There have been a lot of poor and unnecessary horror remakes over the last decade and it seems Hollywood is now having to delve into the more obscure realms of camp 1980s horror-comedy. Fright Night is the remake of the 1985 film and is directed by Craig Gillespie starring Anton Yelchin and David Tennant(Doctor Who) along with Colin Farrell(In Bruges) as the ancient vampire next door causing chaos in the small Nevada town.
Charley Brewster (Yelchin) is a small town kid dealing with the usual trials being a teenager presents. He has been forced to compromise his friendship with best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is no longer cool enough to be seen with, as Charley attempts to climb the tricky high school social ladder and continue to impress popular girlfriend Amy. The duo’s friendship takes a further nose-dive when Ed breaks the difficult news that Charley’s new neighbour Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire, which Charley doesn’t exactly take seriously (“That’s a terrible vampire name! Jerry?!”).
As the film progresses, the questionably named Jerry engages in a series of mind games with Charley including sniffing (literally) around his single mother and new girlfriend, which prompts Charley to seek professional advice from phony vampire slayer Peter Vincent (Tennant). Though initially revealed to be a bit of a wimpy fraud Vincent eventually agrees to aid Charley in his quest to slay Jerry the vampire and free all of his enslaved victims, which ultimately includes most of the neighbourhood.
The main aspect of the film that lets it down is undoubtedly the acting. Farrell is dull and wooden as the villain and though valiant efforts are made to portray the character as a cool and modern vampire his mumbling dialogue is embarrassing and feels clumsy and improvised. Yelchin is adequate in his role as hero but doesn’t dazzle. On the other hand there is excellent comic relief provided by both Mintz-Plasse and Tennant in their respective roles as vampire minion and vampire slayer. Mintz-Plasse is once again cast in the put-upon geek role he fills so well. Tennant pulls the film back from the brink as he features more prominently in the third act, making up for the much weaker earlier scenes featuring only Charley and Jerry. Of the few script highlights, most go to Tennant, whose portrayal is the most three dimensional and believable of the characters.
Another mixed bag is the script which veers wildly between witty one liners and tumbleweed moments as at least half the gags fall absolutely flat. Granted, jokes only need to make up half of a horror-comedy combo but there’s also a real lack of any legitimate scary moments which will inevitably leave genre fans dissatisfied. I can’t help but feel the filmmakers wanted to make a comedy much more than a horror film, in much the same vein as genre classics Braindead(1992) or even fellow 80’s vamp flick The Lost Boys(1987). I would certainly have preferred this to be the case as I wanted to laugh a lot more than I actually did and the afore-mentioned films do a much better job of straddling the horror-comedy balance.
The main problem with this remake is that it replicates all the faults of the original. It’s still cheesy, full of hammy dialogue and acting. I certainly wasn’t looking for a serious, poe-faced re-imagining, but at the same time I feel there was a lot of wasted potential with what was essentially a faithfully mediocre remake. Ultimately it wasn’t a poor remake but it was certainly an unnecessary one and if you’ve seen one version then you’ve seen them both. If you’re a fan of the original movie or vampire films in general then it doesn’t offer anything new or original but otherwise it’s a fun, enjoyable but instantly forgettable viewing experience.
What did you think of Fright Night? Was it worth remaking?