Movie Review: Fright Night
Rating: R (language including some sexual references, bloody horror violence)
Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Stars: 3 out of 5
The movie industry is notorious for remaking films. Many of these films were classics that didn't necessarily need to be remade. Fans of the original often criticize the rebooted film, although there are instances where the reboot surpasses the original, as with the Christopher Nolan Batman films. In the case of "Fright Night," the original 1985 film was a campy comedy/horror hybrid that gained a cult following. Unfortunately, the lack of advanced special effects at the time held it back. That is no longer the case with this 2011 remake.
Colin Farrell steps into Chris Sarandon's shoes as Jerry, the new neighbor of teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and his lonely single mother Jane (Toni Collette). They live in a nondescript suburban area where all the houses pretty much look the same. The neighborhood is pretty boring until the handsome Jerry shows up. The audience knows that Jerry is a vampire, although the Brewsters and the rest of the street's residents are predictably clueless about his secret.
Almost immediately, Charley begins to suspect that something is not right about Jerry. He confides in his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), who thinks he is just imagining things. He then tells his best friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is a little more open to the idea. He dares not tell Jane, who seems to be a little smitten with the charming Jerry, much like the rest of the women on their street.
Charley begins to keep a much closer eye on Jerry. He picks up on a few things, like how Jerry only comes out of his house at night. He notes that several women enter the house, but none ever come out. He begins researching vampires and comes across a magician named Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who appears to be an expert in vampire and supernatural lore.
In the original film, Peter Vincent was not a magician, but rather a television host in the vein of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. He was played by Roddy McDowall with an equal mix of abandon and glee. In the update, Tennant plays Vincent as an alcohol-swilling misanthrope who does not believe a word he is spewing on his little-seen television show. Director Gillespie explained in publicity interviews that he felt like television hosts were outdated, so in order to properly update the film, he had to change Vincent's profession.
Despite the job change, the character is still pivotal to the film. Vincent does know about vampires and holds the key to destroying Jerry, if he would only believe Charley's story. He is cynical and doubtful, but also just curious enough to want to be a part of something as spectacular as capturing a vampire.
The pair has to hurry because Amy soon becomes the next woman who enters Jerry's house to become one of his midnight blood snacks. A despondent Charley tries to take Jerry on but is woefully overmatched. It is at this point in the film that the special effects really begin to outshine the original. Explosions, car chases and heart-pounding chase scenes ensue. It almost doesn't matter if Amy gets rescued or not, because the action is so exciting, the audience will likely forget about the plot.
The script by Marti Noxon is well written and does not forget its roots. The original film was bloody and silly fun but still managed to be scary. This version manages to toe that fine line successfully as well, which is mostly due to Noxon's script.
The biggest surprise in the film is Farrell's performance. When he broke out onto the movie scene, he was a hot commodity. Women loved his roguish good looks and deep Irish accent. Unfortunately, he later fell victim to drug and alcohol abuse, which took him out of the spotlight. Even though he cleaned up, he had a hard time regaining his mantle as a Hollywood heartthrob. With "Fright Night," Farrell regains his old screen presence. His version of Jerry is equally smart, seductive and dangerous. He looks as handsome as he ever did in his initial heyday and turns in a bravura performance as the undead neighbor across the street.
Though this version of "Fright Night" doesn't stray very far from the original in plot, it is still worth a see for fans of the original. The updated special effects, use of 3D technology and Farrell's outstanding performance make for 106 minutes of blood and fun.