By my calculations, on a long enough timeline, pretty much every movie you hold dear will be remade in some form or another. Take 1985’s perky, boy-who-cried-vampire flick Fright Night, a noticably above-average comedy-horror that despite being legitimately awesome, only seems to have been labelled a classic purely because it’s “old”. Fast forward to 2011 and the only suprising thing about the appearance of a remake is that it took so damn long to appear as it followed in the footsteps of other, shiny millennial redos such as The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn Of The Dead and The Fog. Well… maybe not The Fog – but you get what I mean.
So join Lars And The Real Girl and I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie as we take an inessential but reassuringly familiar trip and welcome ourselves back to Fright Night.
Charley Brewster has reached that age where he’s starting to pack away childish things and focusing more on his new girlfriend, Amy, much to the chagrin of his childhood friend Ed. However, Ed has other concerns as he’s become convinced that Jerry Dandridge, Charley’s unfeasably hunky neighbour, is actually a vampire and is chowing down on random people in the Las Vegas suburb and desperately wants his former friend to help him. Charley, unsurprisingly, doesn’t buy this tale of a fanged, himbo living next door, but after Ed goes missing and Charley witnesses Jerry in action, he turns to Peter Vincent, a Criss Angel-style illusionist and casual scholar of the supernatural, for aid only to find out he’s a bit of a fraud and a titanic asshole.
As Charley, Amy and Charley’s mother try to stay neatly out of biting reach of this smoldering psychopath, our hero realises it’s time for him to become a man and protect his family from this charismatic intruder – but even with Peter Vincent’s begrudging help, how can he possibly hope to overcome this supernaturally powered lothario and protect his loved ones from being bled like a faulty radiator?
As with a lot of modern remakes, Fright Night probably plays infinitely better if you were to wade in without a single scrap of awareness at to what the original 1985 Fright Night was all about. Nailing some aspects while clearly missing the heart with others, it fast tracks many of the movies best moments to noticably inferior effect. Jerry’s seduction of Charley’s outcast best friend Ed is crammed within the film’s first third, Jerry launches an all-out assault on the Brewster household by the halfway point and Vincent is attacked and recruited by his third scene and this rejigging of events may speed up the plot, but it sacrifices us getting to bond with the characters, relying more on the casting rather than the characterization.
It’s a good job then that the cast is so strong and initially, the role of vampiric, bro-micidal blood sucker Jerry Dandridge would initially seem like Colin Farrell is hopelessly slumming, yet the actor sinks his teeth (pun very much intended) into the role, playing up on his lady killer image (again, pun intended) to make the character a hilariously sexually intense alpha male. Constantly clad in a vest with his biceps loaded for bear, he enters virtually every scene with a predatory greeting of “hey, guy..” while leaning seductively in doorways, essentially becoming the bushy browed personification of pointy-toothed toxic masculinity. Faring less well is David Tennant’s over the top redux of Peter Vincent, with the switch from washed-up horror host to booze-addled Vegas magician coming off much less funny than the filmmakers obviously thinks it is.
Toni Collette, horror’s greatest middle-aged scream queen ever since Jamie Lee Curtis kept returning to the Halloween movies, fleshes out Charley’s mother quite nicely and the late, great Anton Yelchin and horror movie regular Imogen Poots (who both reunited a few years later in the magnificent Green Room) make for a charming central couple.
Former Buffy: The Vampire Slayer screenwriter Marti Noxon loads the script to overflowing with post-modern sarcasm that gleefully pokes fun at repeatedly pointing out how Jerry is a terrible name for a vampire while making Charley unsure of his first steps into manhood as he leaves estranged friend Ed (McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in the rearview mirror thanks to puberty and the prospect of getting laid.
Having virtually no cultural impact whatsoever, the Fright Night remake maybe undeserving of your unyielding devotion but nevertheless proves to be suprisingly tough to hate and acted as a refreshing counter attack for people sick of vampires becoming the lovelorn, bling-skinned beings seen in Twilight in favour of sporting a more shark-mouthed look of the creatures from 30 Days Of Night. It’s just a damn shame the CGI isn’t really up to the task and ultimately renders the montrous, ripped out fireplace-style dental work far inferior to the prosthetics utilised 26 years earlier, especially when they try to pay lip service to some of the orginal imagery. Compare the legitimately upsetting reveal of a half-transformed Amy grow a bite radius the diameter of a cereal bowl from 1985 to a similar, digital shot in 2011 and it look vaguely like a cartoon – although it’s nowhere near as traumatic as the gurning CGI lips worn by Superman in 2017’s Justice League…
As enduring as a stick of bubblegum (as in once you chew, you’re through), Fright Night is still a zippy little vampire flick with fun characters, nifty action and an awesome score that nails the tone of the piece better than the actual movie itself (another low-key winner from Game Of Throne’s Ramin Djawadi invoking some bassy cellos like a composer possessed), but despite the odd nod to the the original here and there (orginal Dandridge, Chris Sarandon pops up for a sweet cameo), ends up only being a slight sip at the jugular compared to the vast glug of plasma that the 1985 version was.
Fright Night slight.