The original 1985 version of Fright Night has achieved somewhat of a cult status in recent years due in no small part to the efforts of a certain director, Tom Holland; the same man who would go on to direct the horror classic, Child’s Play, in 1988 (one of my favorite horror films). Having seen the 1985 version myself, I passed it off as a mainly cheesy, but mostly entertaining, 80’s horror flick. Nothing more, nothing less… and now there’s a remake of it.
But remakes are a dime a dozen these days. Chances are that if you idolized something as a child, there’s a pretty strong chance it will receive a decidedly cooler, grittier, CG-ier update. Some remakes are critically acclaimed and do justice to the source material (Predators, The Departed, True Grit etc.) while some are obvious cash-ins (Clash of the Titans, The Wolfman, The Wicker Man etc.).
This review aims to place the remake of Fright Night into one of these categories… but which one? Hit the jump to find out…
Fledgling director Craig Gillespie is taking the wheel on this remake starring Collin Farrell as Jerry, the vampire next door, Anton Yelchin in the role of Charlie Brewster, Toni Collette as his mother, David Tennant as the outrageous Peter Vincent and Imogen Poots as Charlie’s girlfriend, Amy. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is also present as the nerdy “Evil Ed.”
Something important to note is that Craig Gillespie is an inexperienced director of horror films. Doing a bit of research, one can find that he directed such horror classics as Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock. Stylistically, I can’t say I see any resemblance between either of these movies besides the fact that Gillespie can’t seem to direct comedic situations very well or set a consistent tone. Some would call this movie a dark comedy, but it isn’t consistently funny enough to even be considered that. Some scenes that are meant to be funny aren’t and other scenes that are downplayed and executed subtly are incredibly funny due to the subtext inherent to those scenes. It’s a mixed bag, some would say, but overall, Fright Night doesn’t know what it’s good at.
Despite this, Gillespie is capable of creating and maintaining a dense mood fitting of Fright Night’s thriller roots. Many scenes are directed with care and precision and Gillespie takes no shortcuts when it comes to engaging the viewer in a scene. When we see Charlie stealthily avoiding Jerry the vampire, we feel the suspense and we feel the jolt that comes at the climax in that series of events. Gillespie probably doesn’t even know it yet, but he is a very capable thriller director. He seems to be a little bit challenged by the usage of CG, but none of it distracts enough from the film in a negative way. In fact, there are a couple of scenes in which CG was used that actually greatly enhance the dramatic and emotional impact of those scenes.
As for faithfulness to the original, the story was obviously tweaked a bit for various reasons. On the one hand, audiences needed to empathize with Charlie’s character more. In the original, Charlie Brewster was a complete nerd and obsessed with Peter Vincent, the vampire hunter with his own TV show; the titular Fright Night. Meanwhile, Evil Ed was the cynical jerk who constantly bates Charlie about his silly beliefs in vampires.
In the remake, the roles are completely reversed. It’s Evil Ed who’s the nerd while Charlie is the skeptical, rational one, but it actually makes for a much better story, since we want to like and understand Ed, but we can empathize with Charlie’s outlook. It’s classic conflict of interest.
Collin Farrell plays a dangerously omnipotent vampire who knows every twist and turn in Charlie Brewster’s machinations. One scene was all the convincing I needed that Farrell was right for the part. He plays his character with such charisma, yet with such boldness. We can grasp his feigned humanity through his cold exterior, and his various facial expressions are priceless and hilarious. This usually happens when he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s a vampire, almost appearing shy, while in the scenes where he outwardly projects his vampiric persona, he comes off more like an animal than anything else and loses that awkward charm.
Lastly, David Tennant as Peter Vincent stood out to me as possibly the most polarized character change from the original. In the original, his character is essentially a washed up TV actor with his own show flailing in the ratings. He’s also about 20 years older than Tennant’s Peter Vincent. In the remake, he’s exponentially more famous doing live, gothic vampire hunter shows and even lives in a huge flat in Vegas where he has a hot, smart-mouthed Latin American lover, which is quite a step-up in status from the original. The biggest change, however, is that Vincent doesn’t have the same arc anymore. In the original, it was about him overcoming his fear, yes, but also to acquire the faith to defeat Jerry the vampire. The religious overtones are tuned down for the remake, and his arc is simply getting over his fear and overcoming a surprising past experience…
There are new plot devices introduced, locations/facts that are switched around and scenes that are changed, which is bound to happen in a remake. The pacing can get a bit slow at times, which is a fine line to tread in a thriller… but in the end, this remake is pretty faithful to the original. Fright Night sets out to pay tribute to the spirit of the original while updating it for the current generation… and it succeeds, mainly. Let me stipulate, though, that I am not a huge fan of the original Fright Night, so my opinion might be vastly different to that of a diehard fan… However, if you walk into this movie with moderate-to-low expectations, there should be no reason to not enjoy yourself.
Overall Score: 7.85 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)
Sean Walsh: 8.00 – Great. I haven’t seen the original Fright Night (yet) but that didn’t impact my ability to enjoy this film in the slightest. I love Anton Yelchin, and now that he’s grown into that bobble-head of his, I can easily see him displacing Shia LaBeouf as the go-to young, hot guy (hear that, people making Y: The Last Man?). While his character’s initial adamant douche factor turned me off, as soon as he finds out that maybe his childhood best friend is right about his neighbor being a vampire, the douche factor vanishes and he becomes a likeable protagonist. However, David Tennant ‘s Peter Vincent was the true star in this film, and once you find out he isn’t just a two-dimensional fraud, he easily stole the show. Imogen Poots played her tough, hot chick role to a T and Colin Farrel’s bizarrely awkward turn as Jerry the vampire made for the best supernatural antagonist I’ve seen in a long time. Additionally, Dave Franco and Dylan from Modern Family were great albeit minor additions as Charlie’s ‘cool’ friends. My one big complaint about Fright Night is that the 3D did nothing for me, but on the bright side, the film made up for it in pretty much every other aspect. If you’re looking for a movie to see that will make you laugh, cringe, and deliver with an awesome climax, check out Fright Night.