The 2011 remake of Fright Night received a ton of vitriol when it was announced and I wrote a pretty scathing script review of it awhile back that didn’t leave me with a lot of hope. Director Craig Gillespie of Lars and the Real Girl fame had a lot of people to please…and I’m happy to announce he has succeeded. The Fright Night remake retains the blend of horror and comedy and included some fantastic leading actors that make this a delight for fans of the original and of horror in general.
Fright Night (2011) follows the plotline of the original. High schooler Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) discovers his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire thirsting for bloody. With the help of a reluctant magician (David Tennant), Charley must protect his mother and girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) from becoming the next victims of Jerry’s bloodlust.
Director Tom Holland’s 1985 horror film Fright Night has a devout cult following. I know this because of the beating I took from the 50,000 some odd fans who criticized my script review of the remake a year ago. Most told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, and while I condemned the remake’s script in my review, apparently my evidence from the original film wasn’t good enough (in one review I was flat out called an idiot).
The original script I read was bad, but I can say that while the script retained the bulk of the elements seen in the film, they worked wonderfully. I had mixed feelings about this remake as a fan of the original but I found myself really enjoying the changes that were made. The move to Las Vegas was the biggest gamble as it really set the film up with preconceived notions considering. Oddly enough there’s only one scene set in a casino/nightclub, for the most part the film is set in suburbs that resemble Anywhere, USA. The biggest reason to set the film in Vegas is, according to the character of Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse); it’d be perfect for a vampire since people work at night and sleep all day. People mostly come to the city and leave the suburbs for something better so it’s not at all surprising to have people randomly disappear.
Jerry’s vampire character is also upgraded to make him even more predatory. A particular scene has Charley discovering a slew of different uniforms in order for Jerry to get into places undetected. Jerry’s referred to as “the shark from Jaws” to emphasize what a predator he is, the perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing. The fact that he’s played by handsome ladies man Colin Farrell is also fantastic because women (me included sadly) would definitely fall for his charm. In this film he’s not a vampire bent on love (yes there is an obligatory Twilight reference), but sating his bloodlust. The stalking/romance of Amy from the original is changed in favor of A) messing with Charley’s head and B) having sex with Amy because she’s hot which makes him all the more scummy despite his good looks.
None of this would be as memorable or as fun if the assembled cast wasn’t great. The aforementioned Farrell is great as Jerry. He was one of my biggest gripes when the cast was announced but I loved what he did with the character. He never comes off too smooth, he lays out his lines with just the right amount of cheese to make ladies and gents realize he’s spouting lines. It all comes down to his tone of voice and inflections. At times he starts to sound like the original Jerry Dandridge, actor Chris Sarandon, with a deep baritone that makes you fear and notice him. Farrell is also the master of the facial expression in this film. A scene between him and Yelchin’s character Charley is made more frightening with Farrell constantly looking around him and goading Charley. He relishes being the baddie no doubt!
The only person who tops Farrell is Doctor Who star David Tennant as Peter Vincent. Tennant steals the show as the douche bag Las Vegas magician/Criss Angel wannabe with delusions of grandeur. Yes it was sad that Roddy McDowell’s original Vincent, the host of a popular creature feature series that gave the film its time, was abandoned but Tennant makes the role his own! It was shocking to see Tennant drop so many F-bombs (he certainly never spoke that way on Doctor Who!) but he slips seamlessly into a character that could have overstayed his welcome. He makes every scene thirty times more hilarious and I wished, at times, that he was the one hunting Jerry.
Imogen Poots is a phenomenal new Amy considering Amanda Bearse’s original Amy didn’t do a whole lot. In this take Poots is a fighter and makes an excellent femme fatale towards the film’s end. She even makes the makeup job when she turns into a vampire gorgeous. Men all over will love her no doubt.
The biggest letdown is our star Anton Yelchin. Sure his Charley is less whiny and more likeable than William Ragsdale’s take, but Yelchin tends to fade to the background and doesn’t seem that charismatic at times. Toni Collette is pointless as Charley’s mother, odd considering the need to place a name actress in the role. In the end she’s just as bland as the mother in the original and spends the middle of the movie in a hospital sleeping. The weakest link is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed. The kid is never going to escape McLovin’ and here he plays Evil Ed as Red Mist. He just whines about being alone and looking cocky. Evil Ed as a character is only in about two scenes so again, no need for stunt casting.
The film’s R-rating is used in favor of a lot of blood and a lot of cursing. The blood is always welcome, especially when vampires are blowing up into blood sacs but the cursing becomes a bit much, another in a long line of R-rated films this summer that relish in the cursing to the point that it’s just numbing. My theater didn’t give me any choice but to see this in 3D and I must say…the gimmick is still a waste of money. Sure there were a few scenes where stuff was thrown at the screen, which is always fun, but not enough to justify the upcharge.
Overall, the new Fright Night is about equal to the original. The leads are a delight, the story is solid and the blend of horror and comedy is second to none! I wouldn’t recommend seeing this in 3D though, still not enough bang for the buck.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.