Writers: Marti Noxon (screenplay based on the Tom Holland original)
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant
Release Date: 2 September 2011
The much anticipated (and equally maligned) planned remake of cult horror comedy Fright Night could have gone either way — a lacklustre but faithful reiteration of the original or a completely unrelated, entirely dissimilar reinvention. Thankfully,the scriptwriter Marti Noxon aimed for a middle ground. The new Fright Night is a re-imagination of the earlier film, tailored for a modern audience, rather than relying rigidly on the source material.
The original characters still remain: every-teen Charlie Brewster (Yelchin), his best friend “Evil” Ed (Mintz-Plasse), creepy neighbour Jerry (Farrell) and bumbling vampire hunter Peter Vincent (Tennant).
Much of the story has changed though. The action is now set in Las Vegas, a smart choice for a vampire flick, as the transient nature of the town, especially in a recession, means that missing people are not noticed as quickly as they should be. Charlie is now at odds with best friend Ed, as he strives to fit in with the popular kids that surround girlfriend Amy (Poots). Jerry, the vampire next door, is a broody, handsome night labourer who watches bad reality TV to kick back in between eating the neighbours.
This version hits a lot of right notes. The humour of the original is maintained, so that the film is never truly scary, but enjoyable nonetheless. The strong cast have a lot of fun with the script. Tennant, in particular, camps it up as a Las Vegas, Cris Angel-type magician with a collection of vampire paraphernalia. He is almost unrecognisable to begin with (passing, almost for Russell Brand on his introduction).
Yelchin, a young actor who has shown impressive range, is steady and sympathetic as the teen lead. Mintz-Plasse is, basically, the same character we have seen from him before, as McLovin in Superbad or Red Mist in Kick Ass, a likeable, funny geek with a still-breaking voice.
Farrell is an interesting Jerry and one who plays his role with relish. Though never quite scary, he imbues the vampire with the predatory, sexual demeanour that has come to encompass most vampire films. As he licks blood from his fingers or rubs it on his teeth while staring straight into the lens, he embodies the stereotype of the slightly sleazy, alluring vamp.
The use of the two women of the piece, Charlie’s mom and his girlfriend Amy adds another layer to proceedings. Jerry preys on both mother and girlfriend indiscriminately, though finds particular attraction in virgin Amy. The sexual undertones of the film keep it from being trite or mindless.
And yet, the film doesn’t quite hit its mark in a few areas. The pacing is severely off at times. The explanation of Charlie and Ed’s friendship breaking up is never explained in more detail than the cliché of a geek being dumped for cooler friends. The tension of the piece never quite builds to where it needs to be to make the final battle satisfying enough. Although we know from the original that Jerry is definitely a vampire, not enough development is given between Charlie’s revelation of the same and the brown stuff (or red stuff, perhaps?) hitting the fan. It feels like the action comes on you suddenly and unexpectedly, even though it has been leading to this.
Although a lot of other critics loved Tennant’s Peter Vincent, I found him to wear thin at times, too overblown and camp to let me root for him. The original Peter felt more genuine; this Peter is as over-the-top as his Vegas magician’s show.
The 3D also feels underwhelming at times. While some sparks and fire look spectacular at times, the fact that this is set at night means that much of the action is dimmed. This meant that I had to remove my 3D glasses once or twice to get a better look at what was happening on screen.
You could do far worse than Fright Night. While some will insist that the original was a classic, it wasn’t. What it was was an enjoyable, comic, fun horror, it was also slightly forgettable, but not for any bad reason. This incarnation is not much different — a fun, high energy comedy horror that makes perfect, easy Friday night viewing.
3.5 stars out of 5