director Craig Gillespie
Compared to a lot of modern horror re-makes, Fright Night is indeed a cut above the rest. Compared to the film which it is remaking and updating, Fright Night (1985), it’s still the lesser entity.
This Fright Night stars Colin Farrell as a hunky loner who moves into an isolated suburbia somewhere outside of Las Vegas. Anton Yelchin is Charley, the suspicious neighbor who pegs Farrell for the vampire that he is, and who has to try to convince the rest of the community of the same. The typically appealing Toni Collette plays his mother and this is where there is any qualitative parallel with the original, that the casting is slightly above average. But the film is not as committed to creating a believable diegetic world and is happy to simply throw up characters as caricatures.
Take the re-vamp of “Evil” Ed from the original. In the original is played with nerdy aplomb by Stephen Geoffreys, one of the film’s best characters. Geoffreys was also given a few scenes before the drama started going to build his character and his relationship to Charley. Here “Evil” Ed, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin of Superbad (2007) and the villain of Kick-Ass (2010)) is thrown on screen as the dweebish/insane former friend with whom Charley was a nerd before Charley got cool enough to land a super hot blond girlfriend. Ed’s already onto the vampire, he’s the one who’s figured it out here. But he’s also just a cheap nerd type.
Similarly, Peter Vincent, vampire slayer, has changed from the classic character of Roddy McDowell to a lampoon figure of a Criss Angel/Russell Brand (in a role that was seemingly written for Brand). In the re-make, he’s played by David Tennant, who does pretty well with the foppish, drunken bad boy of the Las Vegas strip.
I highlight these changes to underscore the alterations as variance from the original but also steps down from the original. Still, it’s a sight more than the average A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)-type of re-make of 1980’s horror films. It’s still got more going for it than most of these cynical enterprises.
I watched the films back-to-back because it had been a long, long time since I’d seen the original and it seemed a good way to go with a re-make, too, which had actually gotten mixed but decent reviews. It offered me a melancholy perspective on how the 1980’s were oddly enough still quite a fecund period of genre exploration in horror. Fright Night (1985) was in many ways a throwback to the horror films of the 1950’s, teens in trouble kind of adventure, with a healthy amount of comedy supporting it. It is an original story at the least.
While the new film maintains aspects of the qualities of the original, including the levity, it’s still a shell of a thing, not entirely by the numbers, but certainly lacking any original verve.