“He’s a real monster. And he’s not brooding or lovesick or noble. He’s the shark from Jaws. He kills. He feeds. And he doesn’t stop until everybody around him is dead.”
Okay, there’s going to be two schools of thought going on when it comes to this movie. There are going to be plenty of fans who, like myself, absolutely loved the original tongue-in-cheek 1980’s film. It has endured over the years, and I have found it to be just as charming and chilling now as I did when I first saw it back in 1985. Chris Sarandon was wonderful as the vampire, and who couldn’t love Roddy McDowall as the reluctant vampire hunter, Peter Vincent? The fact remains that Fright Night was and is still one of those films that will always be a part of our collective love affair with movies. So there is that school of thought out there that thinks we should leave these classics alone and to remake them is akin to hearsay of the strongest order. And no one has been more critical of the remake/reboot/reimagine/rehash mill than I have. But I’m going to speak just a touch of sacrilege to the brethren: If you haven’t yet, give this new version of Fright Night a chance. It’s actually a blood-well good time. More on the whole remake thing later.
The story contains the same basic elements of the original film. If you are paying attention to the high school absentee rolls, you might notice that a lot of kids have turned up missing in Vegas lately. This is not your ordinary senior skip day or epidemic of the flu we’re dealing with here. Charlie (Yelchin) isn’t taking it all very seriously even when his best friend from his younger days Ed (Mintz-Plasse) tries to warn him that his new neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire. That is, until Ed joins the missing and he sees some things that he can’t explain out of Jerry. Now Charlie’s convinced but he can’t seem to convince anyone else, and now that Jerry knows he’s on to him his life is in serious danger. He turns to the only one he thinks might believe him. Peter Vincent (Tennant) is a local Vegas show-magician with a creepy vampire stage show called Fright Night. He’s also a self-described vampire slayer. But in real life Peter Vincent is a bit of a disappointment and more than a little cowardly. He has to find a way to protect his mother and girlfriend Amy (Poots) before Jerry turns them all into his army of the living dead.
Let’s try to forget that this is a remake for a second. It’s hard, I grant you, but just try. If you’re sick and tired of the teen angst version of vampires that have populated the scene since Twilight sucked in every girl under 20 years of age, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. It’s actually a fast-paced action horror film with a wonderful cast. After his first stint as Chekov I thought I’d have trouble buying Anton Yelchin as Charlie and a high school student. He falls into the role with ease. The real clever casting, however, has to be Colin Farrell as Jerry our blood-sucking guest of honor. Here’s where I think this film actually improves on the original. Farrell is absolutely brilliant in the role and might be the best film vampire I’ve seen in many long years. He’s not the fake hunk vampire that’s become a stereotype, but he’s also not the vicious beast either, until he finally shows his true colors. He’s an arrogant bad guy who likes to toy with you before he kills you. He’s just having a little fun. But you can also tell he’s been doing it so long that it’s rote. Farrell gives us the impression that he’s comfortable in the skin and doesn’t need to work hard at the delivery. It’s the most natural vampire performance in a long time.
David Tennant is more of a mixed bag. He’s really playing his Doctor Who persona a bit here. There are moments when I really love the character and others where I found a bit of a groan escape my throat. He’s got huge shoes to fill, and his character is the one most rewritten from the original. McDowall’s Vincent was a horror host on television, while Tennant’s version is a much larger than life showman. It’s a bit of Wizard Of Oz here, as the act is huge while the man under the costume is much smaller and immensely more likable. Who fans will like the performance, because they’ll see a lot of the familiar here.
Imogen Poots is a bit of a weak link as Amy. It’s not that she delivers a bad performance, she doesn’t at all. She just appears terribly out of place, for the most part. I appreciate that they were trying to break the traditional horror scream queen mold here. She just never seems comfortable in the role.
A real pleasure is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed. He’s kind of the comic relief, but it’s a creepy performance that might be the biggest nod to the original.
This film certainly takes advantage of the evolution of technology since 1985. Everything about this film is bigger but not necessarily better. I wish that filmmakers would stop enhancing their gore effects with computer-generated stuff. CG blood looks like a comic book panel and doesn’t look scary at all. There are very talented people out there that can deliver an effective scare with practical effects and they are so much better when it comes to atmosphere. When I see a computer blood splatter, it so takes me out of the moment. It earns a solid R rating and there is a ton of gore to be found here. This one is not for the squeamish at all.
All of the traditional vampire rules apply here: crosses repel, if the bearer has faith, holy water burns, sunlight kills as does decapitation and the old classic stake in the heart. Vampires do not cast reflections, nor can they be captured on film or video. They must be invited into your house, although we get some interesting loopholes here. One of these loopholes leads to a rather huge set piece.
What you end up with is a very refreshing horror film that avoids so many of the recent trappings and delivers characters that work as real dramatic characters. If you have avoided this one, I really want to urge you to give it a chance. It’s a pretty good vampire film in its own right that isn’t merely a remake of the 1985 film. It’s almost a Lost Boys meets Rear Window, and a pretty solid and entertaining ride.
Fright Night is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. This is a very solid high-definition image presentation. The colors pop with awesome clarity. You get all of the detail and texture that high definition promises. The black levels are rock solid and the shadows provide wonderful detail as well.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is another solid performance. You’ll get all the dynamic sound you could ask for. Your sub will come to life, and there is a fullness to the whole thing that makes it a superior audio presentation. The dialog is quite clear, and the score contains beautiful crystal clarity. Surrounds are often aggressive but are just as immersive when they lean to the subtle. Can’t beat it.
All in HD.
Peter Vincent – Come Swim In My Mind: (2:09) A mockumentary on Peter Vincent’s Vegas show.
The Official “How To Make A Funny Vampire Movie” Guide: (8″04) Playful feature that takes you behind the scenes through a series of “rules” on making the film.
Deleted And Extended Scenes: (4:51) There are 5 with a play-all option.
Squid Man – Extended And Uncut: (2:56) The geeky amateur film made by Charlie and Ed.
Music Video: (5:21) No One Believes Me by Kid Cudie.
Back to the whole remake business. It’s true that there appears to be a lack of originality in Hollywood these days. When you look at the sheer number of remakes and sequels it can cause one to despair somewhat. But remakes have been a part of Hollywood since almost the beginning. They aren’t really that new. It’s not the idea of remakes we should be complaining about. It’s the great number and carelessness with which most are made. Open yourself up to the possibility that good remakes are possible. Let’s not forget that Scarface was a remake, as was the Charlton Heston version of The Ten Commandments. We just have to keep them honest, is all. “It’s on you to look out for them.”