Director: Craig Gillespie
Writers: Tom Holland, Marti Noxon
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Synopsis: A remake of the 1985 original, teenager Charley Brewster (Yelchin) guesses that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Farrell) is a vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths. When no one he knows believes him, he enlists Peter Vincent (Tennant), a self proclaimed vampire killer and Las Vegas magician, to help him take down Jerry.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references
Original 1985 Trailer
Old vs. New
After watching many recent vampire films, I have to say it's good to see Hollywood go back to basics with the concept. Unlike most modern vampire movies that try to make them seem more sympathetic, the remake to "Fright Night" portrays them as the ruthless killers that myths have always portrayed them to be. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't mind whenever Hollywood portrays vampires as being more sympathetic if the story requires it, but it's just good to see that Hollywood hasn't forgotten how to make old school vampire films. Where the vampires are ruthless killers, and we're the terrified victims trying to survive in their world. Ah, good old days.
As some of you may know, "Fright Night" is essentially a remake of the 1985 classic horror film of the same name. A young man believes his neighbor might be a vampire, but nobody believes him. As the story goes on, the vampire starts to go after many of the protagonist's loved ones until a final showdown is in order. The boy is literally outnumbered and possibly outmatched, as he's aided with an infamous celebrity vampire hunter, who's not all he's cracked up to be. Although both the remake and original follow pretty much the same basic story line, it's hard to compare them, as both obviously had their own unique styles. The original had more of a "tongue and cheek" dark twisted humor horror style that still holds up to this day. Not only is the original scary, but it also managed to still induce it's own level of camp like humor into the mix.
Whereas the remake, the dark twisted humor is still there along with the frights, but it incorporates a bit of film noir and suspense to it. Plus, the remake adds a few twists to some of the original's concepts like the revamped back story of the infamous celebrity vampire hunter, and the endings are slightly different. However, for the most part, the remake seems to follow the original fairly closely; without compromising it's own chance to distinguish itself either. Granted, the twists and changes used in the remake might seem minor, but you'll be quite surprised on how even the slightest detail can effect each film.
For instance, let's take a look at the main character, Charley Brewster. In the 1985 version, William Ragsdale's character was already convinced there was something suspicious about his neighbor from the very beginning. And unlike the remake, the emphasis of trying to fit in at school to dealing with protecting his mother, in the wake of his father's death years ago, isn't even an issue. If anything, the film tends to focus more on Charley's paranoia of thinking his neighbor could be a vampire, and some of the troubles he goes through to protect his family and friends once it turns out that his suspicions have been confirmed. Again, unlike the remake that uses Charley's discovery as an opportunity to create suspense to draw the audience into the movie, the original uses the discovery to create genuine comedy through horrific tensions. Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that the original was some sort of spoof, but it did contain a lot camp elements that one would find in a lot of the earlier "Nightmare on Elm Street" films; which makes it more comical and sort of engaging in a lot of ways.
In the beginning of the remake, Charley isn't concerned at all with his neighbor, as he's more concerned about issues that most teenage boys would be worried about like fitting in, school, and girls. Since turning into a senior, Charley has become the big man on campus, as he's dating the hottest girl in school named Amy (Imogen Poots); which is another deviation from the original. Indeed, life just couldn't get any better for Charley until one of his old nerd friends asks him for a favor. Reluctant at first, Charley inevitably agrees to help him, after being black mailed by his old pal, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). What could Ed want that would cause him to black mail his old friend you may ask? Well, it turns out that Ed suspects that Charley's neighbor to be a vampire, and needs his help. Like most people, Charley doesn't believe him at first, but once he finds out that everything Ed has told him to be true, he starts to become paranoid into this conspiracy as well. From here, the film pretty much sets itself up to create a lot of dramatic tension, suspense and some pretty scary horrific scenes. Hell, I'd have to say this film does a much better job at delivering frights than the original version.
Unfortunately, some of the comedy in this movie has a tendency to feel forced at times, and it's not really as clever as the original when it comes to implementing the camp humor that made the original a cult classic. However, that's not to say the remake isn't that great of a horror film, as it's definitely one of the better vampire movies out there. It's just that some of the jokes they try to implement, to make it still have the same feel as the original, just doesn't come off as clever as before, and a part of you feels that this film may have surpassed the original if they had made this into a straight horror movie instead of a horror comedy. In terms of pure horror value, I would have to say the remake does a far better job establishing the frights.
Of course, I'm sure a lot of fans of the original might get mad at me for saying that, but please hear me out before passing judgment. The fact that the main character, Charley, isn't already paranoid about his neighbor, at the beginning, only helps the viewer identify with him almost immediately, as he's just a normal kid that goes through everyday problems. Like the viewer, he gradually gets sucked into the world of vampires, as the film plays itself out. Gradually, building up to the suspense that naturally helps make the elements of horror more scarier. Whereas the original, the audience is already thrown into the concept that vampires exist, as we're forced to watch a character that's already convinced his neighbor is a vampire before establishing any credible proof. Granted, it works well when setting up the more comical elements that the original displayed, but it doesn't quite deliver on the scary moments like the remake does. Don't get me wrong, I think both takes on the character are fairly interesting, and I certainly would recommend either film. However, I would have to say Anton Yelchin plays the better Charley than William does, as Anton's version is more believable right from the start. Not only does the movie play out well through his eyes, but you can immediately connect with his character in a lot of ways; which makes it easier to root for him throughout the film. Whereas the original Charley, I liked him a lot too. However, because he was shown as already being paranoid from the very beginning, you don't immediately connect with his character; which makes it harder to get into the movie right away. Don't get me wrong, he does manage to make you laugh at some of his antics, but I'd have to say the remake version of Charley is the best.
Of course, lets not forget about our celebrity vampire hunter, Peter Vincent; played David Tennant and Roddy McDowall. Again, both actors did a fairly good job playing this part, and both offered their own unique style and twists to the character. Without giving away the twists involved with both the remake and original versions of the character, the remake's Peter Vincent is a lot less comical, and more cynical than the original. Plus, unlike the original, the remake gives Peter a revamped back story that causes him to have a deeper connection with the main protagonist. Which on the one hand, it does allow for a deeper story, and it allows the viewer to fully embrace his character a lot easier. However, on the other hand, the original Peter Vincent was a lot more comical in his performance. Sure, he didn't have the deep back story that the remake version had, but the twist to the original Peter was a lot funnier to see play out. Overall, I would probably say both Peters filled out their roles rather well, as it's kind of hard for me to pick between them. Granted, the remake had a deeper back story for Peter; which only helped the viewer identify more with why he's helping Charley. But as I said before, the original focused more on the comical aspects of horror; which allows for the twist on Vincent's character to be just as potent as the twist the remake version has.
However, let's not forget about the vampire antagonist played by Colin Farrell and Chris Sarandon respectively. Like the last two characters, I thought both interpretations were handled rather well for what each perspective film was going for. Colin Farrell shows a dark sense of humor in this movie, and he's certainly every bit as charming as Chris was in the original. However, unlike Chris' version, Colin's vampire is a lot more menacing, and scarier by far. Not only is he unmerciful towards his victims, as his cold blooded expression has he hunts down his prey only helps intensify the horror even more. In fact, I was a bit surprised how ruthless Colin's character was in this movie. Not only did he try to kill Charley and his friends, but he literally burned down his house in order to draw him out. For you see, vampires can't enter a person's home unless they're invited. However, there's nothing against the rules that a vampire can't enter once the house burns down. Indeed, Colin is bit of a mixture of Chris' interpretation with the dark twisted sense of humor, and Arnold's Schwartzenneger's cold blooded terminator.
As for the original, he was menacing, but he was more calculating if anything else. Unlike the remake, Chris' vampire does offer Charley a choice to leave him alone out of some deranged sense of mercy, and he'd gladly leave Charley alone in return. Whereas Colin's vampire, once you knew who he was, then you're dead. I think in the end, both actors play a great vampire, but I would have to say Colin Farrell plays a much darker version of the character.
Overall, I think both the original and remake warrant their own merits. Both are fairly good for what they're trying to do. Although, I would say the original works better at mixing in the elements of horror and comedy together. But, the remake is by far the scariest between the two, and offers a deeper insight into the characters. In the end, I'd have to give both movies a three out of four. Both are fairly entertaining, but both suffer from being highly predictable. However, if I had to pick one that was better than the other, then I'd have to say the original is slightly better. The only reason I say that is because the original does a better job at implementing both the comedic and horror aspects together. However, both films are equally just as good. I'd highly recommend either one if you're looking for a scary movie to watch on a Friday night.