Fright Night Part Deux, Replacement Discs and All (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Fright Night 2 on blu-ray.  The original, not that crazy 2013 fiasco.  It exists, so long as you're prepared to import from Germany.  But considering this is the first time we've even had the film released in widescreen, let alone HD, I'd say it's worth getting excited over.  Especially since this is a 2.35:1 'scope film, so the widescreen presentation is particularly important.  Like, look at the rip of the fullscreen version below and how much is lost compared to the BD screenshot of the same frame.  It's a completely different viewing experience!  And yes folks, I tested it.  While it's labeled region B, this release plays just fine on my region A locked player.  It took me a while to land a copy, because the original pressing was faulty, and I was holding out for a corrected disc (more on all that later on).  But it's here now and I'm pumped, so let's spread our wings and take a serious flight!
So, unsurprisingly, Fright Night 2 is really not as good as Fright Night 1.  The original is such a smart, tightly written story with some terrific characters.  Fright Night 2 doesn't have that perfect story; the tone is all over the place, sometimes veering too far into the silly side of horror comedy, and... well, at least it does manage the most important part in bringing our two lead characters back: William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell.  No Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse or Stephen Geoffreys this time around, but you really couldn't have expected two thirds of them to return anyway, given how the previous film worked out.  But Bearse is unceremoniously written out with a quick, throwaway line that they broke up, and now there's a new love interest (Traci Lind).  After everything they went through: his risking his life to save her etc. and then they just "broke up."  Oh well.
So, Fright Night 2 is no Fright Night, but it's not bad.  It's directed by Tommy Lee Wallace of Halloween 3 fame, giving it an interesting blend of the two atmospheres.  We've got a new set of baddies this time around, with Julie Carmen as a relative of Sarandon's character, out for some revenge, as well as a memorable pack of subordinates including John Gries, Russell Clark and Brian Thompson from Nightwish.  Making the lead villain a female who can have sexual tension with the lead, as opposed to the lead's girlfriend, gives the sequel a little spark.  There's also some solid effects and a cool soundtrack that hearkens back - sometimes quite directly - to the original film.  But the writing just isn't there.  This time around, Ragsdale has graduated to college, and the campus setting just isn't nearly as compelling as the family home in the original.  Gags, even with the evil vampires, get really goofy; and McDowall doesn't have much of a character arc to go through besides retreading the first film, though they do have some fun following up on his "Fright Night" TV show.
Basically, so long as you go in prepared with tempered expectations, fans of the original should have fun with this sequel.  It's definitely not on the same level, but it successfully fulfills the essential promise of reuniting you with Charlie and Peter Vincent.  And there's nothing here to offend fans of the original, or rub them the wrong way like in the remakes.  ...By the way, if you've never seen it and are curious, Fright Night 2: New Blood isn't actually a sequel to the 2011 Fright Night.  It starts fresh, essentially remaking the original film yet again, but also blending in elements of this Fright Night 2.  So, Charlie and "Evil" Ed are in college, like the original Fright Night 2, and the evil vampire's a sexy woman again.  But they've never battled vampires before and meet up with the latest version of Peter Vincent (now a reality TV star) for the first time in it.  It's set in Romania and has a good look to it, but it's the worst itteration of the characters yet.  Honestly, any frustration or disappointment you may've had seeing Fright Night 2 originally back in the 80s will wash away after seeing Fright Night 2: New Blood.  This one's flawed, but not that bad.
Until this year, Fright Night 2 has only been available as a no frills, full frame DVD from Artisan that's long since gone out of print and gotten pretty pricey, especially taking into consideration the low value of the disc's actual quality.  But thanks to '84 Entertainment, that situation has finally been resolved.  It's still not the feature-rich special edition fans really want, but it's a great looking, fully widescreen and uncut edition, and in HD to boot.  '84's release is a "2-Disc Limited Collector's Edition" - essentially a combo pack - so we also get a SD DVD copy of the film.  There is a problem, however, with the blu-ray included in this set (the DVD is not affected): the stereo mix was accidentally "crushed" to a false mono.  I'll explain that when I get into the audio a little further down; but '84 has implemented a replacement program.  For a limited time (which may already be up??) you could send in your defective disc to the label and they'd send you a corrected disc.  Conveniently though, you can now order this from Diabolik, and they'll include the corrected disc in a CD envelope alongside the shrink-wrapped mediabook containing the original discs.
So here you can see both discs, side by side.  On it's face, it looks like there's no way to tell the two versions apart.  There's nothing in all that copyright text around the ring, or any of the other markings, that's different on the new disc than the old.  But there is a way to tell.  Look at the blue blu-ray logo on the bottom of the discs.  You might think it's just the lighting in my photograph, but no, those are actually two different shades of blue, darker on the left and lighter on the right.  The dark blue is the original disc, and the light blue is the corrected one.  So if you buy this set and are trying to figure out which version you have, look at the bottom blue.

Now, the difference between the two versions of the blu only relate to the audio, not the picture.  But still, just to be certain and thorough, I guess I'll go ahead and throw up both screenshots from of the blus for comparison.  And the DVD, of course.
'84 Entertainment's 2016 DVD on top; original blu-ray middle; corrected blu-ray bottom.
Boy, look how nice that framing looks.  Again, Fright Night 2 isn't on the level of the original, but I imagine it would've gotten a little less flack if horror fans were able to see the film looking like this on video and cable back in the days.  And the picture here looks pretty great, with natural looking grain on the blus, and a generally strong, untampered with image.  Not a lot of surprises by way of the comparison: the two blus really do look essentially identical, and the DVD of course is softer and more compressed, with all of the grain and minor detail smoothed away, but still would've been a pretty great DVD if Artisan had released that transfer back in the day.

So now we come to the dreaded audio discussion.  Well, first of all, the DVD has German and English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, and the blu-ray has the same, boosted up to DTS-HD.  All are strong and clear, with no subtitle options.  So what's the stereo/mono thing that's so messed up the original blu-ray needed to be replaced?  Here, let me break down the whole thing.
Stereo means that the sound is coming from two speakers, right and left; while mono audio is just coming through one channel.  Most of you guys probably already know that.  But you've also probably noticed that most DVDs and blu-rays of older movies that only have mono audio tracks are still playing sound from both of your speakers, not just one side or the other.  That's because mono audio tracks are still delivered in stereo, that is to say, the same sound is set to come out of both speakers (or more, depending on how fancy your home theater is).  If you buy a blu-ray with "mono" audio, you're never actually going to hear it come out of just one channel.  But more modern films started creating "stereo mixes," where the audio is actually different depending on which speaker it's coming out of.  So, for example, if your protagonist is in a haunted house and nears a noise coming from the left, that scary noise might only play from the left speaker, making the experience more immersive.  And by "modern," I just mean that relatively speaking, as stereo mixes have been around for decades and decades, and of course now we even have 5.1 mixes, 6.1, etc.  Some studios make new mixes for older movies, which often involves adding all new sound effects that the original filmmakers didn't create, which is why many fans want the original mono mixes even when theoretically better 5.1 mixes are available.  But that's a whole other debate.
Sorry for the lesson, but I've seen so much confusion online discussing this issue I wanted to make sure we're all on the same page.  So anyway, now you know how it all works, and for Fright Night 2, the thing to know is that it has a stereo mix.  Like, a proper one that Tommy Lee Wallace made for the film.  And that's what's on the DVD.  But on the blu-ray, they made a mistake, and took just one channel's audio and duplicated it.  So instead of the scary sound coming only from the left channel, it's coming from both channels, like a mono mix.  Yes, the blu still sends sound through both speakers, but it's playing the wrong sounds on one side.  And as you can see in the image I put together above, I double-checked the original and corrected disc, and yes, the first version is off; and yes, the corrected disc does fix the problem, giving us the proper stereo mix.  Hurray!
So now let's talk extras.  There ain't much, but there's not nothing.  One thing to note, in fact, is that the extras are a bit different on the DVD and blu-ray.  So if you have a blu-ray player, your tendency might be to totally disregard the DVD half of your combo packs, but in this case, there's a little something extra there.  Although, again, it's not much.

On the blu (original and corrected), we have the teaser trailer in English and the theatrical trailer in German.  Then there is a whole bunch of stills galleries.  Like, somebody really went all out on stills galleries, giving us behind the scenes photos, promo photos, alternate poster and video cover artwork, and even the film's Japanese and German presskits.  All together, there's six galleries.
The DVD, then, has all that stuff from the blu-ray, but it also has the full-length trailer in English.  Yes, that's only on the DVD.  It also has "Regine's Performance Nr. 1" and "2."  These are just clips from the film, when Julie Carmen dances in the film.  They're not deleted or extended scenes, they're just the same clips from the film, just stuck on here as extras because somebody was having fun, I guess.  And the only other thing the DVD has is a collection of bonus trailers, a couple in English and a couple in German.  None of the trailers are in particularly great quality (for Fright Night 2 or the bonuses), looking like they're all from old copies.  There's some interesting stuff, though... Could '84 be preparing a release of 1988's Dream Demon?

Anyway, finally, it's worth pointing out that this release is a mediabook, meaning it houses an attractive booklet with notes by Kai Naumann.  Of course, it's all written in German, but it's also full of nice full color photo spreads, poster art, etc.  And this is a limited edition release, limited to 2000 numbered copies.  Mine's #1162.
I've always been disappointed in Fright Night 2, even back when I was a kid.  But I also always still enjoyed it.  And after the remakes, my appreciation's only risen.  Come on, who doesn't want to see Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent a second time?  And if you're a Fright Night 2 fan, this is a highly recommended set.  It looks and sounds great, and it's an attractive release.  It's pricey to import, though, and getting the replacement could potentially be a hassle.  You could cross your fingers and hope for an American release, maybe even a special edition with commentaries and stuff.  But we've been holding out for that since DVDs were invented, so it might be time to bite the bullet while you can.

1 comment:

  1. I think we have the same opinion of the sequel, like many other sequels it is a "more of the same". But sometimes he gets something personal right, but they didn't know how to put the same verve ( 3 screenwriters) that the first one had. Tommy as a director is still a guarantee even with the budget halved, Julie Carmen as Regine Dandrige it's amazing.