I clearly remember seeing Fright Night for the first time. It was so very grand and full of 80’s horror greatness: the nerdy hero with an even nerdier best friend, the beautiful girl who stands by her man at all costs and, best of all, the ridiculously handsome, charming and undeniably irresistible vampire next door. As a quadruple bonus: Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. Yes, Fright Night is a prime example of horror in the 80’s. So, of course, a remake was inevitable and as usual, people were not very excited about it.
For whatever reason, I do not have the automatic dislike of a remake. A Fright Night reboot sounded exactly like something that was needed. Have you seen the original lately? Not the fond memories that you have of it, but actually watched the film in the last couple of years? It doesn’t necessarily hold up. There is quite a bit more comedy than horror and hearing “Oh, you’re so COOL, Brewster” is only funny once.
The 2011 version of the film is a thousand times slicker, in a good way, less cheesy and takes itself just seriously enough. It takes place in Las Vegas which is, really, quite clever. There are no “normal” hours kept in Nevada and you never think twice if you see a house with the windows blacked out. Colin Farrell as Jerry the Vampire is, in a word, brilliant. (“Jerry” as a vampire name is still a really great joke that is referenced a few times.) Farrell has that specific kind of sexiness that we always assume vampires possess and he just looks like he’s having a great time with the role. In fact, it feels as if everyone involved was having a great time in this movie. Anton Yelchin plays Charley Brewster with just the right amount of nerdy awkwardness and believable inner tough guy when it comes time to battle Jerry. David Tennant takes on the role of Peter Vincent who, in this version, has a successful Vegas magic/vampire casino show. Tennant is especially hilarious playing a jaded “celebrity” who is no longer amused by himself or anyone else around him.
The storyline follows pretty closely to the original, which is nice. There are some genuine moments of suspense and the CGI used to transform Jerry from dreamboat to blood sucking nemesis is good. It’s not practical F/X, but it’s not glaringly obvious computer effects either. There is a particularly wonderful staking scene that makes good use of items that are kept in lots of mom’s back seats and Jerry stalking Amy through the crowded night club still thrills as a sexy cat and mouse game.
Overall, Fright Night 2011 is a shiny upgrade that isn’t trying to be better than its predecessor, just newer with an updated sense of humor and a reflection of our more cynical society. It’s just a vampire movie with all of the expected and cherished vampire story clichés. This remake knows its place and I think that’s why it succeeds. I dare say that I like this version better than the 1985 original simply because it’s winking sense of humor is an addition and not a distraction or cheap ploy at self-aware outlandishness.