Instances of great remakes are rare, but they do exist. Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead may have lacked the satirical edge of Romero’s movie, but it was still a fun, gratifyingly gory post-28 Days Later horror flick. Breck Eisner’s redo of another Romero film, The Crazies was (whisper it) actually superior to the original, which was compromised somewhat by its tiny budget.
Which brings me to Fright Night, a remake of a comedy horror movie that celebrated its quarter century last year. The original starred Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall, and was an effervescent mixture of teen comedy and vampire horror.
Courtesy of director Craig Gillespie, here comes the Fright Night remake, which, at the very least, has an even starrier cast than the original. Anton Yelchin plays schoolboy Charley Brewster, while Christopher Mintz-Plasse is his dorky best friend and amateur vampire hunter, Ed. Colin Farrell is the suave, broad-shouldered blood sucker next door, while David Tennant plays Peter Vincent, a flamboyant, hard-drinking Las Vegas magician.
This newer, slicker Fright Night carries an identical premise to the 1985 original: high-school kid Charley and his best friend Ed gradually realise that their next-door neighbour’s a vampire who’s been dining on the blood of their town’s populace. It’s skimpy, simple stuff, but in the 1985 movie, it was all you needed to launch the film’s easy humour and fun atmosphere.
While there are still plenty of laughs and some smart lines, the tone of new Fright Night is subtly different. For one thing, Charley is a less sympathetic protagonist than his 1985 counterpart, originally played by William Ragsdale. This isn’t the fault of Yelchin, who’s a great actor, but the story, which recasts him as a more aggressive, cocksure youth than the Charley of the original film. Mintz-Plasse is great as Charley’s best friend, but he’s only around for a few scenes, and barely has a chance to build the kind of easy chemistry that the earlier film’s pairing enjoyed.
At this point, you may be thinking that it’s a little unfair to constantly compare the 2011 Fright Night to the original, but when you’re dealing with a remake as disappointingly lacking in ambition as this one, it’s impossible to do much else.
Fright Night is by no means poorly made film – it’s fairly competent, in fact, and there are many scenes that left the entire audience chuckling appreciatively. But at the same time, there’s little creativity in Gillespie’s direction, and the requisite humour it shares with the original isn’t backed up by any sense of drama or tension. One brief scene aside, it’s fairly easy to predict what’s going to happen next, even if you’ve never seen the original.
Colin Farrell’s perfectly good when he’s asked to be slick and charming, but he fails to bring a convincing air of menace to the role that Chris Sarandon filled so well back in 1985.
And then we come to the film’s oddest character, Peter Vincent. Fans of former Doctor, David Tennant, will be disappointed and maybe slightly alarmed to see this fine actor pulling off what appears to be an impression of Russell Brand. It’s almost as though Fright Night’s casting director found out that Brand was busy on another project, and simply hired another actor from the British Isles to put on some eyeliner and flounce about in his stead.
Meanwhile, there’s Fright Night’s weakest aspect to consider – its 3D. Gentle reader, I can say with reasonable authority that the 3D here is among the worst I’ve ever seen. Terrible though the 3D The Last Airbender and Clash Of The Titans was, at least those films had the scale of production to provide an excuse for the bad stereoscopic effects’ existence. In the case of Clash Of The Titans, you could at least say that a film about big mythical beasts was a worthy candidate for the eye-poking process.
With Fright Night, there’s no clear justification for the 3D process at all. Its shots are all taken from ground level, and its gore effects are low-key. Popularly despised though he is, Michael Bay at least managed to put together a soaring 3D experience with his latest Transformers film, which was full of bombastic fights and giant metal space prawns.
The 3D in Fright Night is what’s given the process a bad name in the first place. It’s murky, indistinct and serves no purpose in a horror comedy. It’s a genuine mess, and if your local cinema is screening the film in 2D, I implore you to see it in that form instead.
Flacid 3D aside, it’s fair to say that Fright Night 2011 isn’t anywhere near as good as the 1985 version. It’s rather depressing, in fact, that a comedy about vampires should be so notably lacking in bite.