place in the nightclub, when the vampire first walks in and all the way through to the dance, is missing its vocals!  It just plays as an instrumental track.  And it's not just a brief snippet of a tune that plays in the background of a scene.  The whole song plays all the way through and the characters do an important dance to it.  So gutting that song is makes a major difference.  Fortunately, the vocals are still on the original stereo track, which is really the only one that matters, plus the 5.1.  But anyone excited for the new, high-end 7.1 mix is going to be disappointed.
Of course, whether you're coming to the 30th Anniversary Edition from the DVD or from any of the older blus, by far the biggest advancement is in the extras department. First of all, that there are any at all. And secondly, there's a lot, and it's great, high-quality stuff. For starters, there's both the audio commentaries that were released online as mp3s years ago. They're lively, both informative and fun, and between them gather together almost everybody from the film: Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, special effects artist Randall Cook, plus moderators.  Both trailers (one more than the DVDs got) and the isolated score are carried over from the 2011 blu, and they've added a stills gallery.

Frankly, that's all I needed to be happy with that release. But there's a lot more, including a reunion panel from 2008 that's just under an hour long, and brings together Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse (especially nice to get here, as she was missing from the commentaries) and Jonathan Stark. And there's a set of three in-depth interviews with Tom Holland that add up to a solid half hour.  Oh, and there's also a nice insert booklet. The DVD had one of those, too; but the 2011 blu came with a collector's magnet which this one doesn't have.
And finally there's a Vintage Electronic Press Kit, which is kind of a mess, but a beautiful mess. When Twilight Time first announced this, my mind just read that as one of those six minute featureless made to promote the film that are comprised of clips of the film interspersed with a few on-set interview soundbites, and maybe a few seconds of behind-the-scenes footage if we're lucky. Nothing great, but still nice to have for the little glimpses of the past, right?

Well, now let me tell you it's over 90 minutes. Awesome! It's also not a single, edited documentary. It's just all the footage that was included in the film's electronic press kit. That means, for example, that yes, there is a short featurette like I just described included here, and it has a neat into by Roddy McDowall. And then it's included again, minus the intro. So it's not like 95 minutes of great stuff, so much as 85 minutes of stuff with greatness mixed in. Fortunately, it's carefully broken up into chapters so you can jump to each little section and just hit Forward to skip one.

So, there's the featurette, a music video of the main theme and a little making of for the that music video, which are all pretty great. And there's individual interviews Tom Holland, William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall and Amanda Bearse, plus another featurette about visual effects artist Richard Edlund. Oh, and four brief "newswrap" stories about the film. But there's also stuff you're going to want to skip, like the same music video but with Spanish titles, or a series of clips from the film, which are nothing but short chunks of the film in low video quality. Oh yeah, all of this is in low video quality and has a big time counter embedded into the lower center of the image, which I guess is why Sony never put any of it on their DVD. But I'm sure glad Twilight Time didn't pass it over. Just sit there with your finger on the Forward button ready to skip the repeats, and it's a good 45 minute or so watch. And for the diehard fans who really want both versions of the featurette, etc; hey, it's nice they've got the option.
I was surprised we got the whole EPK on the 2022 set.  I was expecting them to trim it to just the highlights, if that.  But no, Sony is on an admirable "all legacy extras" kick, and I'm here for it.  So the commentaries, EPK and everything from the Twilight Time disc is here, and so is the cut-down (the Fright Night 2 half is still absent) from the Eureka disc is here, as well as the YSCB featurettes they carried over.  You can read all about that doc on my dedicated page for it.  So this is already the best, and a fully packed, set of special features.  But there's also a bunch of new stuff.

The least but longest is the 35th anniversary script read.  It's just a script read over zoom and lasts longer than the film itself.  They did pack in a few nice little touches: Tom Holland records an intro, Rosario Dawson and Jason Patric make cameo appearances, the cast don vampire fangs when appropriate, and they get Mark Hamill to stand in for Roddy McDowell.  But who wants to sit through a 2-hour script read when you've got the proper film on the same disc?  What you might want to do, however, is skip ahead to the last 35-minutes, because after the read-through, they have a fun reunion chat and Q&A with all the participants.  They even found Dorothy Fielding, who was MIA for the commentaries and documentary.  So that bit's fun.

And there's some other fun stuff, though sadly it's almost all shot on low quality webcams.  Oh well.  There's a great little featurette about the novelization that interviews the two authors, a short clip of Holland describing an unfilmed scene from the script with storyboards (turns we didn't miss much).  Oh, and you might remember from Holland and his editor in YSCB talking about how they disliked Columbia's trailer for the film and made their own?  Well, they found that, plus some more storyboards.  And there's also an interesting new interview with Amanda Bearse specifically on the queer themes of Fright Night that goes surprisingly in depth, running for almost an hour.  And it all comes in a very stylish steelbook with the classic poster art.  Though the accompanying J-card fails the Grindhouse Video "does it fit in the case" test.
It took ages, but by 2015, Fright Night finally started getting worthy home video releases.  And in 2022, we've got the best one yet.  I can't imagine anyone topping it, or even trying, until the next generation of movie tech, where they inject nanites with little film projectors into our bloodstream or something.  Maybe a replacement disc to fix the botched 7.1 track, or the same discs repackaged with a coffee table photo book and life-sized Jerry Dandridge figure, but not another upgrade.  I daresay we've peaked.

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