Movie review: Fright Night
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Opens locally, Friday, August 19th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl)
I have a soft spot in my heart for the original "Fright Night," the 1985 horror film starring Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, and William Ragsdale. As a kid, I would sneak out way past my bedtime into the living room, flipping on HBO, the only premium channel we ever had. "Fright Night" must have been in heavy rotation, and it always stuck with me. It was altogether creepy, yet light and funny. It also scared the bejeezus out of me, making me get chills whenever I would see Chris Sarandon in anything after that (he is perhaps best known as Prince Humperdinck in "The Princess Bride.") The original "Fright Night" wasn't an altogether good movie, and although it has a cult following it isn't really considered horrificly scary. Still, to this kid, it was haunting. Also relatable: Many vampire movies prior to "Fright Night" to me, were set in the past, or in some kind of fantasy realm. But here was a vampire...gasp!...living next door!
So I surely had mixed emotions when I heard about yet another Hollywood re-make, this time an updated version of my favorite horror film. As I just wrote about in my review of another re-make being released this week (the awful Conan the Barbarian), even marginally good re-makes are hard to find these days. Can you think of even one re-make that did the original justice? Well now I can..."Fright Night."
To my wonderous surprise, the new "Fright Night" somehow was able to capture the campy yet still horrifying spirit of the original. As the story goes, Charley Brewster (Yelchin) is a teenager living with his single mom (Collette, in what is kind of a throw-away role for the talented actress), who suspects that his new neighbor is a real vampire. His name is Jerry...what kind of a vampire is named Jerry???...and this time the role that scared me silly as a child is played by Colin Farrell. An odd choice, but Farrell brings his own spookiness to the role, making Jerry his own while still channeling in aspects of Sarandon's original portrayal. When Brewster gets proof that Jerry is indeed a vampire, he enlists the help of a Vegas magician known as Peter Vincent (Tennant), who is a self-proclaimed vampire expert, to help him bring Jerry down and free some of his friends that have gone missing.
"Fright Night" was always different, in that it played against conventions dealing with vampires, and what we think we know about them. In today's Twilight-soaked and True Blood-riddled landscape, this isn't an overwhelmingly new idea...these conventions have been explored, tinkered with, shook up, and re-imagined. For example, we all know that sunlight kills vampires right? Or that a well placed stake to the heart should do the trick? Who would have thought that the timing is just right to re-release "Fright Night," when there is actually so much vampire-saturation out there nowadays, that we again have no idea which conventions hold true and which ones are false.
Maybe because I'm older, but I wasn't as scared or mesmorized this time around..."Fright Night" doesn't belong in the category of horror like "Saw" or "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." But this film was way funnier than the original. It helps that Christopher Mintz-Plasse appears...you may remember him as McLovin in "Superbad" amongst other roles. Tennant breathes new comedic life into the character of vampire-hunter Peter Vincent, carrying himself like Russell Brand's forgotten twin brother. There is also a great, hilarious cameo that "Fright Night" fans will love and appreciate, not to mention clever lines from the original film (wait for the line, "Oh, you're so cool, Brewster." This was the last line of the original film that gets used in passing here.) Even the new poster for the film brings to mind the original.
On the other hand, I'm not sure what a younger audience will think of the new "Fright Night." There is no brooding love story, no sexy shirtless vampires. I do think that the dialogue is smart and funny enough though. It reminds you that the self-awareness made popular in films like "Scream" actually started decades ago with "Fright Night."
For what it is, "Fright Night" delivers in taking a campy cult classic and re-packaging it for today's audience. Hollywood should realize that simply "re-hashing" old crap usually results in new crap. But with this film, it seems like there was more attention paid to getting the tone of the original...something missing in nearly every recent re-make I can remember. New audiences should appreciate it, and fans of the original can't help but applaud it.
I may be biased based on my love of the original, but "Fright Night" is worth sinking your teeth into.
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