We’ve been force-fed quite a few remakes within the last five years. The taste isn’t too satisfying most of the time but we as an audience have learned to tolerate it at the very least. One such remake we’re talking about here is “Fright Night,” based off the original 1985 horror-comedy by Tom Holland. Fans of the original cried out online in protest when the remake began production but since have been silenced by footage from the Craig Gillespie-directed film. I admit, I am one of those fans who started to shut her trap once she got a better look at the footage. Perhaps this version of “Fright Night” will be equally as good as the original. Maybe it’ll be tolerable at the least.
They keep the simple story line structure from the original intact. Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) ends up discovering that his charming next door neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) is a vampire responsible for several killings happening around his neighborhood. You have to tip your hat to those who tried their best to make “Fright Night” their own original movie. Then again, the story doesn’t successfully become it’s own or a repeat of events from the first flick. It keeps teetering back and forth from homages to the original to being an original vampire film. In the end you feel like you watched part of a movie. It doesn’t help that the first thirty to forty minutes of the movie makes us feel that we’re drowning in exposition, making us believe that we missed an entire half hour of footage. Then there’s the whole explanation of a vampire army that never really is used at all which in the end is just frustrating to think about.
It’s harder to get behind a hero when your first impression of him is that of an a-hole. Why would you want to root for this guy? You’d rather see him wander off screen, never to return again rather than root for him while he tries to save his suburban town. Therefore its hard to get behind one particular character as the main hero of the story. Obviously it’s supposed to be Charlie Brewster here but he’s such a dislikable character from the start you find yourself wandering from one character to another, trying to find hero solace in others.
Then there’s the unexplained reasons why a character knows another’s phone number, where a person lives, etc. There’s a scene where Charlie leaves Peter Vincent’s home, not explaining to the illusionist where he’s going but yet there he is a couple of scenes later at Jerry Dandrige’s house, ready to do battle with the undead.
As a side note, do us a favor and leave the “Twilight” jokes out of every other movie from here on out. We all know it’s not socially acceptable to be a fan of the dull series, that doesn’t mean we want to hear about it in every other movie we check out this year.
The first actor that immediately stands out in my mind as that one person who was having fun on set was David Tennant. He brings an arrogant, flashy charm in this version’s Peter Vincent that’s delightful to see. The same goes with Imogen Poots who isn’t just the stereotypical ditzy love interest you see in most horror films. Then again the whole relationship with her and Charlie just doesn’t really click chemistry-wise.
Unfortunately a large portion of the cast, which includes Toni Collete, is there just for appearance sake. You get the stereotypical awkward adolescent-type performance out of Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. It works for Mintz-Plasse’s character who’s pretty fun to watch on screen after he turns into a vampire, but not for Yelchin. He comes across at times like a nervous little wreck. Granted you expect as much from a character who has to deal with the fact that next door is a blood-sucking vampire, but no real form of confidence in his character forms until the very end where you find yourself wondering where it’s been during the rest of the movie.
There isn’t much more to Farrell’s vampire character other than the fact that he craves blood and will do anything in his power to stop people from finding out his secret. In several interviews he’s been compared to “Jaws” which is a good comparison. He’s a flat-out predator, but there’s nothing more to his character than that. Colin Farrell is a fine actor but the character was better off mumbling incoherent sentences with the way they wrote him up.
The direction is there, fits the bar minimum but is ultimately pushed to the side thanks to the horrible use of 3D and other unnecessary tools in order to properly convey a story that is only partially complete. There was room to play, but it felt like Gillespie was playing it safe especially with the added dimension (3D) that he had to deal with throughout the whole shooting process. He hit the directing at par, but it wasn’t memorable to the point of where you’d start gabbing about it like crazy to your friends once you saw the film.
The Technical Side
Easily one of the biggest flaws with “Fright Night” is not only the unnecessary use of 3D, which will continue general audiences’ love and hate relationship with the tool, but the poor lighting. There are a couple of moments throughout the film that we’re supposed to be looking at a particular object or person and we, as an audience, just cannot see it. Could it be due to the small loss of color that 3D takes on every picture? Perhaps it’s a deadly combination of poor lighting choices along with the tint that goes with 3D picture. There are times where the dimensions feel like they start to pop out instead of add more depth into a scene, therefore making the 3D even more distracting.
Speaking of distractions, lets not forget to mention the gratuitous amount of 3D blood and limbs that were being thrown in your face. It’s the gimmicky kind of stuff that they use with this third dimension that’s really irritating. It pushes aside hours upon hours of work that the visual effects team did on this project in order to give the same kind of 3D kicks you’d expect out of “Piranha 3D” or “Shark Night.” It works for those movies, but not for “Fright Night.”
Remember how cool and grotesque it used to look when undead beings got hurt? It’s kind of there in “Fright Night,” but it’s comical more than anything else. Many people in charge of the production claim that they collaborated to make a flat-out horror film but there were plenty of people in the audience laughing it up when Dandrige was writhing around on the floor literally squealing like a pig when he got stabbed in the shoulder. The original was a horror-comedy, maybe they can play it off like so with the new version.
The Overall Take (Final Words)
In the end “Fright Night” is just a jumbled mess of what could have been a potentially enjoyable remake of an entertaining horror-comedy. Fans of the original will be cringing in their seats while audiences who have never been exposed to it will chock it up as another sloppy attempt at making another vampire movie.