There’s something wonderful and nostalgic about horror movies made in the 1980s. Those films never took themselves too seriously, but combined a wonderful harmony of both horror and comedy that always made going to the movie theater a lot of fun. The original Fright Night was made in 1985 and stands as a perfect example of why so many of these films are still considered great by today’s standards.
So why remake a good movie? Possibly because today’s younger generation has not seen the original or has even been exposed to that kind of filmmaking. But the reason probably has more to do with with a serious lack of new ideas in Hollywood. Whichever the reason, though, Hollywood has seen fit to give us a new updated Fright Night, and, fortunately, for us, this new one somehow works.
As in the original film, Fright Night is about a boy named Charley Brewster. Charley is an average teenager with a pretty girlfriend and a single mom who cares about him. The majority of his problems involve teenage hormones, school and fitting in. Enter Jerry, the new next door neighbor, and Charley’s ideal world comes falling apart when Charley discovers that Jerry is, in fact, a vampire.
But Jerry is not the kind of vampire we’re used to seeing in most modern day horror films. It is made perfectly clear up front that this is not Twilight. Jerry does not sparkle. Jerry is described to be more like Jaws, the monster that just waits for you to dip your toe in the water before he eats you for dinner.
So how do you remake this film and make it actually work? You start with a great cast, sprinkle in good direction, and add a script writer whose credentials include the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer television series.
Let’s start with the cast. Anton Yelchin is convincing as Charley, the innocent teenager who is more worried about prom and how his friends perceive him. We feel sorry for him when he suddenly gets dropped into a world where vampires exist. Imogene Poots is Amy, his beautiful girlfriend, who seems to see the person that Charley is inside and loves him for it. Toni Collete, as Jane Brewster, Charley’s mom, portrays the ideal single mother, right up to the tough as nails approach she takes when Jerry attacks her and her son.
For me, though, the film belongs to two actors. Colin Farrell, as the vampire Jerry, brings a sort of heat and intensity to the film. His predatory nature is established early on and is both seductive and scary, although he rarely raises his voice or an eyebrow. He plays the character with such detachment that it is easy to believe that he has not been human for well over 400 years.
The Peter Vincent role has been updated from the original film to a glitzy British Las Vegas magician, in the style of Chris Angel. Doctor Who‘s David Tennant shines in this updated version, giving the character an edgy and comedic energy that fits in well with the horror-comedy of the film. Peter Vincent is the “expert” on vampires, although we see early on that he’s both a fraud and a coward. Tennant makes this character one of the most likable of the movie. And steals almost every scene he’s in.
The new setting for this version of Fright Night is Las Vegas. This works well for the vampire mythology. After all, not only is Las Vegas the city of sin, but it’s also a city with a huge transient population that likes to stay up all night and sleep all day.
The vampires in this movie look utterly terrifying. The effects that turn them from seemingly innocent humans into monsters is the best I’ve seen in a horror flick in some time. There is no doubt that these things are monsters.
I only have one complaint and that involves the 3D. 3D makes many of the dark scenes seem rather murky. Considering this is a vampire movie, most of the scenes are dark, and therefore, problematic when watching in 3D. At times, it felt like I was staring at a film screen through a tank of dirty water. 3D just does not work well here and I hope it serves as a reminder to Hollywood that it often detracts from the film viewing experience.
However, that small complaint aside, I really enjoyed this remake. I’m a fan of the original Fright Night and can honestly say that the remake does it justice and does a good job with the updates to the story. All the elements that make the original film interesting have been kept intact: scary vampires and comedic moments. This is a fun film to watch, even with the murky 3D.
Finally, be sure to look out for Chris Sarandon (Jerry, the vampire, in the original film) in a cameo role.