Saturday, January 7, 2012

Horror Film Review

Fright Night (2011):  Remake of the 1985 classic, this is an ambitious undertaking and the filmmakers pulled out all the stops:  A-list case, an R rating, and input from Steven Spielberg.  Not to mention Doctor Who himself is playing Peter Vincent.  No way this film sucks, right?  Right.  Mostly... 

If you're a horror fan, you already know the basic story.  Teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) lives with single mom (Toni Collette) in a Las Vegas subdivision.  Charley's boyhood friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) insists new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire and points out kids in their school are going missing at an alarming rate.  Charley doesn't believe him, that is until Ed goes missing and Charley finds his friend's stash of incontrovertible proof.  Yeah, Ed's dead.  Well, maybe not.  Anyway...

Realizing he's in over his head, Charley goes to the Hard Rock Cafe casino where stage illusionist Peter Vincent (David Tennant) performs his Criss Angel-like show.  Vincent is a reputed vampire expert and owns all manner of vamp-related paraphernalia including ancient books and weapons ala eBay.  He's also a cowardly, potty-mouthed drunk who refuses to look at Charley's proof much less help.  After escaping an attack from Jerry that landed his mom in the hospital, Charley and girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) get a call from Vincent, go to his place, and learn what kind of vampire Jerry is and how to kill him.  Then Ed and Jerry show up, there's a big fight, and Amy is taken.  Charley and Vincent then suit up for the final battle in the cavernous sub-basement of Jerry's house.

The most glaring difference between the remake and the original is the characterization of Peter Vincent.  Instead of a broke, has-been actor who doesn't even believe vamps are real, he's a rich and successful Vegas act who does.  It shouldn't work, but it does because we learn a vampire killed Vincent's parents when he was just a boy.  So in the remake, vindication comes from a different, perhaps more personal, angle.  Ah...who cares?  I mean, it's David Tennant!  (Yeah, I'm a Doctor Who nerd.  Sue me.)  One thing I don't think works as well is Jerry.  In the original, Chris Sarandon played the character as a charming smooth talker who fools everybody into thinking he's the nicest guy in the world yet still successfully oozed a subtle menace.  Colin Farrell's Jerry is all menace and no subtlety; there are no layers to peal back that will eventually reveal the monster.  This, I feel, was the film's only major misstep.


Acting:  Yelchin, Collette, and Poots are quite believable and work well together.  Mintz-Plasse is his usual annoying self.  Given how his character was written, Farrell's talent is wasted and he seems bored most of the time.  David Tennant, on the other hand, steals every scene he's in and is simply brilliant (British slang meaning very good). 
Story:  Same story, different decade.  Still works.
Direction:  My main complaint is how slow the film started.  I keep looking at the counter on the DVR wondering when director Craig Gillespie was going get it in gear.  He got there...eventually.
Production Values:  Despite its relatively low $30 million budget, the film looks good.  One problem, though, is the lighting.  A number of scenes are way too dark to tell what the hell's going on. 
Gore/FX:  Not enough, frankly.  An R-rated movie should be much more bloody.  The CGI isn't bad, but they could have done more with Jerry as the monster. 
Scares:  The car chase gag is pretty intense and there's one or two "gotcha" jumps. 
The Ending:  I liked the climatic fight scene but could have done without what happened afterward.

The Verdict:  Should you see the Fright Night remake, and is it as good as the original?  Yes, be the judge.

My Rating:  3 out of 5 stars.


  1. When I first saw this movie, I thought that it wasn't comparable to the original,but at the end I thought it was a 3 out of 4 stars. Did you know the original Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) made an appearance in the re-make? He was the guy who stopped on the road toward the end of the movie and Jerry 'ate" him.
    Colin Farrell was in Mitchell last September, passing through from Canada, en route to L.A., he spent the night and went to the movie.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I forgot to give a rating and I too would give it three out of four. I didn't recognize Chris Sarandon. Like I said in the review, it was so dark. Farrell was in Mitchell? Interesting if not odd.

  3. Yes he was in Mitchell, you probably go onto the Daily Republic site and check for old stories, he took a picture with all the employees at the Mitchell theater. He was passing through with his sister, finished a movie in Canada. One employee asked if he took in the hunting in SD and Colin said why he would kill your fine animals here. LOL Chris looks old in the movie, but yes, Sarandon was in it, when Jerry ran the family off the road and Sarandon was behind them, he was in the movie for a brief minute.