Mania Review: Fright Night - Mania.com



Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette,David Tennant, Imogen Poots, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
  • Written by: Marti Noxon
  • Directed by: Craig Gillespie
  • Studio: Touchstone Pictures
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Fright Night

Does the remake measure up?

By Rob Vaux     August 18, 2011


Fright Night
© Touchstone Pictures/Robert Trate

Remember when horror movies were fun? Fright Night does, and the world is a little better for it. It’s hard to believe, considering that this is yet another remake of a cult classic and yet another foray into the now totally shopworn territory of vampires. And to be sure, Fright Night doesn’t promise the moon. It desires only a little earthy August delight, buoyed by some timely digs at the Twilight model and a new take on the whole “monster next door” notion that made the first Fright Night a cult classic.

And while it bears the same title as that 80s icon, it most closely resembles a more recent bloodsucking phenomenon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Screenwriter Marti Noxon penned a number of episodes of the beloved TV show, and the same wry sense of humor shines through here. Where else could you expect a vampire to figure out new ways of getting people out of a house to which he hasn’t been invited? Or combine the monster-slaying with high school angst such that the two don’t seem totally incompatible?

 Noxon’s script examines notions untouched by the first film: delving deeper into the relationship between Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and his friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), for instance, or giving more attention to Charlie’s divorced mother (Toni Collette) to help smooth over some of the first film’s plot holes. It results in a more interesting tale in some ways, though the name of the game is still finding clever new ways to riff on the basic vampire formula.

Fans of the first film know the basics, but not the specifics. Charlie, a resident of the Vegas suburbs, soon comes to suspect that his handsome neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) might actually be a member of the undead. Ed initially tips him off before mysteriously disappearing, and while Charlie enjoys newfound popularity in school and a new girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), none of that can help him when Jerry comes calling.

The concept thrives on the adroit presentation of nifty notions, rather than specific story details. Indeed, director Craig Gillespie dumps us rather unceremoniously into the proceedings and expects us to keep up without a lot of assistance. Seeing the first film – and being well-steeped in vampire lore – helps keep an even keel. Soon enough, we’re caught up in the game, looking for the slick ways it’s going to turn traditional bloodsucking notions on their ear.  Gillespie quickly hits his stride, tossing us plenty of curveballs to keep us guessing and keeping the energy levels high. The set pieces are standard but infused with imagination, from the particulars of Jerry’s abode to a nighttime highway chase that stands as the film’s high point. Jerry himself comes across as something utterly unlike the tragic romantic of the first film: an inhuman killer who pretends to be a normal person for survival’s sake, and who frankly finds the concept a real drag.

Not every piece fits, but even those that don’t – such as the fraudulent vamp hunter Peter Vincent, reimagined here as a douchebag Criss Angel clone – maintain their own sense of cleverness. (David Tennant plays Vincent here and he has a blast.) The film’s inherent cleverness carries it past the occasional grab-bag pastiche, helping us readily forgive the fact that not all of it makes sense.

The teenage drama works surprisingly well too, particularly in the early stages when no one suspects any supernatural presence.  Charlie basically abandoned his friend Ed to the school bullies when his fortunes turned; he used to be a similarly dorky outcast, and Mintz-Plasse elegantly handles the combination of betrayal and envy which that equation entails. Fans of the first film know his ultimate fate, but the new material here puts it in a much different context. It enriches the character while paying homage to what has come before.

The rest of the film performs a similarly adept balancing act: delivering a new version of the tale that holds up well against its predecessor without overshadowing it. Many remakes strive to such goals, but few ever achieve them. Fright Night succeeds by not overshooting its bounds and by respecting the original even as it seeks new things to do with it. Above all, it hearkens back to an era when horror didn’t take itself so seriously: before the pretense and shock tactics of torture porn all but swallowed the genre whole. It’s nice to see a return to form… and nicer still to see it arrive in such an enjoyable package.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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RedHood2010 8/18/2011 5:17:18 AM

Not a bad review considering the initial hate for this 'remake'.  I will be checking it out.

TremorDeth 8/18/2011 5:21:28 AM

I'm glad that this is getting decent reviews.  I loved the original a lot as a kid growing up and as an adult.  I remember seeing Fright Night II, but can't remember if it was any good...

Wiseguy 8/18/2011 6:07:41 AM

I was never and rarely am against remakes. I was planning on checking this out regardless of reviews which right now are just middling at rottentomatoes at 68% but still early. Still it's doing better than Conan at 38% which remains my top choice for the weekend

Tremor IMHO Fright Night 2 sucked, that's why we never got a part 3

lusiphur 8/18/2011 6:22:44 AM

 Thanks Rob.  I was wary of seeing this, but after reading your review, this may be a double feature weekend with this and Conan.  I almost dread your reveiw of Conan, but I'll see it anyway.

monkeyfoot 8/18/2011 7:13:11 AM

I'm against all remakes!!! They are the spawn of Satan, do you hear!!!

No actually, I don't like remakes that seem unnecessary.For the most part, alot of the 80's remakes I don't like because they seem to be made by producers who just bought the rights to make any poorly done new version in order to cash in on the name recognition. "They loved it when they were a kid, they'll come in like stupid sheep to see the new version now."

But sometimes, a great group of filmmakers are put together on one of these and they really want to do something good and not just make money. I keep debating whether I want to see either FN or Conan this weekend or neither, and the tide is slowly turning towards this one. Just looking at the trailers peaks my interest alot more that the new Barbarian film.

I've only watched FN2 occasionally because I think the actress who plays his girlfriend is hot.

cinemaman72 8/18/2011 7:45:05 AM

It has the great David Tennant in it. So I'm there no matter what!

doublec 8/18/2011 10:10:22 AM

I'm with you, cinemaman; anything with Tennnant in it, although the fact has been criminally underused in the promotion of this makes me worry.

And what EXACTLY makes a remake "necessary"?  Seems to me "necessary" is an objective opinion,

Walker 8/18/2011 10:11:02 AM

 @TremorDeth

Fright Night II was responsible for my long crush on Traci Lind, but that was about it.

flyinroo 8/18/2011 10:26:44 AM

Here's how I feel about remakes...

At my heart, when I read about another movie from my past that I loved, is being remade, I hate it. It makes me angry that Hollywood has so little originality that have to tinker with the films that I have so enjoyed. Then I ponder the notion and consider that ultimately, it doesn't really matter. If the movie turns out good, then we have won a new movie to enjoy. If it is terrible (like most seem to be), then we can go back and watch the original and love it all the more. So what I think is at the center of the remake hatred is this: By remaking a film that we loved, we are almost compelled to see it, knowing it will likely suck, but hoping that it will rock. So in a way we are forced into seeing a movie that we really really want to be good and rekindle those old feelings, but in the end we are usually left with a very hollow experience and the resentment that we were manipulated by the Hollwood forces-that-be to waste our time and spend our money on something that we probably would not have seen.

Having said that, Fright Night is one of my favorite vampire movies, so I am not too thrilled about this one. It looks ok, though, and I might check it out. I have a friend that is trying to get to go watch Conan with him, he has even offered to pay, and because the movie looks absolutely horrible to me, I still may turn him down. Crap, whether it is free or not, is still crap.

SarcasticCaveman 8/18/2011 12:47:03 PM

 Yeah, remakes are what they are, they're always going to happen, and Hollywood doesn't seem to be in any sort of demise because of them...all you can do is hope for the best.  I'm going to see this, I thought it looked good from the first preview I saw.

Btw, if for those who love saying this, if every remake craps all over your childhood, you must have a very shitty life...buh dum dah.

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