I’m a huge fan of Tom Holland’s horror-comedy Fright Night (1985). I still remember watching it as a kid (which was completely and totally inappropriate, mom and dad) and thinking to myself, “I want this story to happen to me!” You see, Fright Night tells the tale of a teenage boy who spies on his next-door neighbor, ultimately realizing that said neighbor is a bloodthirsty vampire. It’s Rear Window with fangs, set in the leafy suburbs of 1980s America, and it’s cheesy and gory and altogether awesome. I used to spy on my neighbors, hoping that one of them was secretly a monster. It was all so thrilling. Oh, the joys of being young.
We find ourselves in 2011, and Touchstone Pictures/Dreamworks have come out with a remake of Holland’s horror classic. Some of the story is the same (vampire moves in next door), yet much of it is different. In this update, we move to the barren suburban landscape of the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada as blood begins to spill. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) lives with his mother (Toni Collette), is dating the prettiest girl in school (Imogen Poots) and no longer has time for his nerdy former best friend, “Evil” Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse AKA McLovin from Superbad). Things seem to be going well for Charley; that is, until his new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), moves in. Jerry works long hours at night, is never seen in the daytime and, as Ed warns Charley, is actually a vampire. After Jerry sets his sights on the neighbors, Charley must summon the courage to keep himself and his loved ones out of Jerry’s bloodthirsty clutches. Aiding Charley is Criss Angel-esque magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a man who claims to be a vampire expert but is actually a drunk.
Fright Night may be a remake, but it differs markedly from its predecessor. For starters, this update goes through the entire plot of the original in about 25 minutes, presenting a mostly new story arc for its second and third acts. There are still winks and nods to the original splattered throughout Fright Night, but the film stands alone as a compelling narrative. One of Fright Night’s major strengths is its cast. Farrell is fantastic as Jerry; he’s cool and suave one minute, delivering a witty line of dialogue the next, and finally snapping someone’s neck when they least expect it. His performance is unusual, yet it pays off by highlighting the unexpected. Also worth mentioning is David Tennant as Peter Vincent. In the original Fright Night, Peter Vincent was the host of a late night horror TV program, and in this version, the character gets a modern reimagining. Tennant is hilarious in nearly every aspect of his performance, providing many laughs and reminding audiences that Fright Night doesn’t take itself too seriously.
As we find ourselves in a vampire-centered pop culture universe (here’s looking at you, Twilight and True Blood), Fright Night stands out as one of the snappiest, most clever pieces of entertainment to be presented to audiences. It’s not sophomoric like Twilight, and it’s not completely bonkers like True Blood. Fright Night delivers the scares, provides many laughs in the process and runs along on a smart script and stylish direction.
My beefs with the film are few and far between, and they basically only come out of my love for the original. My favorite scene of the 1985 version of Fright Night involves Jerry seducing Charley’s girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), while in a dance club. Pulsating 80s music permeates throughout the scene as Jerry and Amy share a seductive dance together while she is under his spell. The scene is thrilling, sexy and a ton of fun. In this update, there is a club scene, yet it is far too brief and lacks the punch of the scene from the original. Also, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is great as Evil Ed, yet his character doesn’t get enough screen time. Ed is a pivotal and interesting character, and this new version seems to gloss over his relationship with Charley. Lastly, the 3D of Fright Night (yep, another horror movie shot in 3D) is forgettable and actually a bit distracting. I would have preferred seeing the film without the extra dimension. Overall, though, Fright Night is a bright spot in today’s vampire explosion. This remake honors the original while updating the story and keeping things interesting.

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