On the surface, Fright Night has a number of strikes going against it. It’s a remake. It’s in 3-D. The original is loved by fans and unknown to the general public – meaning that its name brand value is low, and those who love the original are probably going to be annoyed. but to make it they assembled a great cast (including Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin), and they had a good starting point. It would be nice to say that the film overcomes those obstacles, but – though there are some nice touches here and there – it doesn’t work. Check out our review….

The Players:

The Plot:

Charlie Brewster (Yelchin) is dating hot girl Amy (Poots), and lives with his single mom Jane (Collette) in Las Vegas. They live next door to Jerry Dandridge (Farrell), who says he’s a construction worker, and comes across as a bull-headed straight guy who’s obviously pretty hot. Charlie’s been ducking old friend “Evil” Ed (Mintz-Plasse), but is bribed into doing some investigating with him, as Ed thinks Jerry’s a vampire. When Ed goes missing, Charlie feels guilty enough to check on his neighbor, and there Charlie discovers his neighbor is a vampire. He goes to Peter Vincent (Tenant) to get some help. Vincent is a A-list magician with an interest in the occult. But now Charlie is on Jerry’s radar, and that’s a bad place to be.

The Good:

  • The Setting: Las Vegas is a city built on the industry of partying, and so it’s a great place to visit, but not a stable place to live. The idea of people moving away randomly and a transient life is a perfect setting for a vampire. You wish they had done more with it.
  • A Mid-Section Set Piece: There’s a sequence in the middle where Brewster sneaks into Jerry’s house, which allows Jerry to toy with Charlie, and it’s tense, funny, and has a great ending.
  • The Comedy: David Tenant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse play the more comic relief roles, and every time they’re on screen the film gets juice out of Tenant’s rock-n-roll alcoholic magician and Evil Ed’s cutting jokes.
  • The Transition into the Third Act: with movies like this, there’s generally a period where the main character feels like the boy who cried wolf. One of the best parts of the film is that you think you’re going to have to sit through more of that, but the film changes gears quickly.

The Mixed:

  • Colin Farrell: He’s great on screen, but he doesn’t have much of a character to play. It’s great to see Farrell maturing into the film star Hollywood thought he might be ten years ago, and it’s a star performance, but the script lets him down.

The Bad:

  • The Remake Factor: The original followed a young boy who’s about to lose his virginity when he’s distracted by two men moving in next door (and may be distracted in that way). What follows is a very smart B movie that then puts Peter Vincent – a cinematic vampire hunter – into a situation where he’s confronted with the real thing. It’s well worth checking out. But when this film tries to work in those details, it doesn’t know how to. Here Peter Vincent is a magician, and though it would be impossible to replicate a horror movie host in modern times, why Charlie goes to a stage magician he doesn’t even like for advice is thin. And then how it brings Vincent in for the third act is even thinner and adds a plot point that could be removed and change nothing. There are numerous other examples of this. Like…
  • Evil Ed and Charlie Brewster: The starting point for their relationship is great. Brewster’s gone on to be a part of the popular kid set, while Ed’s a loser. In the original they were friends who playfully mocked each other (though there was an underlying tension there). With their relationship over, it’s Ed who tips off Charlie about his neighbor the vampire. But though it’s understandable that Charlie would want nothing to do with “Evil” Ed, it starts the film with a protagonist being mean to the one person who is right. And then later it’s revealed his girlfriend likes him because he’s a geek, so he ended that friendship for the wrong reasons. And then later, when Ed and Charlie confront each other under different circumstances it doesn’t pay off. So you’re left with a lot of things that seem to be in there because of the original – but don’t work on their own terms – on top of a main character who’s not very empathetic in terms of the narrative.
  • Thin Main Characters: Pure evil doesn’t really need a motivation, but you’re left wondering why Jerry lives where he does, and why he does some of the things he does – and a lot of it comes across as writers using the fact that he’s a vampire to avoid those questions. But he’s obviously been doing this for decades (if not centuries), so it raises questions that go unanswered. And then there’s Charlie Brewster, who doesn’t really care about a vampire next door until it’s a threat to his life, and spends the majority of the film responding to things that are happening around him, on top of being a bad boyfriend and jerk to his old buddy. If the tumult of being a teen is supposed to be reflected in his “journey” it doesn’t play.

Overall:

A fumble. Like a number of remakes, it’s either not faithful enough or entirely too faithful to emerge as a complete thought. For every good decision, there’s a number of bad ones. It’s too bad, because it feels like there’s a good movie in it.

Rating: 4.5/10

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Trailer:

Fright Night opens August 19.