6 September 2011


It's almost inevitable that Fright Night has that trendy moment of disparaging Twilight, which has unfortunately been exaggerated in some of the marketing I've seen to the point where it has alienated part of its target audience. It's also bombed at the box office accordingly. Happily though, this remake still puts its money where its mouth is, and delivers hugely enjoyable vampire action.

It starts inauspiciously enough, in the suburbs near Las Vegas, where Charley Brewster is enjoying the tenets of his new-found popularity, and his unspeakably gorgeous girlfriend, Amy. Left behind, his nerdy best mate Ed begins to investigate a series of disappearances, and links them back to Charley's neighbour, Jerry Dandridge, who is actually a vampire. With the reluctant help of Vegas showman Peter Vincent, Charley fights to protect the women in his life from an ancient and seemingly unstoppable predator.

The 1985 version of Fright Night isn't a classic, by most conventional measures, but it rightly has a huge amount of affection from its fans. Although it was a horror comedy and not an outright scarefest, it did a fine job of modernising the vampire character in its own right. Roddy McDowall's take on Peter Vincent puts it best, when he says that "Apparently your generation doesn't want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins."

But with vampires being shit-hot right now, a remake of such a recognisable 80s property should have seemed inevitable. As you may have gathered from the synopsis of this version, it's not what you'd call a faithful remake, but I find my attitude to the changes is similar to my attitude to book-to-film adaptations. Thank goodness that 2011's Fright Night does things differently to the 1985 version, rather than doing a step-by-step remake. And yet it still manages to do much the same thing, in making us take a vampire seriously once more.

Colin Farrell plays Jerry, and he makes Chris Sarandon's Jerry look like Ned Flanders by comparison. Sarandon's portrayal was more innocuous, because it was structured in such a way that people were meant to think Charley had gone nuts with his accusations of vampirism for much of the film's running time. Farrell's version is based on the more modern idea of the sexy vampire, personified by Robert Pattinson in certain simpering tween romance movies. Farrell's Jerry is a ladykiller, and the women of Fright Night don't immediately realise how literal that is.

Proudly carrying a 15 certificate, there's plenty of unfettered mayhem and violence, as Jerry pursues Charley and his loved ones. Wasting no time with the characters catching up with the audience, this new version has a lot more action than you might have been led to expect. Even more surprisingly, the film has one of the best action sequences I've seen all year; a car chase that is shot entirely from inside the vehicle, while Jerry attacks from outside. It's the one place in which the 3D really excels, and it's tense and exciting in a way that's reminiscent of similar scenes in Children of Men and Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

After Jerry, Peter Vincent is probably the biggest role. McDowall's performance is one of the most celebrated parts of the original film, and so any actor rehashing his role would be subject to intense scrutiny. Add in the fact that Vincent's role as a late night television horror pundit isn't really a job that exists in a modern frame of reference, and it absolutely makes sense that Marti Noxon's script should reinvent his character. David Tennant has a whale of a time as the stage magician, even though some of the emotional beats of McDowall's version are lost in the translation.

Elsewhere, the likeable young principal cast is made up of Anton Yelchin, whose scenes with Farrell are particularly tense; Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose version of Ed is pretty under-developed; and Imogen Poots, whose name is most likely some kind of karmic leavener to the fact that she's flipping gorgeous. All in all, it's a strong cast, which can make all the difference in a horror remake. The fundamental difference between this and most of those remakes is that this one is actually a lot of fun. It's not taking itself too seriously, but nor is it campy or blasé.

Fright Night is distinct enough from the original, while still getting the tone right, that I really don't feel comparisons are necessary. It manages to modernise the story without caving in to modern trends. Perhaps it's not as funny as it is action-packed or tense, but it holds its end of the bargain when it comes to the horror. I'm mystified as to why it's opened in the summer and bombed- with the strange deficit of horror films scheduled around the Halloween weekend this year, it could have been far more successful with a later release. It's a blast, and for once, a lively and enjoyable mainstream genre flick.

Fright Night is now playing, in 3D, in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Fright Night, why not share your comments below? The 3D's pretty decent in this one, so if you want to see it and can't find it in 2D, give it a shot anyway.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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