A teenager suspects that his new neighbor is a vampire.
I suppose that most, if not all of you reacted the same way The Black Saint did when this remake of the beloved 80’s classic was announced. Basically there was a loud “WHY”? that echoed across the land & on the web as well. I could not find one person who thought messing with the original was a good idea. I found a ton of people who KNEW it was a bad idea that was gonna end up a really sh*tty movie. Up until this morning, I was one of those people. But, although I’m sure that there will be those who will still think that this movie sucks even after seeing it, I am not going to be one of them. As a matter of fact, “Fright Night” is actually pretty good. But it isn’t really “Fright Night”…I’ll explain in a bit.
There can’t be an acolyte among you who haven’t seen or don’t know what the movie is about. But just in case, Charlie Brewster lives with his mother in a nice little neighborhood. He has a great girlfriend, an odd best friend & he has a vampire named Jerry living next door to him. Unfortunately for Charlie, he’s seen Jerry doing what vampires do and Jerry has seen Charlie watching him. So Charlie & his mother have to die. What follows (In the original) is a game of “Cat & Mouse” between Charlie & Jerry which ends up involving Charlies best friend (Evil Ed) & his girlfriend (Amy).
The remake follows the basic plotline of the original but gets to the heart of the matter much quicker than in the original. There isn’t a lot of character development here. It’s as if the producers are assuming everybody knows what “Fright Night” is about and decided to jettison scenes of Charlie & company just living life before the sh*t hits the fan. Normally this would be a problem for me, I’m all about character development. But this movie moves so quickly to it’s central idea that I didn’t notice that we really don’t get to know much about the principal characters. Maybe the producers were right in regards to this.
Other changes to the original script include Amy (Imogen Poots) being the sexual instigator when alone with Charlie. In the original, Charlie was the horndog. In this one it’s all Amy with Charlie being a bit more modest. In addition, the character of Evil Ed is being treated like a leper by Charlie who’s trying to fit in with the “Cool” crowd. Ed, being the geek that he is, is ostracized by everyone in the school. Charlie is embarrassed by his association with Ed & although he still cares for Ed as a friend he doesn’t want to be seen in public with him anymore. Ed enjoys reminding Charlie of the films they made when they were younger & threatens him with revealing these films to his fellow students if Charlie doesn’t help him investigate something. that something is Jerry’s house.
The remake does away with all of the original’s plot regarding Charlie discovering that Jerry is a vampire & posits that Ed has been following Jerry for a while & has proof that he is a bloodsucker. This is a MAJOR difference from the original & not necessarily a good one. In the original, we get to see some of Ed’s hi-jinks before it all goes bad for him. Ed provided a lot of the humor in the original. The Ed we get in the remake is fairly humorless & dour (Although his death scene in the film made the audience chuckle). Ed has noticed that fellow students have not been coming to school for a long time & has triangulated Jerry’s home through mapping out where all of the victims lived. The original Evil Ed wasn’t that smart, he was just a goofy kid who really dug horror movies.
Charlie’s mother also plays a much bigger role here than in the original. She is skeptical when Charlie tells her what’s happening but rather than just fade away like in the original she actually sees Jerry in action and realizes that Charlie is telling the truth. There is a riveting scene in the middle of the film in which Charlie, Amy & his mom are in a car trying to escape from Jerry which showcases some bravura camerawork & some hellacious special effects. It’s the best scene in the film. One of the other differences is the character of Peter Vincent, who in the original was the host of a late night television show. Here he is a Las Vegas magician cut from the same cloth as Criss Angel. A lot of flash, pomposity, rock & roll & a wig. But he is a very successful magician who calls his stage show “Fright Night”. And one of the features of his act is killing a horde of female vampires…Which leads Charlie to ask for his help.
But it all boils down to Jerry (Jerry Dandridge in the original). Who could possibly replace Chris Sarandon who was so incredibly suave & despicable at the same time? Here we get Colin Farrell as Jerry (No last name). The script by Marti Noxon changes Jerry around completely. Firstly he has no man servant as in the original. He also isn’t as smooth a talker as in the original either. Sarandon had a perfectly serpentine voice that deepened as he got angrier. Not louder mind you, just deeper… deeper & scarier. In the remake, Farrell’s Jerry has an air of anger all about him. From his first appearance you can immediately sense that there is something wrong with him. He carries himself more like a rebel, the polar opposite of Sarandon’s Jerry who walked about as if he was royalty. Farrell is more of a barely contained Lion, a Lion who really wants to bare his sharp teeth & take a bite out of someone. I think he plays the part in a far more intimidating fashion than Sarandon did. But Farrell’s reading of the famous line “Welcome To Fright Night…for real” has nothing on Sarandon’s take…for real.
But it works anyway! Jerry is one bad ass vamp who upon realizing that someone knows the real deal, wastes no time trying to set things right. He is FAR more aggressive than Sarandon’s Jerry was. I liked the completely different direction the script took Jerry in, It makes him far more intimidating. Especially when he gets up close & personal with someone (Farrell gets in a lot of characters faces during the film). But the main setpieces of the film remain, the nightclub scene, Jerry’s near seduction of Ed before changing him & the final battle in Jerry’s home. There is also a cool cameo in the film that (Unbelievably) I don’t think a lot of people noticed.
It’s everything in between those scenes that are slightly different. The film is fairly humorless which was a mistake I believe. The laughs I got in the original helped to alleviate some of the fear I was experiencing. The humor made the scary scenes scarier in the original. Here the lack of humor makes the film more intense for sure but the intensity barely ever takes a break here. Some of you may dig that but I didn’t, there ought to have been a few more laughs here. If they wanted to distance themselves from the original in that regard then why call your movie “Fright Night” to start with? Why not make an original vampire film? I believe it’s because the title “Fright Night” has a built in audience and maybe the producers thought that a film featuring a feral vampire in it would turn off those who are into the vamps of films like “Twilight” who are all sparkly & romantic (I hate that franchise by the way). It does this film a bit of a disservice to call it “Fright Night” when it really just uses the basic outline of the original & then makes a different film that fits into the outline rather than make a original vampire movie.
This is what I meant in the beginning when I said at the beginning of this review that this isn’t really a remake of “Fright Night”. It’s more of a re-imagining (I hate that word) of the original. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing mind you, but I think if you’re going to remake a film as beloved as “Fright Night” is, then you should try to fix what might have been broken in it rather than gut it & after cleaning it out, stuffing it with another film. The final battle in Jerry’s home felt like it belonged in a Hammer film which was great to watch but it wasn’t “Fright Night”. I also had a problem with some of the casting choices. Anton Yeltchin, who plays Charlie, looks far too old to be in High School and Toni Collette who plays his mom looks far too young to be his mother. The rest of the roles are well cast but I really wish we could’ve seen more of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed. Ed plays a pivotal role in the original & it felt to me that we didn’t get enough of him here. David Tennant plays Peter Vincent as if he was channeling Russell Brand but I enjoyed his performance as well. His character has a bit of a back story that comes full circle upon his confrontation with Jerry. Colin Farrell plays Jerry as a feral, barely contained beast who doesn’t seem to mind that he’s wearing his true self on his sleeve. The 3D in the film is actually very effective, especially when vamps blow up & the screen is littered with burning embers that fall like snow into our laps. It’s not necessary to see it in 3D to enjoy it but the effect works well here.
In the end The Black Saint is giving “Fright Night” a solid three shrouds. Like I said, it’s more “Fright Night” in name only but it does just enough to call it a remake. While it calls a remake, it really felt like more of a Hammer movie without all of the gothic trappings to me. I still liked it a lot either way. You could do a lot worse than “Fright Night” this weekend.
Fright Night (2011)