Fright Night review

There have been plenty of horror remakes during the last decade, and while listing all the pointless cash grabs would leave me with no space to write the rest of this review, few have been commendable. I have seen the original Fright Night; a good film but I don’t hold it in such high regard. Sampling the remake, you can’t help but bring your knowledge of the original along, and afterwards you can’t help but compare the two. A bit like ruining a new relationship. Director Craig Gillespie’s Fright Night is largely unnecessary, yet it takes the 1985 relic and injects it with Red Bull, resulting in a film that’s hands down better than the original.

People are going missing in the suburbs of Vegas. Ed Thompson (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) seems to be clued in to all of this, so informs his best friend Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) that the reason behind it all is new next-door neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell), whom Ed believes is a vampire. He might be right, since all the windows in Jerry’s house are blacked up and all the women in the neighbourhood are infatuated with him, even Charlie’s own mother Jane (Toni Collette). However, Charlie doesn’t believe it, nor does he really care. He’s embarrassed about his friendship with Ed and would rather spend time with his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). But then he comes across some video evidence that makes him think twice about inviting Jerry inside his house. Charlie then seeks help from supposed vampire expert, the illusionist Peter Vincent (David Tennant).

The masterstroke here is Marti Noxon’s screenplay. Having previously written and produced episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, she’s just as clued up on the mythology as a real vampire would be (probably is one herself) and the film expects the same from the audience. As well as including the obvious stakes, holy water and crucifixes, there are also a few subtle, yet neat, touches (Charlie’s mother references Dark Shadows, and upon visiting Ed’s room there’s a sketch for a torch stake). It even bothers to spend time on silver bullets.

There are witty pot shots at Twilight and Ebay, and the audience learns that vampires like to kickback and watch… Real Housewives? It also treads a fine line in managing to make death humorous as well as frightening. However, there’s something slightly amiss about the neighbourhood itself. Maybe we’re supposed to believe that Jerry has managed to kill/turn most of the neighbours at this point, but when a house goes up in flames you’d expect someone to call the fire brigade.

Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Imogen Poots are all in their early twenties, but still manage to get away with looking like high school teenagers. Yelchin is on fine form as Charlie Brewster and even manages to shed a tear. With Fright Night, and the soon to be released Like Crazy, he deserves any success that may come his way. Mintz-Plasse delivers an ample serving of expected laughs as Ed, yet seems to be stuck playing what feels like the same character almost all the time. That his character has already done a bit of research on Jerry saves from slowing things down. Being one step ahead of everyone else helps with the pace but also lessens his screen time. Poots is adequate enough, mostly sidelined early on and serving as motivation to move the plot during the latter half.

Colin Farrell is an ideal choice as Jerry. He probably doesn’t even need to make an effort to act here. Described as a ‘Snacker’, he’s a healthy vampire that likes chomping on apples after drinking the blood of some young hottie. Hell, he probably even has a bowl of Fruit ‘n Fibre splashed with virgin’s blood before he goes to sleep in the morning. David Tennant steals the show as Vegas magician Peter Vincent. His performance has already been described by some as a Russell Brand impersonation due to his physical appearance and dialogue (he complains about rashes from wearing leather). Given how many drinks he downs it’s more of a sweary Jack Sparrow, which is by no means a bad thing.

Compared to the bigger summer blockbusters, Fright Night is estimated to have cost a slim-fast sum of around $30 million. The low budget achieves a mixed bag of special effects. A brilliant one-take car chase sequence is a particular standout moment. Jerry in full on vampire mode looks pretty dodgy (extra teeth come out of a malformed mouth), but then again there have already been so many representations of vampires it’s hard to know where else they could have gone. There’s also the fake looking house explosion. Shot in 3D, the effect is rather redundant, since you’re only really aware of it during moments of CGI. The demise of a vampire does look absolutely stunning, but it’s not really worth paying the equivalent of two packs of digestive biscuits for.

Ramin Djawadi’s pounding musical score deserves a mention, mainly because I can’t get that catchy theme out of my head. Screeching strings also help bring about a good number of scares. Nothing that genuinely frightened myself, for I tend to spot jump scares pretty easily, however the woman sat next to me jumped so much that she spilt her soft drink all over herself. So there’s probably a fair chance you’ll end up soaking yourself, soft drink or otherwise.

With the main plot points from the original carried over, Fright Night still found ways to surprise me. I didn’t expect this to be as funny or as scary, but even more unexpected was the film’s generous serving of action. It’s not often that I heap this much praise towards a remake, since most of them don’t have a justifiable reason to exist. This may have only come about because vampires are very much ‘in’ at the moment, but Craig Gillespie has made a real effort here to trump the original, with Fright Night getting more right than a Million Pound Drop winner.  

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