Fright Night Review
Remakes rarely come without their fair share of naysayers so we feel it’s important to state from the outset that Fright Night is really rather good, arguably one of the strongest remakes since Dawn Of The Dead. Bold shout out of the way, it’s worth noting that it succeeds mainly because while it takes the same skeleton as the 1985 original and throws in a cheeky cameo, it’s tonally a very different film. The original isn’t without its fair share of dark laughs but the remake, helmed by Lars And The Real Girl’s Craig Gillespie (yes, really), amps up the comedic elements largely driven by David Tennant’s fantastically OTT performance. Although this is to the detriment of any real horror elements, the result is a enjoyable ride that may even sway fans of the original should they give it a chance.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Fright Night – and if you haven’t, stop reading now and watch it – the film revolves around teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) who, after some nudging from his friend ‘Evil’ Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), starts to suspect his new neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. Eagle eyed readers will already note a slight difference from the original with this film’s Charley initially the sceptical one, and it’s not the only plot change. Perhaps the main change is a lack of any other supernatural beings aside from vampires, a move that doesn’t harm the film in any shape or form.
The film is aided by a trio of strong main performances: Yelchin is solid as the reluctant hero Charley although is perhaps hindered by stereotypes in the script; Farrell is a world away from Twilight’s vampires and oozes a dark, seductive and menacing tone; Tennant is the major surprise though, his Peter Vincent (now a stage performer rather than ageing actor) is a foul-mouthed womaniser and it’s clear Tennant revels in chewing the scenery, not forgetting to install audience empathy along the way. The only real weak link is Mintz-Plasse who essentially plays the same character again and pales in comparison to Stephen Geoffreys’ oddball turn in the original.
Technically it’s a better well-made film in comparison, unsurprising given over 25 years has passed, with a superb chase sequence midway through, the stand-out sequence. Shot in constant 360 degree pans in one take, it remains focussed inside our protagonist’s car throughout and is viscerally captivating, rivalling Let Me In’s POV car crash sequence in technical bravura. The 3D as well impresses, helped by the fact that it was shot and not post-converted and although at the start you’ll end up thinking why they bothered, some excellent latter use of it, including a memorable face out to camera during the climactic battle, more than justifies the extra ticket price.
If it has a main flaw though, it is that it simply isn’t anyway scary or horrific leading to a somewhat disposable whole. There’s a surprisingly copious amount of blood and gore but apart from the aforementioned chase, it never gets the adrenaline pumping, happy instead just to entertain. While this does lead to some genuinely brilliant dark streaks of humour – one shock sight gag is inspired, especially since it marks the first such moment in the film – and scenes with Tennant rarely fail to raise a laugh, overall it’s a strangely uninvolving experience. It’s not forgettable as such but a lack of depth is noticeable.
Still the biggest compliment you can pay Fright Night is that it doesn’t feel unnecessary and is probably a lot better than the result you had in your mind when it was announced. It’s consistently fun thanks to great performances, an effective use of 3D and inventive set pieces, managing to revitalise the increasingly stale vampire sub-genre of horror in the process. In a year when decent American horror is at a premium, it’s disappointing that it’s more a thriller-comedy rather than horror-comedy especially when more horror might have elevated it even above the original. As it is though, it’s more than on a par; a conclusion even the most cynical among you might come to.