I am admittedly not the biggest advocate of remakes, even though there have been many that I have enjoyed. I have always felt that there are still untapped reservoirs of creativity in Hollywood, and that the idea of the remake is a fast track to so many of those reservoirs never seeing the light of day. So when I hear about yet another remake it means one more new idea that the movie going public will never see. In the case of Fright Night, my trepidation was also due to the fact that the original was a personal favorite and one that made a huge impression on me as a young horror movie fanatic.
The original 1985 film was an extremely accessible film, especially to a preteen who loved the genre. It had a blend of horror and humor that made it quotable and rewatchable. Rewatchable to the point where my late night HBO viewings of the film probably near reached the triple digits. As much as it did resonate with my preteen sensibilities, there was an adult sophistication that hinted at themes that I could only try to understand. Themes that probably also added to those late night viewing tallies. The original cast was an inspired choice and the chemistry on screen was evidence. Sarandon used his sex appeal as a weapon and made a formidable villain, using the naivety of William Ragadale’s Charlie Brewster against him, separating him even further from his passage to adulthood. With the addition of veteran thespian Roddy McDowell, the film paid homage to its predecessors while still managing to do something that a lot of fanged flicks regretfully forget to do… it was a SHIT TON of fun. It was a vampire flick that didn’t wallow in an unnecessary sense of self importance… it had a good time while finding the comedy in its subject matter without disrespecting it OR its audience. in fact, despite a few of the soundtrack choices, the film holds up surprisingly well. So well, that the idea of a remake didn’t strike me as a warranted one. It was with this mindset that I went to see the remake.
What Fright Night the 2011 remake does exceptionally well is keep the fun coming alongside the scares and action. It does it so well that there are times you almost forget that you are watching a remake at all. THIS is where Fright Night succeeds… honoring the original while giving new audiences what so many remakes and even big summer blockbusters fail to do… a good time. The remake follows the template of the original and fans of the 1985 film while find all the familiar territory that made the original so memorable. Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a high school student struggling with coming of age and the pressures of his first real “adult” relationship. His single mother is focused on what most single mother are and finds herself replacing he idea of a spouse with her job. When the next door neighbor moves in and proves to be the quintessential hunk that suburban wives and girlfriends tend to fawn over and make the object of their masturbatory fantasies, Charlie feels the pressures of being an adult while still being looked at as a kid. The neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrel), proves to be more of a predator than just the sexual variety after a string of murders close to home arouses the suspicions of both Charlie and his estranged friend, Ed (yes, McLovin). Soon though the idea of Jerry being a garden variety killer is dismissed and Charlie realizes he is up against a true creature of the night… one that is cunning, ruthless, and the embodiment of masculinity…something that represents Charlie’s inadequacies. As I said, the template is here. This IS Fright Night, and despite other reviews I have read, the changes to Charlie and Ed actually make a lot of sense. The 2011 Fright Night sees Charlie as a young man trying to separate himself from the friends of his past; friends whose interests in Dungeons and Dragons and youthful roleplaying might prove detrimental to Charlie’s new found popularity. This is embodied in Charlie’s near supernaturally HOT girlfriend. Another factor that, while Charlie is grateful, makes him uneasy, having to defend the validity of their relationship and his own worthiness to possess her affections. Granted, this is the kind of girl that more often than not would probably be having a secret romance with the flirty English Lit professor right out of college than a boy of Charlie’s ranks, WHICH… actually makes the struggle not only believable but a HUGE selling point of Charlie’s uneasiness when it comes to Farell’s sex appeal. The remake gets so much right that its hard not to wish that you didn’t have to compare it to its predecessor at all. When you do, however, you find that the two movies own distinct voices actually compliment one another, and this is captured wholly and completely in David Tenant’s Peter Vincent, a character that many were hesitant to see reprised at all. Despite my unwavering interest in all things horror, I am an avid Doctor Who fan. I think the best thing the BBC has done in years is resurrect the series and David Tenant finally gave us a doctor to rival Tom Baker’s celebrated portrayal. That being said, Tenant reinvents the character without shaming the original performance (brilliantly played by Roddy McDowell) and gives us some of the better laughs of the picture. What Fright Night should be congratulated on is giving us a fun summer movie that pays homage to the original without pissing on it. Recommended.
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