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Fright Night

(2011) *** R
106 min. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Director: Craig Gillespie. Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots.

/content/films/4281/1.jpgHaving recently distinguished himself as the director of Lars and the Real Girl and many episodes of Showtime's The United States of Tara, Craig Gillespie might seem an odd choice to head up a vampire picture (and Gillespie recently abandoned his post as director of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Nevertheless, Gillespie turned out to be a wise choice to guide the remake of the 1985 flick Fright Night. While the new Fright Night won't be inspiring any Master's theses or Ph.D. dissertation, Gillespie cast it up wisely and keeps the story moving at a fair clip.

The story takes place in a suburban development on the outskirts of Las Vegas. There, teen Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) contends with the usual drama of maintaining his tenuous grip on a "cool" reputation. To do so, he must wriggle free from his single mother (Toni Collette) and forsaken friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)—who refuses to take the hint that Charley has moved on—and devote his time and effort to sealing the deal with the pretty Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots). The "stakes" rise when Ed insists that Charley's next-door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire; it takes Ed's disappearance to get Charley paranoid, but once that's accomplished, Charley can think of nothing else but keeping himself and the women in his life safe from the guy with the nasty "overbite." Soon Charley is seeking the help of Criss Angel-style Vegas showman Peter Vincent (Doctor Who's David Tennant), a louche alcoholic who proves reluctant to get involved.

Gillespie and screenwriter Marti Noxon (a writer-producer on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) do a fair job of balancing the film's disparate tonal elements, situational humor sharing time with action and horror. Gillespie and Noxon also ratchet up the tension with a "sneak into the killer's house" sequence, Jerry's sexual designs on the virginal Amy, and a couple of decently staged all-out action sequences. Put under any scrutiny, the story reveals itself to be strictly by-the-numbers, but Gillespie's great taste in casting (with an eye to choosing thesps with a knack for comedy) makes all the difference. Yelchin makes an appealing Everyman, Collette can do no wrong, Farrell's sleek menace never fails, and Tennant is a hoot and a half parading around his high-rise apartment and generally mouthing off. The native 3D photography adds some punch to the proceedings, with respected lenser Javier Aguirresarobe (The Road) designing some fancy opportunities for depth effects. The story and characters lack that kind of depth, and, as a result, this Fright Night isn't especially memorable. Still, while it's unspooling, it has enough visual snap, narrative tension, and humor for a satisfying "drive-in movie" diversion.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Street date: 12/13/2011

Distributor: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Disney brings Fright Night to home video in a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy special edition that offers plenty of value to fans of the film. The hi-def 3D transfer can be somewhat problematic, depending on your display, in terms of the often dark visuals. Your mileage may vary. But the darkness is intrinsic to the experience of the film, and with a good display, the image can give a similar impression to the big-screen experience. As mentioned above, the 3D effects can be engrossing, even in seemingly simple camera movements through a suburban space. As with many 3D transfers crosstalk can pop up from time to time, but it's happily minimal here. The 2D transfer tends to be a bit brighter, crisper and more vibrant, so if the shadows prove oppressive, the combo pack is your friend. As for the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, it's reference quality, a definitive presentation for this film, and one that consistently impresses with its dynamics, musical presentation, and discrete separation for an immersive soundscape of score, effects, and crystal clear dialogue.

In addition to the various copies of the film, the set includes some bonus features on the 2D Blu-ray disc. "Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind" (2:09, HD) finds Tennant in character, explaining his "Fright Night" show.

"The Official 'How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie' Guide" (8:04, HD) is the disc's making-of, including cast and crew interviews about character, vampire storytelling, weaponry, special and sound effects, music and other topics.

Five "Deleted & Extended Scenes" (14:51, HD) are included: "Ride to School," "Neighborly," "Once a Freak, Always a Freak," "Midori & Kerosene," and "Back at the Penthouse."

Rounding out the disc are the movie-within-the-movie "Squid Man: Extended & Uncut" (2:56, HD), "Bloopers" (3:23, HD) and the "Music Video 'No One Believes Me' by Kid Cudi" (5:21, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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