I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Fright Night (2011 remake)

tn_frightnight11I remember the original FRIGHT NIGHT being an okay movie, but I haven’t seen it since the ’80s, so I don’t remember it well enough to compare the remake to it. But on its own I did find the remake to be an entertaining-if-not-entirely-original take on the ol’ vampire shit.

Anton Yelchin plays the hero Charley, Imogen Poots (CENTURION) plays his way-out-of-his-league girlfriend Amy, Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays his friend “Evil Ed,” who gets bit by his neighbor Jerry. Because Jerry is a vampire – don’t worry, it’s not some weirdo biter guy.

Jerry is played by Colin Farrell. The mom is played by Toni Collette. Holy shit, this is a better cast than you’d expect. And all the main actors besides Chekov and McLovin are hiding accents. Some guy from Doctor Who plays a Kriss Angel type Vegas illusionist (I bet they asked Russell Brand first) who replaces Roddy McDowall’s horror host character as the outside vampire expert. Younger siblings of James Franco and Sophia Vergara are also in the cast.

From the director of LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and the poster layout of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
From the director of LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and the poster layout of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. (The original FRIGHT NIGHT poster was already remade as the poster for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II. p.s. I could swear that’s Nic Cage in the background

Charley is a semi-popular high school kid in the cookie cutter suburb of Bumfuck, Nevada. He grew up nerdy and has been avoiding his childhood friend Ed because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his two douchebag buddies or his super-hot girlfriend. What he doesn’t know is that Ed calls and texts so much not because he wants to play Dungeons and Dragons but because he’s discovered and gathered evidence to prove that the missing kids in their school were killed by a vampire. Which in my opinion is a pretty big deal, even in today’s society.

The vampire in question is of course Jerry, the new next door neighbor. Charley’s mom flirts with him and enjoys watching him sweat while doing work on the house. She’d probly be less into him if she knew what he was working on was a dungeon for locking up the girls he kidnaps. But everybody finds these things out too late. Shoulda listened to Ed.

I guess you could say Yelchin specializes in re-inventing previously existing characters for a new generation and doing them as sort of wimpy-seeming guys that turn out to have more sand than people thought (STAR TREK, TERMINATOR SALVATION, this). Here he’s a recovering nerd but kind of a dick, and has to not only prove his manhood but also be nicer. We don’t really learn how he landed a smokin hot girlfriend or why he’s stupid enough to neglect her to do vampire research. There’s a whole thing about how he’s a virgin and she wants to do him and he’s too distracted by the vampire thing. It’s probly supposed to make him seem sensitive but it made me just think he was a fool. You might die, dude, you should act now to take advantage of this incredible offer. Or, you should always be open and honest in relationships is what I mean.

Seriously, I don’t buy that even monsters would cause a teenage boy to turn down sex offers, but I also was bothered that he was being such a shitty boyfriend. If you really care about a girl then tell her about the murders, I always say. Once he lets her in on what’s going on they actually have a nice chemistry, they joke around with each other and look after each other’s feelings in a way that movie couples don’t always do.

We’ve all seen 1.3 million versions of the vampire story by now, and there are only so many variations possible, but personally I can still enjoy ’em. Your mileage may vary. This one is pretty clever about it. There’s a funny part where Amy tries silver bullets even though they’re for werewolves (a cliche in vampire movies trying to play with cliches) but then immediately gets it right in her second try. And Jerry has an excellent way of getting around the “a vampire has to be invited in” rule – spoiled in the trailer, but still awesome when it happens.

It turns into kind of an action movie at one point, with some good gags, well staged for visual clarity and impact. I really like the look of the movie, and director Craig Gillespie (MR. WOODCOCK [!?]) seems to have a good grasp of filmatism, but there were a couple parts in night scenes that were muddled by weirdly dark cinematography. Maybe this could be related to the fact that it was shot in 3D, but you would think it would be even darker when projected than on blu-ray, so I’m not sure.

I kinda remember Evil Ed from the original movie, he was that weird looking dude that was also in 976-EVIL and later did gay porn. Here he’s less of a weirdo creep and more of a traditional nerd. I think his part might be smaller and less convincingly evil. But it’s kind of sweet what happens between these former friends.

TV writer Marti Noxon did the script (CHILD’S PLAY’s Tom Holland gets a story credit, but I figure probly just for writing the original movie). It seems to me you can tell it was written by a woman by the likable, capable (okay, and hot) female characters. They’re neither Milla Jovovich type comic book gunslinger babes or idiot victims. They can be smart and capable and funny and they can also screw up. Yelchin is a good type of middle-of-the-road hero too – he’s not a pretty boy but not a tough guy, not skinny but not tall, he has a motorcycle but it doesn’t work half the time. He’s a pretty average dude trying to find his inner-badass. I guess it helps that he gets to use a crossbow, that tends to make you seem above average. The leather neck guard I’m not sure about, that could go in either column.

Farrell is more of your larger-than-life movie hunk archetype, but that makes sense, he’s undead. I gotta give him alot of credit for this. He does the seductive-but-scary bad-boy-vampire thing seriously and well, never seems like he’s there to collect a paycheck. You know I’m a fan of mega-acting, but I’m glad he went the other way in this, because I’ve seen him in DAREDEVIL so I fucking know better. (There’s actually a part in this where he flicks a pebble real hard at a guy’s forehead. I wonder if that was a reference to his role in that movie where he was the villain with the worst super power of all time?) He’s subtle here. He finds alot of humor without seeming like he’s scouring around looking for it.

I’d consider this a B movie, in the report card sense. There are some funny lines, some good ideas, it’s quick and simple and upbeat. Not bad. I’ll take it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 3:30 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

46 Responses to “Fright Night (2011 remake)”

  1. Almost no mention of Tennant, I’ve noticed this in many other Fright Night reviews. It’s a thing that goes back to all the trailers and promotional material, everyone seems to pretty much ignore the guy. Is it because he is just not that entertaining to anyone who’s not a Doctor Who fan? I guess he’s not in the movie much, but still… it’s kind of an important part.

    Anyways, I enjoyed the hell out of this film, especially the scene where Jerry comes over to borrow the beers. Also David Tennant. But then again, I am a fan of Doctor Who and yes, I do find him sexually attractive. And remember what he said about the garlic omelet? That was some funny shit, man. How would you even get a vampire to eat a garlic omelet, that’s just crazy.

  2. This movie seemed like a good candidate for a remake. If I remember correctly, the first movie wasn’t all that great, and it seemed somewhat dated in the special effects area. But the premise is fun and there’s a lot a new director could do with it. I think there are a number of films with some good ideas but lackluster execution that would make fantastic candidates for remaking. See also: Highlander.

  3. You remember wrong. The original has some pacing issues and is in parts very 80’s (although not as much as, let’s say LOST BOYS) But the make up and animatronic FX are definitely as good as in some other 80’s favourites. (It also helps that the movie isn’t THAT FX heavy.)

  4. I think the reason no one really mentions Tennant is because his role in this is pretty minor and forgettable. In the original FRIGHT NIGHT, Peter Vincent is one of the main characters, and the friendship that he develops with Charley is what gives the movie a lot of its charm (in fact, it ends up being more significant than Charley’s relationship with his girlfriend). In fact, the premise of the original is probably best summed up as “kid enlists in the help of B movie actor to fight a vampire.”

    For whatever reason, Vincent is really just an afterthought in the remake; Tennant’s role is little more than a glorified cameo. It starts on one of the weaker, more obvious jokes in the film (he seems like hot shit, but really he’s a phony and kind of a loser), then he delivers a bunch of exposition, then he shows up for the finale but doesn’t really do anything important. Charley and Vincent are sort of the main attraction of the original; here, I wouldn’t blame someone for forgetting the Vincent character was even in this movie.

    Ditto Evil Ed, a major character from the original given a tiny role in the remake. Which is cool with me, I liked the remake quite a bit actually. It’s just interesting that they took probably the two most memorable characters from the original, which you’d think they’d most want to exploit in a remake, and reduce their roles to colorful cameos.

  5. Dan, I think you’re right. Still, however small his role was, I thought Tennant was good in it (and memorable). I would have loved Vincent and Charley’s relationship to be more significant like it was in the original, I dug the chemistry between these two actors during the short time they were on screen together. Too bad it tanked, otherwise we might have gotten a sequel. Would have loved seeing them fight some other mythical creatures.

  6. Thinking back on it, I didn’t write at length on David Tennant’s role either when I wrote about this movie (shameless plug in 3…2… http://bit.ly/rDBsAM) — I liked him in the movie but reflecting on it now, it definitely feels like he was flown in from a separate movie. It’s less believable that these kids would have access to that guy in the remake than in the original (he’s less the faded star), and of course that’s the very heart of the high-concept. But overall it’s a fun if minor flick, and I think Vern is (as usual) directly on point with his assessment and B-ruling.

  7. Yeah, nothing against Tennant’s performance in the film, he just doesn’t get a lot of screen time and I don’t think they really did anything interesting with the Peter Vincent character in this one. In fact, I was surprised they even bothered with that scene at the end where he, Charley and the girlfriend are all buddy-buddy. Their relationship with Vincent is so undercooked, that it’s kind of jarring to suddenly all great friends at the end. Not sure why they thought the audience really needed closure on that relationship.

    In fact, it might have actually been funnier if Vincent got all Hollywood on them at the end again and acted like he was too good for them.

  8. I didn’t know Colin Farrell played that sleazy balding dude in HORIBLE BOSSES until I saw the credits at the end of the film. He really committed to that role. Commitment seems to be something that he does these days.

    Also, what’s this talk about remaking HIGHLANDER? Are you trying to tell me that HIGHLANDER isn’t a documentary?

  9. Yeah, once again someone has said what I was going to say before I said it. Thanks a bunch, Dan. It’s true though, the remake doesn’t seem to really have any time to waste on building Charlie’s relationships with Vincent and Ed, so they get a few token scenes.

    Also, Dandridge’s fruit eating habits get wasted too: In the original, Jerry takes a single bite of an apple and then throws the leftovers, which get their own close-up in order for the viewer to say, “whoah! He ate that whole thing, core and all, in one go. Someone’s neck is going to be in trouble later on!”. In the remake, Jerry just eats an apple for no particular reason.

    The original is a personal favourite from the 80s horror category (beats other vamp films from that period, I reckon) for me, and the soundtrack is up there with Manhunter in my favourite 80s soundtracks. The remake is just an entertaining watch (note, the guy who unwisely gets out of his car is Chris The Original Jerry Sarandon making his The Obligatory Original Star Remake Cameo.

  10. Did that dungeon ever get any use for sexy, sweaty S&M shenanigans? That’s how you could really tell it was a Noxon script. The season of BUFFY she ran had more rough trade than a [reference to a thing that has a lot of rough trade in it to be filled in later].

    I haven’t seen this yet, but I suspect the whole “I’m too busy researching vampires to bone my horny girlfriend” thing is an artifact from the original movie that doesn’t make any sense when removed from that context. In the first movie, the girlfriend character wasn’t some bombshell. She was just the kinda cute tomboy type who didn’t know anything about how to seduce a guy. Her experience with the vampire is what unlocked her sexuality and made her man fight for her attention. I’m not sure it makes any sense to keep that aspect of the story when you’ve cast the character to look like a supermodel, but then again there was absolutely zero chance that they would do otherwise nowadays. It’s a rule: Everybody must be gorgeous all the time.

  11. More rough trade than a double bill of LAST TANGO IN PARIS and CRUISING shown at Arena Studios on Broome Street during Pride Week?

  12. No, not that much rough trade. That is way too much rough trade. It was on UPN, for god’s sake.

  13. It seems I have been greatly misinformed about a.) the quality of shows on UPN; b.) activities of girls named Buffy; c.) the content of shows popular among 1990s schoolgirls.

  14. I’d not seen the original when this came out, and I enjoyed it a lot, though I do think there was a weird pacing issue due to how they confirm Jerry’s a vampire so early on. It makes the car chase and museum fight scenes feel like the climax despite there still being quite some time left. I’ve seen about half of the original now, and it strikes me that the big difference with Evil Ed in the two movies is that in the original, Charley and him DON’T really seem to be friends. They just seem to know each other from school, but Charley seems to find Ed just as weird as anyone else does, and has to actually pay him for help, and doesn’t know that Ed dislikes the “Evil” nickname. In the remake they establish their connection more and tie it into Charley’s character pretty well. I saw it in 3D too, and I’m not sure how I’d rate that aspect. They don’t really use it a whole lot, and when they do, it’s mostly for effects shots, like blood spurts, Jerry throwing a paint can through a window, and whenever a vampire burst into flames. These are all effective, and I guess that because they aren’t needlessly 3Ding everything else all the time, it makes it stand out more? But they still could have done more with it too.

  15. In the original movie, the girlfriend was Marcy from MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, btw. That was only two years before the show started!

  16. Now Marcy Darcy, she wasn’t opposed to a little rough trade!

  17. Jareth, I call shenanigans. I really don’t believe you went and saw Horrible Bosses and had no idea that was Colin Ferrell. :)

  18. Evil Ed in the original was so annoying. I thought McLovin did a much better job of it. I thought this was fun, had no real problems with it. Have more trouble understanding the love of the original. I guess it’s a fantasy to have your movie idol help you fight vampires but everyone acts like a caricature, not even in a fun b movie kind of way. Seems more like a knee jerk reaction among horror fans than genuine love of a childhood favorite, but if it works for you, God bless…

  19. nabroleon dynamite

    December 13th, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Fred. I fucking love the original FRIGHT NIGHT!! My cousin and I saw it back in the day and we both still have convos from time to time about it!! The whole audience was loving it as well!! DOPE!!

    I am watching the remake right now and I’m at the part where charlie is warning his mom not to let ol’ boy in the house after the “daylight girl” scene.

    I’m just not feeling this shit at all so far…

    This shit reminds me of a Nas lyric “That buck that bought a (Redbox Movie) coulda struck the lotto.”

    Hopefully it will get better after I down this Vodka & Vanilla Coke.

  20. I’m a pretty big fan of the original, even though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it

    even if the remake is not so bad to me it still loses a big part of what makes Fright Night so fun in the first place just by being a remake

    that is, the 80’s setting and incredible practical effects

  21. Nabroleon, is there more to it then than just the fantasy of teaming up with your favorite vampire slayer and being in a real life vampire movie? Actually now that I say it that is kind of awesome.

    But I saw the original both in its day and after the remake. Never loved it. Never saw Fright Night 2 tho. Worth checking out?

  22. nabroleon dynamite

    December 14th, 2011 at 7:54 am

    @Fred. The thing about the original Fright Night was that the movie had HEART!!

    Peter Vincent wasn’t at the top of the world like in the remake, he was an over the hill loser. His show had just been canceled because people had lost interest in vampire movies because slasher flicks was the current trend.

    Evil Ed was an annoyingly spastic nerd who desperately wanted to be cool!! He wanted to be Charlie!! “You’re so cool Brewster” that shit came from a real place!! The shit was tragic!! You felt his pain when he died instead of the jokey ass death in the remake!! (Also as a life long eyeglass wearer it pisses me off when remake Ed dresses cool from top to bottom, but wears those nerdy ass glasses as if he wouldn’t have had the sense to rock some fly ass frames or contacts)

    Jerry in the original had the sidekick guy and they played off each other like Morris Day & Jerome in Purple Rain!! The scenes they did together especially when Charlie brought the cop over to arrest them was some funny ass shit and it felt real because those guys had great chemistry. No sidekick for jerry in the remake.

    Mary Darcy as the girlfriend was perfect!! She was so dumpy but cute looking, you could take her or leave her until she got the fever from Jerry and then she was HOT!! Reminded me of Ellen DeGeneres on Gary Shandling’s show when she seduced him. She was HOT as fuck, but I never knew then or seen her as sexy now.

    The remake missed all that important shit!!

    I’ll give the remake props for not doing a by the numbers Rob Zombie’s Halloween type joint, but I’m sure I woulda liked that better…

  23. I loved the original FRIGHT NIGHT, but I can’t say with confidence how good it actually is. I first saw it when I was pretty young, now it’s been a number of years since I watched it, and I can’t really vouch for the taste of my younger self. Right now, FRIGHT NIGHT is a beautiful, rose-tinted memory that I can’t trust because I first saw it at a time when I lacked critical faculties (sort of like how THE GOONIES is for a lot of people).

    I’m kinda curious to rewatch it, but I’m worried that would lead to disappointment. Might be best to leave my memory of it unsullied.

  24. Sternshein: I expend a lot of effort to ignore advertising campaigns. I guess in the case of HORRIBLE BOSSES my effort paid off, aided, I’m sure, by how largely forgettable and generic the film was (though not unpleasant); even as the film was playing I was busy forgetting it. And hey, that bald/beard combo worn by Farrell was really convincing.

    Same thing happended with the PREDATOR reboot: by the time I got around to renting it, I had completely forgotten that Morpheus and Eric Foreman were in it (they should have gone with Red Foreman instead. That would have been way better. Actually, better still would have been Kitty Foreman. Kitty is awesome).

  25. Hated this film. There’s so much wrong with it I don’t even know where to start, so I won’t…

    The original is a masterclass in filmmaking compared to this.

  26. nabroleon dynamite

    December 14th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    @Dan. The original isn’t a classic or some shit, but it’s a solid movie with HEART and good practical fx in it.

    I wasn’t even mad when I heard they were remaking it, but I knew it would just be a rental for me, so I was glad to see it in the redbox for a buck yesterday.

    According to wikipedia “Fright Night” was the 2nd highest grossing horror flick of 1985 behind “Nightmare on Elm Street 2” so it did even better than I recollected.

    My Top 10 horror flicks of the 80’s (that I actually saw at the movies)…

    1. A Nightmare on Elm Street

    2. The Fly

    3. The Thing

    4. Demons

    5. An American Werewolf in London

    6. Creepshow

    7. Fright Night

    8. Friday the 13th part 4

    9. Friday the 13th part 3

    10. Halloween 2

    All of them had a lot to do with the crowd I saw those movies with. You can never underestimate a good ass crowd at the movies!!

  27. Nabroleon,

    Ah, a fellow DEMONS fan. Always good to find another one. I don’t know what it is about that movie, but I’m going to guess I’ve seen it around 10 times at this point and it never gets old.

    Good list overall, too.

  28. I’m jealous that you saw DEMONS in the theater. Being in a theater watching a horror movie about people in a theater watching a horror movie sounds like the most meta thing ever.

  29. Mr Majestyk,

    Well, you can get a crappier version of that experience by watching DEMONS 2 now. It’s about people watching a horror movie on TV at home, so if you watched it on your TV at home…

  30. nabroleon dynamite

    December 14th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    @Dan & MrMajestic. Oh yeah Demons was the shit at the movies!! It woulda been my #1 experience except my girlfriend’s sister who got us in because we were too young, actually ran out of the theater in fear (which was cool as fuck) and my girlfriend made me go with her to check on her so I missed a huge section of it!! (Which of course sucked)

    Also watching Demons 2 with my ex-wife’s brother drunk was awesome!! We rewinded that demon baby thing flying across the room probably a billion times in tears from laughter!!

  31. Dan, of course I’ve seen DEMONS 2. What do you think you’re dealing with here, some kind of amateur?

  32. I like the part where the lady looks through the peephole in her door, and somehow her little dog is on the other side, at eye level with it.

  33. DEMONS 2 doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but it does have a few masterful touches. Besides the aforementioned demon baby and the demon dog at the peephole, it has that amazing stuff with the teenagers in the car.

    I always loved in the original how it keeps, for no discernible reason, cutting to scenes of a car full of punks driving around, doing coke, and being obnoxious. You figure it’s setting up something important, but then they just sort of show up at the theater and get killed off mainly in the background. It’s weird and near-inexplicable and probably the best thing about the movie, but DEMONS 2 tops it in a weird way by having a subplot about a group of kids heading to the building where the demon outbreak is happening. Only, after a scene or two of them driving around, they get into a fender bender, don’t make it to the building, and are never mentioned again.

    It’s awesome. Lamberto Bava either has no idea what he’s doing, or he know EXACTLY what he’s doing, but either way I love it.

  34. I watched this one last night with my wife and I enjoyed it. It is not a great movie, but it is fun and well worth checking out.

  35. One day that movie HOUSE with Norm fro CHEERS will have its day in the sun. Mark my words.

  36. I love House, both the Japanese one (which I wish vern would review) and the William Katt one

  37. HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY, with Cliff as the licensed electrician/adventurer, is better.

    “Eh, what you’ve got here is your basic parallel universe. I’ve seen this sort of thing before…”

  38. Yes, heart definitely warms me to certain movies. I guess not FRIGHT NIGHT but I can think of a lot of others I love on heart alone. Like the Can Damme STREET FIGHTER.

  39. I didn’t know there were so many Fright Night (original) fans out there. Maybe I should give the original another try. I remember liking some of it, but also feeling as if there were some missed opportunities. Chris Sarandon worked well when he played the next door Lothario, but I felt he wasn’t nearly as menacing as he needed to be towards the end. I remember liking Roddy McDowell, though.

  40. I checked this out last night and as a big fan of the original was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. Nice cast, solid script and actually pretty funny. It was just really well made all around and I LOVED the cameo.

    Also: “If you really care about a girl then tell her about the murders, I always say.” may be the single funniest line you’ve ever written Vern. Nice job.

  41. I think this movie is quite good, but it lacks David Tennant nudity. Think about it. I have. It would make everything better.

    Oh, and I mean this purely in a Clarence Worley type way. If I had to fuck a guy, I mean had to, my life depended on it… I’d fuck David Tennant.

  42. Yea, this was okay. I think the original is way better though, if only for the character of Evil Ed. He was way more tragic in the OG, and damn….his wolf transformation/death scene is INCREDIBLE. Everybody always mentions American Werewolf and The Howling and shit, but Fright Night gets no love for the wolf transformation. Maybe because it’s a vampire movie and not a dedicated werewolf movie? I dunno. Anyway, this remake was decent.

  43. Just saw it. It’s surprisingly good, but it really works best, when it just tries to be its own movie, and not squeeze stuff from the original into it. Peter Vincent and Ed are pretty useless in here. But damn, even as 2D version on my considerably big LCD TV, it was often too dark to see shit. I don’t wanna imagine how it looked like in 3D, with the glasses on.

  44. Last night I watched the DTV sequel to this.

    Surprise #1: It’s another remake! Not as in “They are re-hashing the same story again”, but in “It’s an actual remake!” You have another Charlie Brewster, another Evil Ed and another Peter Vincent! Not re-casted for a continuation of last movie’s story, but it’s all happening to them for the first time!

    Surprise #2: It’s very watchable! It’s not great and I don’t think I would put it in the top 10 of the best DTV movies ever, but definitely in the top 20.

  45. Just watching this for the first time:
    1. Decent flick. Good throwback, they-don’t-make-em-like-this-anymore vibe.
    2. Good performances. Makes me miss Anton Yelchin.
    3. Some truly execrable CGI generally, including some really depressingly silly-looking blood splatter and vampire-frying-in-the-daylight CGI.

  46. It occurs to me now that maybe the sucky CGI parts worked much better in 3D. Maybe they even would’ve been worse in 3D if they had been practical? Some of the CGI works pretty well, but it’s the splatter and vampire explosions that look terrible, but I’m wondering if it made for a cooler 3D effect or something that just does not translate well to 2D at all. Dunno, but there are at least 5 splatters that just look like cartoon effects.

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