For the first day, it seems I will be watching a vampire flick. Not just any Vampire flick though, we aren’t talking about an Interview or stalking born from teenage angst. This is a remake of a cult classic, about a vampire being a guy’s neighbour. You know nice neighbourhood BBQs, enjoying each other’s company, having a bite to eat off your neck, the average stuff. Fright Night is not exactly the most terrifying horror movie of all time, but enough to begin to whet the appetite towards the trek to Halloween. In the era of bad horror remakes, Fright Night manages to sneak by most people. Nightmare of Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, all of these films attempt to revitalize their series to no avail failing to capture what truly terrified its original audience. Fright Night on the other hand understands that it was very niche to begin with. It understands the lowcuff humour, and how over the top the scenario is and has a lot of fun with it. Despite being true to its original base premise, does Fright Night (2011) manage to make a lasting impact?
Being a slight satire of the vampire genre is hard to do right. Especially with the enormous amount of parodies trying to poke fun of the vampire lore that don’t work in the slightest like Vampires Suck and Twilight (one wishes it was). Fright Night is a simple premise. Vampire lives next door and tries to turn the town into one big tribe. The story primarily revolves around Charlie (Anton Yelchin) understanding the true meaning of “growing up” and facing one’s fears through his run ins with the terrifying Jerry! Jerry? I actually laughed when I heard the vampire name, but that was one of the stellar things of the person playing said vampire. Colin Farrell is electric in moments when he isn’t in bad CGI. The tension is nearly palpable when he does the talk with Charlie threatening him. He manages to bring a large presence to the role that was really needed, often playing up the fact he is a horrible tool of a vampire. Those grins could make anyone want to see him ended in the worst possible way. He completely relishes in the role, and every time he is on screen he makes sure you know it. There is no hiding from Jerry because he himself doesn’t like to hide too much either.
Other notable performances were David Tennant as Peter Vincent who steals the film every time he is on screen. There is this light-hearted air to Tennant that no matter what it was joke wise, whether it is joking about ebay or talking about how leather doesn’t breathe, you can’t help but smile. His character on the other hand had a horribly tacked on backstory that was glossed over relatively fast. If almost anyone else was in this role it would have been probably the worst one of the bunch, yet Tennant’s flair makes it easily the most lovable. It is almost practically magnetic, which brings me to the meh/bad performances.
Anton Yelchin, bless his soul, was alright and most of the emotional scenes come off well for him despite the film’s overall rushed nature. Christopher Mintz-Plasse who is hilarious in other films like Superbad, brings a campiness to the film that goes too far. A self-awareness that he could not sell well at all. It’s sad since I love the guy, but there was never a moment where his lines were delivered with the same type of pizazz as Tennant. I know some really do like Plasse in the role, and at times I do feel like the betrayed friend persona fits in the beginning yet for the most part I find him more of another tacked on subplot. Dave Franco is a talented comedic actor, yet this minor role had nothing besides bad clichéd lines that made you face palm and wonder why he exists in the film in the first place. Imogen Poots and Toni Colette were alright but definitely not one of the roles you particularly love by the end of the film. Overall the acting was a bit mixed for most, two stellar performances, a few average ones and just ones that made you feel tired after their delivery.
Charlie is an angsty teen who shuns his geek past in order to get in with the cool kids. This little plot point is weirdly pivotal to the story, trying to make a commentary about being yourself in high school yet not much is really resolved except for the whole clichéd “It doesn’t matter who you are, I love you” whole deal. That was the weird part of the film, most of the subplots or themes feel practically tacked on. There is this weird inability to neatly tie up things in an interesting way with this film that you get the feeling that most of it, arguably the beginning is too rushed. I feel like they were trying to race through the film, and hitting off a checklist while they were at it.
The make-up and special effects were a bit too hokey for my liking, especially when comparing it to the original. When your vampire looks like the one from the 2004 Van Helsing film, you know you are doing something wrong. I feel like Colin Farrell can pull off the cold methodically snide vampire really well, and some of his sequences when you see him revel before having a bite into his victim is quite chilling. When you see him or anyone in the fleshy, wide-mouthed vampire segment they lose that appeal in the long run. Films like 30 Days of Night understand the use of lighting and gore, even if it wasn’t the best film, yet I found myself laughing over the special effects in Fright Night. Especially those designed for 3D, when the obviously fake blood spurts out it’s hard to take a feasting session seriously. Some scenes that didn’t overuse the special effects were quite tense and quite fun. During the final battle watching David Tennant use a stake gun was too funny, which shows how well they can handle both the ridiculous and the tense. The first scene of seeing Colin Ferrell feast upon a woman is handled in such a way that is both misleading and devious. It is both spine-chilling to watch through the crack of a door as a monster sucks away with such glee the life of another. Some of the directing certainly is inspired even if the film is technically weaker with its effects making it feel more low budget than it actually is and doesn’t make it stand up over the years.
Fright Night is exactly what you think it is going to be, a neighbour is a vampire and the kid has to fight him. Did it need to be remade? Meh, not really. It has pacing issues, doesn’t explain well or really conclude some subplots making them feel feel tacked on, and lacks a good special effects budget making the vampire transformation look goofier than anything. With all those negatives it sounds like I am giving this film a negative look, but I have to say I found it surprisingly entertaining and promising for the director. Some scenes and performances really stand out in the film and it has a nice balance of trying to defy cliché and trying to be truthful to the terror of the bloodsucking monsters of old. Colin Ferrell is at times truly terrifying, David Tennant really sold the whole performer of the dark arts conman bit, and overall this film is a bit of fun if you look past some of its faults. While Fright Night won’t necessarily be making you sing its praises, it does make for a very enjoyable vampire romp that reminds you how vampires used to be before they became sparkly.
Fright Night (1985) – Same idea, different follow through. It takes the characters in a different direction, and they both feel like different films with basically the same premise. If you like one, quite possibly you’ll like the other.
The Lost Boys (1987) – Another cult classic vampire film that brings the same campiness, yet focuses more on its action and the moral dilemma of becoming a vampire. Right up the same alley without being as satiric, Lost Boys will easily scratch the same feeling Fright Night gives out and arguably some of the same topics as well.
Yes I finally am starting to rate some of the things I watch. This doesn’t mean I will be tacking one on each time, but I feel it helps to finalize and compartmentalize my feelings. So what do you look for in a good vampire film? If you’ve ever watched it let me know what you thought about it in the comments below. Have yourself a great day!