Looking Back at 2010s Films: Fright Night (2011)

12 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films…you know something? Ratings hardly mean diddly. I like the “Fright Night” remake much better than the “Fright Night” original, and I originally gave them both the same 3-star rating!

To be fair, there’s still much to like about the 1985 original film, starring Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon. Two of the reasons are…well, Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon. They’re a ton of fun to watch and they were clearly having fun themselves while making the film. McDowell is a riot as a classic-horror icon who finds himself up against real classic-horror monsters and mostly runs away screaming before he finally performs some action, and Sarandon is a suave figure; calm, cool, and collected, thus making him uneasily identifiable as a killer vampire. Then there’s Stephen Geoffreys as the wacky drugged-out kid who becomes a vampire, Evil Ed…I’ve also seen this guy act in films like “At Close Range” and I still don’t know if he was a good actor or not, but by God was he entertaining!

They’re certainly better than the main character, his girlfriend, and his mother, who are so gratingly annoying that I want to embrace the remake even more for making them both likable AND interesting!……Well, OK, I don’t know if they’re THAT interesting, but they are likable enough. That they’re played by likable actors such as the late Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Toni Collette makes it even better. (Whoa–Yelchin and Poots in the same film five years before “Green Room?” Nice!)

I like Colin Farrell fine as an actor, but I like him more when he’s playing someone who’s a total ass. Here, he’s a vampire. And while he’s not as subtle as Sarandon in hiding his identity, he’s not terribly obvious either. He walks that fine line between brooding (*cough* Edward Cullen *cough cough*) and actually menacing. He’s also sarcastic and makes snide remarks that seem more threatening in hindsight. Also, and this goes without saying, he is an asshole! (That smiling face he makes when one of his fresh bites vainly attempts to escape is simply priceless.)

Then there’s the matter of Peter Vincent, the reluctant “vampire killer.” In the original, he’s an old out-of-work horror-movie actor who is roped into a situation with real vampires, and he was one of the main characters. Here, he’s an illusionist who is said to be an expert in the dark arts, and he’s more of a side character than anything else. Oh, and he’s played by David Tennant, one of the coolest people in show business today–because of that, it does sort of bother me that he isn’t given as much to do as he could’ve had. However, he is funny and fun to watch and he does lend a helping hand when the chips are down, so I can’t say he’s “wasted” in the role. (“Let’s kill something!”)

Giving Charley (Yelchin) more of a character arc than his original counterpart makes it all the more interesting than if he were just some kid who randomly discovered a monster lives next door to him (and also wanted to get laid). And while we’re on the subject of positive character changes, I also like that his girlfriend Amy (Poots) is more understanding and supportive than her original counterpart (and not so whiny and shrilly all the time). (I mentioned this in my review of the original film–I really don’t like the Charley or the Amy of the 1985 film.) And Charley’s mother is more realistic than the passive, Vicodin-hooked loony the original came off as. Then there’s Ed, who’s more of a nerdy McLovin this time around (fitting–he’s played by McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but no matter–no one can replace the original Evil Ed and I’m glad they didn’t even try to.

I also like that the remake’s story is set in Vegas and the main characters live in a suburb surrounded by desert. A) As characters mention, it’s the perfect hiding spot for vampires. (“People work the Strip during the night and sleep all day.”) B) Horror movie watchers complain that not enough people call for help; well, there’s hardly any reception in the desert when characters are chased in there, so there’s that.

Speaking of which, that desert chase scene is technically well-executed, with one of those one-shot wonders we reviewers love to marvel upon. Just forget about the subpar CGI and remember the awesomeness of this well-crafted scene.

So, yeah. I like this film. A lot, actually. And honestly, I even forget that it IS a remake until they bring in some obvious callbacks (“You’re so cool, Brewster!”). It’s a fun, entertaining thrill ride (or as someone puts it, “a f**ked-up night”), and I like to pop the DVD in every once in a while for some good vampire fun (well…after “Near Dark,” “The Lost Boys,” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” obviously).

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