Old 08-18-2011, 11:59 PM
Craig Gillespie's Fright Night (2011)

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Fright Night (2011)

Many look back on the original “Fright Night” from 1985 as a cult classic. It had its good elements including an interesting blend of genres and a really good performance from Roddy McDowall, but admittedly, I was not a big fan of it. So now, 26 years later, though no one was really demanding one, a remake could be just what is needed for it. Like many films, it has its ups and downs, and while it is a slight improvement over the original, there are still some issues regarding this old story.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is just your ordinary teenager. He goes to school, has a girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), lives with his mother, Jane (Toni Collette), and has a strange best friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Ed has been trying to get Charley to notice that their best friend Adam has not been around lately which leads them to explore the missing boy’s house. It is Ed’s theory that Charley’s new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a vampire. Turns out he’s right.

After Charley gets fed up with Ed’s supposed nonsense, he leaves Ed alone to continue investigating. On his way home, Ed has a run-in with Jerry, and next thing we know, Ed goes missing too. Charley begins to keep a closer eye on Jerry and once he tries out one of the rules of vampirism (they can’t enter a house without being invited), his suspicions are confirmed. With a known vampire next door, Charley must do whatever he can to protect his friends and family, including getting help from a vampire expert/stage performer, Peter Vincent (David Tennant).

It should be mentioned right away that this screening was in 3-D. If there was ever a film that should have avoided 3-D, it’s this one. Most people should be aware by now that 3-D merely makes a film much darker than it’s supposed to be, so when you take a film like “Fright Night” that takes place almost entirely at night and in several dark locations, it’s only making the film even darker and harder to see. As for the 3-D effect itself, there’s hardly anything to take note of aside from a few embers floating around the room. It’s certainly not something worth having to sit through a nearly pitch black film for.

As for the film, it has the same pacing issues that the original film had, but it is able to improve upon it slightly by amping up the suspense. However, the downside of this is that the film comes off as having some false endings including a car chase and a fight in Peter’s museum of dark artifacts. After feeling like the film should have been coming to a close during these sequences, it actually keeps going, and when it does finally reach the conclusion, it turns out to be less exhilarating than what came before it.

What this new version ends up doing better is finding a more appropriate balance of humor and horror. Here the film leans more in the direction of horror, as you would think a story like this would call for. Perhaps it was just the dated feel of the original, but that film always felt like they were trying to allow for a more even split of the two genres, whereas with the remake, the horror of the story is allowed to stand dominate with occasional small bits of humor thrown in.

The performances were an interesting blend that mostly worked for the film. Yelchin plays Charley as one would expect, as a kid trying to do the best he can to deal with this bizarre situation. Farrell was a good choice for the vampire. He plays Jerry in an over-the-top manner in a kind of homage to the corniness of the original. Mintz-Plasse makes for a satisfactory Ed and is far less annoying than the original version of the character when it comes time for him to become “Evil Ed.” Something else this version does better is that they don’t use the character of Ed as much, which is an improvement as he is still a somewhat annoying, nagging character.

The weakest casting sadly comes in the filmmakers’ choice for the new Peter Vincent. While David Tennant is a great actor (see the recent BBC version of Hamlet for a prime example), he doesn’t really do much with the role, which is ironic given that Roddy McDowall’s performance as the same character years ago was the high point of the original film.

Overall, this is an improvement over the 1985 version of the film, but there are still some issues with the story that needed to be worked out. The casting of the film is more inspired for the most part and the tone is better balanced, but there’s still just not enough to recommend sitting through this slow-paced tale. However, if you do decide to see it anyway, just make sure you’re not getting duped into seeing the worthless 3-D version. 2.5/4 stars.
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