Fright Night (2011)
7/10 Creatures of the Night
Better than the original in every way.
Fright Night is about a formerly nerdy teenage boy growing up in the suburbs of Las Vegas. Soon after we meet him, the kid notices that some of his classmates have dropped off the face of the Earth ever since a devilishly handsome chap with a thing for wife beaters moved in next door. Because someone had to make the connection, the kid’s nerdy best friend comes to the conclusion that the new guy next door is in fact a vampire and the reason there are so many kids and hookers missing is ’cause he’s been biting necks like gangbusters. The kid doesn’t believe his best friend, then his best friend disappears off the face of the Earth, then the kid witnesses first-hand that his best friend was right all along and quickly finds himself next on his neighbor’s menu. Having failed Vampire Hunting 101 his freshman year, the kid recruits the help of a Criss Angel look-alike to help take out the new bloodsucker on the block before he, his mom, and his brand new girlfriend get Dracula’d.
“Dracula’d.” Trust me, all the kids are saying it.
If there’s two things this world doesn’t need, it’s another freakin’ remake and another freakin’ vampire movie. Examples like this year’s The Thing and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are just further proof that originality and necessity are becoming obsolete in this industry, and it’s safe to say that those fucking Twihards are to blame for everything else. From the outset, that’s probably why this movie tanked at the box office like it did, but lo and behold, those fools missed out on one of the best horror remakes in years.
Now, there are a lot of people out there who think the original Fright Night from 1985 is one of the all-time greats. I’m not one of those people. The makeup is good, the premise is good, and it’s enjoyable for the cult classic it’s generally regarded to be, but the acting’s abysmal, it’s campy as all hell, and 26 years later, it shows its age. Pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one, but from where I’m sitting, the original Fright Night is a movie that was due for a remake. Lucky for us, director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon answer the call in all the right ways. So without further ado…
1) They honor the original. The premise is already great, that’s why it’s being remade in the first place, so they stick to what works and make it their own instead of crunching out a carbon copy and hope the masses don’t mind (note: they always mind.) Throw in all the best lines from the original along with some surprise cameos from the old cast, and there’s your fan service to boot. You don’t need to see the original to appreciate the remake, but it’s a nice little bonus that shows they care.
2) They up the ante without overdoing it. Every time our heroes got into a pickle that you think you’ve seen before and gets resolved the same way every time, the script almost always manages to pull a youie and make the whole thing feel new again. It’d be one thing if every twist was a variation on torture porn (because we all know how much folks like torture porn these days,) but instead they resort to smart, creative writing that makes the characters seem that much smarter and realistic in turn. Have you ever seen a horror movie where a parent believed their kid about the monster at the door instead of calling them nuts before opening the door? A horror movie where that actually happens is a horror movie worth applauding. Smart people, gotta love ’em.
3) They play to the original’s strengths. One of the big appeals to the ’85 version is how self-aware it is in a “What would you do if your neighbor was a vampire?” kind of way. So from ragging on Twilight to acknowledging how totally unprepared they are for the insane circumstances they’ve now found themselves in, these characters are on the level. As much as we don’t need another vampire movie this year, it’s actually the perfect time for a vampire movie that takes names for a change and doesn’t give a shit about Team Edward.
4) They don’t make it PG-13. Blood galore, swears up the yin-yang, and lots of stakes in lots of hearts. That’s what I’m talkin’ bout, Willis.
5) They don’t rely on the cast to carry the script. Remember how excited you were when Jackie Earle Haley signed on to play Freddy Krueger? Remember how that turned out? There ya’ go. It certainly helps that this script is good to begin with, but the cast is just as entertaining as the context.
I know he doesn’t have the biggest resume out there, but Anton Yelchin has never really done it for me. Think it has something to do with how irritating he looked in that Charlie Bartlett trailer, and his Chekov impression in Star Trek wasn’t enough to get him into my non-Trekkie good graces either. But he’s surprisingly likable as Charley the vampire slayer, he reacts just the way I would if the roles were reversed, and he actually ends up being quite the little badass. A big surprise among many and more power to ‘im. And Colin Farrell – another guy who I was still undecided about – is fantastic as Jerry the vampire. He uses his studly looks to good use and creates one seriously sinister, seriously likable villain. Guess I need to watch In Bruges again, ’cause Colin Farrell’s pretty sweet. Toni Collete’s also good as Charley’s refreshingly understanding mom; Imogen Poots is as solid as she is pretty playing Charley’s main squeeze; a totally unrecognizable David Tennant is awfully inspired, if not a tad over-the-top, as Charley’s hired help, Peter Vincent; and then there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse…
CMP plays Charley’s best friend, “Evil” Ed, and when we first meet him, he’s awesome. He tells off Charley’s douchebag friends like a boss, he’s the voice of reason who’s more prepared than any normal kid should be, and even if he’s still McLovin, he’s way better than the guy who played Ed in ’85. But then he disappears for a while, comes back pretty late in the game, and the kid starts hamming it up like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a true bummer how he goes from one of the best characters in the movie to the most irritating by a long shot in one fell swoop, and I genuinely wonder what possessed him. Someday he’ll get the chance to shed McLovin, and even if this is the most against-type role he’s taken, it’s not gonna do it.
I wish I didn’t have to lay out all of Fright Night‘s pros in bullet points, but when we live in a world where the powers that be can take a perfect horror movie like Halloween and let Rob Zombie turn it into a boob-filled blood orgy…then let him do it again, someone has to spell it out for these Hollywood asshats. There are rules, people, rules that are not being followed. Honestly, why the hell would you make a “prequel” to The Thing? Some movies just don’t need remakes, and while some may argue that Fright Night is one of those movies, this is how you get it right. It’s some fun, funny, fresh stuff that only gets better with each new scare and unexpected plot development. Would have given it an 8 if some of the dialogue hadn’t tried so hard to get a laugh or been so crude for the sake of it, but relatively minor complaints considering what an exception to the rule this is.
Such a good idea for a movie.