Remakes are a tricky thing. On the one hand, if the original didn’t quite work the first time round, and advances in technology, or current politics course the original’s plot to become more relevant, then a remake may well be welcome. However, more often than not, remakes are greenlit by studios in order to cash in on current trends, or the popularity or the original property. In the case of the 2011 remake of the 1985 cult classic Fright Night, it’s clear that, while a 21st century version would have been welcome, it’s existence is solely due to both the popularity and backlash of the likes of Twilight.
With this incarnation directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl (2007), The Finest Hours (2016), Million Dollar Arm (2014)), and starring the late Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Terminator Salvation (2009), Green Room (2015)), Colin Farrell (Total Recall (2012), In Bruges (2008), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)), and David Tennant (Jessica Jones (2015), Doctor Who (2005 – 2013), St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (2009)). The film, for the most part, follows the basic outline of the original, Charlie Brewster (Yelchin) discovers his new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Farrell), is a vampire, and enlists the help of his friends and famed vampire killer, Peter Vincent (Tennant) for help. Beyond that initial outline however, and nodes to original scenes, the film fails to provide the compelling hold the original had. The changes, while interesting at times, often play against the characters, and create more questions than needed. Charlie is not the one to make the great discovery that his neighbour is indeed a vampire, it’s in fact Ed that presents the idea to Charlie that there is something off about his neighbour. This is given no explanation, up until this point, we are given no to suspect Jerry of any misdeeds, other than of course reading the blurb on the back of the Blu-Ray case. When Ed presents his proof, it’s just raises more questions about Ed himself, with Jerry only being a recent edition to the town, what exactly drew Ed to consider investigating. In the original, its small sights and sounds that feed Charlies curiosity, and eventually leads him to investigate. Here, it just leads to making Ed’s character unlikable, and somewhat creepy.
While the casting of Anton Yelchin as Charlie sounds like ideal casting, especially given his portrayal of Chekov in the Star Trek reboots, Instead of acting as the likeable everyman, or the boy next door, but the character, especially in the first 20 minutes, comes off as unlikeable, and incredibly shallow. The Charlie shown here, is shown to have abandoned his long-time friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), for the wholly unlikable Mark (Dave Franco (21 Jump Street (2012), Now You See Me (2013))) and Ben (Reid Ewing (Modern Family (2009-2017))). Ed himself is harshly underused, and comes off more as a blackmailing sociopath, than a caring friend. He appears briefly during the film’s opening, and when he returns later, with the same transformation as the original, we don’t have a reason to care, we have no connection to him. The idea of making Peter Vincent a younger, Las Vegas stage performer, with a heavy vampire killer edge to his act, does make sense in the 21 century. The likes of Roddy McDowell’s late night horror show host, doesn’t fit now a days, with portrayals of such a character acting more like throwbacks to the Hammer Horror days, than genuine characters. However, Tennant’s casting is questionable, while he is a good actor, with a tremendous following from his portrayal of the 10th Doctor on Doctor Who, and later proof that he can play darker roles in 2015’s Jessica Jones, he seems to spend most of his time on screen over acting, clearly having fun, even pointing out some of the films more absurd moments, but his acting is clearly nowhere close to his other works. Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later (2007), Need for Speed (2014), V for Vendetta (2005) as Amy, is largely bland, playing the modern generic hot girl, who happens to be dating the lead character. The fact that Amy is already portrayed as heavily sexualised, makes her fate towards the end, less meaningful. The overall weak point of the casting however, is Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge. He comes off as heavily creepy, but not in the intended way. The moments where his intent is to charm, comes off as unsettling, but still somehow bland in his execution. At no moment does he seem threatening, though his vampiric exploits are shown in gory detail, they have no impact.
The monster effects throughout, are laughable at best, and frequently hits the uncanny valley square in the face. Compared to the practical effects of the ’85 original, and even CGI in the early 2000s, it’s hard to find any real terror in it. If you are searching for a comparison for practical vs. digital, then Fright Night is a prime example. Even though the original effects could be seen as laughable at times, they have their charm, and have inevitably left their mark on film history, unlike the lazy, half-finished attempts of its 2011 counterpart.
With awful effects, half assed acting, and an uncomfortable amount of throw away references to the original, the Fright Night remake is little to write home about.