I’d never actually seen the original Fright Night, so a couple of weeks ago I took the time to track down that 1985 film. I was disappointed. It was incredibly dull and boasted no surprises whatsoever. In fact, the only things I enjoyed were the 80s synthtastic score and the practical special effects. I appreciate that the film has quite a cult following and that I surely would have had a different reaction if I’d seen it back in the day, but I’m sorry to say it did nothing for me. This meant that I had nothing to lose by watching the remake. Pleasantly, it turns out I quite enjoyed this version, and definitely wasn’t bored.
For those who don’t know, Fright Night concerns Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a teenager in the suburbs who learns that a vampire has moved in next door. Without having anyone to turn to, for fear of sounding crazy, he sets out to ensure that the bloodsucking Jerry (Colin Farrell) stays as far away from Charley’s mum (Toni Collette) and girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots.)
The first thing that one notices is that (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ alumnus) Marti Noxon’s script has given the characters more depth. We get a better understanding of why Charley hangs out (or doesn’t, as the case may be) with the likes of ‘Evil’ Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and why he wouldn’t immediately bring Amy in on his suspicions. I certainly felt a lot more for the characters than I did in the original. It’s also interesting that the setting has moved to a housing estate just outside of Las Vegas, where most of the population works nights on the ‘strip’ and thus have an excuse to have the blinds drawn all day. It’s a unique location that makes the film a little bit different from the average suburban horror movie.
Jerry the vampire is a lot more aggressive than Chris Sarandon’s original portrayal. In the 1985 version, Jerry spent a lot of time waiting for people to come to him. Farrell first of all plays Jerry as an alpha male – someone whom Charley wishes he could be – instead of simply a dreamy object of affection for middle-aged women who read romance novels. He also takes drastic (and thankfully obvious) measures once he realises his cover is blown. This is something that clearly links back to Noxon’s work on ‘Buffy’, whereby characters’ common sense outweighs the urge to follow a traditional narrative.
Yelchin is good in the lead role, though I’m finding it more and more difficult to imagine him as a teenager. Poots is wonderful as Amy, and despite the fact she’s the same age as Yelchin, I haven’t seen her in the likes of Star Trek, so I have no trouble suspending my disbelief. David Tennant plays Peter Vincent, here a stage illusionist rather than an over the hill actor as in the original, and does a respectable job in a role that was seemingly written for Russell Brand.
Fright Night has some great surprises and some inventive scenes. There are, however, many times when it simply felt that the humour should have been hilarious rather than chuckle-worthy, and perhaps this is down to director Craig Gillespie. A number of jokes fall flat, despite the efforts of Tennant et al.
When it comes down to it, if you hold the 1985 film on a pedestal, you’ll probably be offended that they even considered remaking Fright Night. If, like me, you have no fondness for the original, then you’ll likely enjoy this vampiric comedy horror that boasts some decent visual effects and ambitious action sequences.Rating: