Fright Night (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Fright Night (2011)

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Remakes are always a crap-shoot, and perhaps horror remakes even more so. What scares one generation fizzles against another. What would have seemed too risque or gory for the public ten years ago is considered tame by later film goers. Perhaps even worse, some remakes just take the name of a well-known film, ramp up the sex and gore and call it a day, completely ignoring any sort of broader social message the original might have been trying to make. Fortunately, Fright Night seems well aware of these pitfalls and while it makes some attempts to emulate the original, it eventually comes into its own.

With great, wait that's not right...

For anyone who isn't familiar with the original, Fright Night follows high chool kid Charley (Anton Yelchin) as he tries to convince his mother, his girlfriend and anyone who will listen that his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is actually a vampire. Naturally, everybody thinks that he's flipped his shit and so he turns to the reluctant vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant) to help him kill Jerry and save his neighborhood. The premise is essentially the same, but naturally some aspects of the original film had to be changed and modernized. Since late-night horror shows have gone the way of the dinosaur, Peter Vincent has been changed to a parody of big-shot illusionists, ala Daivd Copperfield or Criss Angel, and the film is set in a Las Vegas suburb rather than small-town America to accommodate this change.

David Tennant is Peter Vincent as Criss Angel in The Rob Zombie Story.

The first thirty minutes of the film really did its best to make me hate it. The original Fright Night characters had a lot of charm, with Charley being this love-crazy, horror obsessed kid torn by wanting to get laid and wanting to stop a vampire. He was kind of a putz, but he had a sort of desperation to his character and you couldn't help but root for him. Likewise, Peter Vincent was a washed up actor and charlatan, but at the same time you felt sorry for this man who had once been famous and now was a cable-access horror show host. By contrast, the characters of the new Fright Night  are almost unlikable from the get-go. Charley shits all over his former best friend because he doesn't want too look like a dork in front of his hip, new friends. Vincent is an egotistical maniac at the top of his game who treats everyone around him like garbage. Hell, even Charley's afformentioned friend (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is too snarky to illicit much pity. Everyone just seems too "cool" and "edgy" for anyone or anything in the film, and I honestly kept expecting to see the MTV logo spinning around any given second.

Sooooo good!

Also, the film tries to emulate some of the cat-and-mouse action of the original with Charley trying figure out if Jerry really is a vampire or not. In the original film, this was fun for the audience, too, as we were also in the dark as to whether Charley was just imagining the entire thing or not. Sadly, Jerry's vampness is revealed withing the first five minutes, making it less a question of if Charley is crazy and more a slow slog until he finally gets someone else to believe him. There is one really great scene in here, however, wherein Jerry keeps trying to get invited into Charley's home and keep getting denied (it's a vampire thing). That bit is really fun and tense, but the rest of the time suffers from poor pacing.

Hey guy, wanna.....hang out?! *rimshot*

However, the second half of the film is a completely different beast. Just when I thought that I'd be sitting through another forty minutes of "Charley, you so crazy! Vampires aren't real!" tripe, something explodes and the film re-purposes itself as an action film. There are explosions and car chases and the film actually tries to develop the characters and make them more likable (with some pretty decent success, too). There's also a car chase sequence. Maybe that doesn't sound very tense or scary, but without giving too much away it's a lot less Fast Five and a lot more like Jaws.

I was really considering giving Fright Night a boring retread of the original until the second-half exploded its way onto the screen, but I'm glad that I stuck around. There are nods to the original, some better done than others, but at the end it's more of an original take on the ideas of the 1985 version, rather than a straight-up remake, much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Hey, guy, just wanted to apologize again for "S.W.A.T."

While a lot of people are going to heap praise on cult-icon David Tennant (Who I guess was on a TV show or something?), Colin Farrell is the real show-stopper. A lot of film vamps come off as hokey. Either they're stuffy, Legosi-wanna-be fops (Van Helsing) or sneering, fang barring jokes (the Blade series). Farrell plays Jerry with charm but at the same time there is always an underlying menace in his demeanor that makes him a frightening presence long before any fangs are bared. He is more Hannibal Lecter than Count Dracula, but it works phenomenally well, and the result is probably the most legitimately scary vampire I've seen on screen in a very long time.

Fright Night isn't without its flaws, but it's ultimately a cool take on a classic horror film. I went into it assuming that it would suck, and now I find myself hoping for a remake of Fright Night: Part 2.

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Posted by Jacob

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