Friday, September 2, 2011

Review - Fright Night (2011)

I have always adored the original Fright Night because of how it combines traditional vampire elements with modern interpretations. I don’t consider it a childhood movie because when I saw it, I was about 13 and rented it in conjunction with Waxwork and Head of the Family. When I heard there was a remake, I couldn’t believe it because I knew they would make it flashy and action-packed so that modern audiences wouldn’t be bored by it. The trailer only reassured me of this. So, I went to see it and I wasn’t wowed by it but I didn’t think it was terrible either. The story, this time around, is different from the original storyline. When Charlie’s friend disappears, his other buddy Ed tries to convince him that his neighbor, who happens to be a vampire, killed him. Charlie, at first, doesn’t believe him but soon discovers that he is right and that he now must protect his girlfriend and his mother from a bloodsucking monster who has survived for 400 years. He can’t do it alone, so he enlists the help of a famed Las Vegas entertainer Peter Vincent, who claims to have encountered a vampire in his childhood. I partially enjoyed the remake because it kept in the small things that made the original so good but it ignored some of the fundamentals of what made the original Fright Night a “compromise” flick.

I’m going to dive right into the small things that I liked about this remake. I always liked that smirk that the original Jerry Dandrige gives Charlie when he realizes that he just embarrassed himself in front of Peter Vincent. Colin Farrell is the perfect modern day candidate to deliver that snarky smirk followed by him taking a big bite out of a green apple. I loved it. It was one of my favorite moments in the original Fright Night and they kept it. I’m glad they kept in the famous lines, “you’re so cool Brewster” and “Welcome to Fright Night,” and although I hated the delivery of the first line, I think Colin did a great job delivering the second line. Although it was partially ruined by CGI, just like the blood in this movie, I am still glad they gave Charlie’s girlfriend a crooked, harlequin like smile when she becomes a vampire. It was something I was dreading from the moment I saw the trailer. They improved on something that the original barely touched base with and that’s the notion that a vampire needs to be invited into your house. I loved it because it’s going back to the old school rules of vampire mythology, something that modern day vampire movies always seem to forget. There is even a small almost unrecognizable cameo from the original Jerry Dandrige that I enjoyed. I think I was the only person to have clapped when I saw him on the screen.

One of the major concerns I had about the remake was the casting decisions and surprisingly, none of them applied to Peter Vincent or Jerry but rather Charlie and Evil Ed. I liked Colin Farrell as Jerry because he has a sort of modern charisma and snarky looks that can really be creepy. I have never seen one Dr. Who episode let along the ones with David Tennant but outside of the Dr. Who franchise, I’m a big fan of his work. I think he was a great cast for Peter Vincent and although, at first, I hated what they did to Peter Vincent I slowly warmed up to him as this cocky stage performer. However, for the first half of the movie, he was annoying and I had flashbacks to Dr. Loomis in the remake of Halloween 2. When he finally got his shit together and assisted Charlie in trying to take down Jerry, that’s when I smiled and said, “This will be good.” Anton Yelchin was actually pretty good as the nerdy Charlie Brewster and had that nervous stutter the original actor had but some scenes were really showing Anton’s age. Not that it matters but you could tell he is definitely too old to be in high school. As for Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed, like with Peter Vincent, he was really annoying and not sympathetic as the original character was. I was okay with the casting but it was the way they played Evil Ed off. When he becomes a vampire, he looks more like a werewolf than a vampire, which is good… I guess, but I don’t think it was their intention.

There were lots of fundamentals that they decided to skip out on and in return they enhanced the action to keep modern day audiences more attentive. The original Fright Night is a slow movie and I liked that, in this remake, they get right to the point and they pepper it with house explosions, car chases and a gun & stake fight in Peter Vincent’s apartment. One major fundamental that they got rid of was the uncanny resemblance the original Fright Night had with Rear Window in that there are several scenes where Charlie is spying on his neighbor with binoculars. It was a wonderful aspect that they hardly even touched base upon with this remake. Another fundamental was the romance. I’m all for the cold-emotionless vampires of today but I always prefer my vampire to be romantic, and the original had a very complicated romance between Jerry and Amy. In Jerry’s long past, he was a romancer helplessly in love with a girl but because of his curse, he ended up leaving her. In the climax, when Amy is held down by Charlie, Jerry, as he’s being burned alive, screams out, “AMY!” It was really sad because I believe Jerry really loved her as she reminded him of when he was younger and not cursed. None of this romance and forgotten love is even in the remake. I hated it. It was the perfect chance to infuse traditional vampire mythology with modern day vampire mythos.

Speaking of relationships, there is no relationship between Jerry Dandrige and Charlie Brewster aside from Charlie being frightened by him. The original had such a great confrontation in Charlie’s bedroom and that scene wasn’t even put in the remake. The way I see Jerry, he’s supposed to be sympathetic and not a cold heartless bastard that the remake makes him out to be. In the bedroom, Jerry gives Charlie “a choice,” which is something he never had. This idea of Jerry protecting Charlie was always something that I loved because maybe Jerry sees Charlie as a young him. Jerry is missing a father figure and Jerry, or even Peter Vincent, is that father figure protecting him from something he can’t fully understand. This fundamental is completely absent from the remake and it looses any emotional impact they were going with. Also, there is so confrontation between Peter Vincent and Evil Ed, which I really loved from the remake. The agonizing pain that Ed goes through as he transforms from wolf to teenager was something that not only made Peter Vincent cry but it made me sad as well. Instead, they try to differ it up with the remake and it doesn’t have the impact that the original had; partially because they didn’t use practical and sound effects to create a truly agonizing scene on par with American Werewolf in London.

I try not to be nitpicky but these were fundamentals that I loved from the original. It’s so hard to compare the two films and the characters because the remake is so different from the original but because it bares the same name and basic plot, I feel as though I must compare the two. This is my entire argument, really. Things have been omitted, changed and flopped around to the point where if they changed a few more things, it could have been a great original story that pays tribute to Fright Night. Look at films like Disturbia. Disturbia, at it’s basic premise is exactly like Rear Window but they changed it up a bit, slapped another name on it and I loved it. Look at the movie Rat Race; same basic premise as It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but different execution and name. This movie didn’t need to be a remake but rather it’s own thing and I think if they did it that way, I would have loved it a lot more. Since it bares the name Fright Night, my mind will always be in conflict trying to compare an apple to an orange when it reality, they aren’t comparable. Fright Night, though I didn’t hate it, could have been something more original but instead they had to bank off of the name and make a remake. In the end, it makes me want to watch the original even more.


Number One Son said...

"They improved on something that the original barely touched base with and that’s the notion that a vampire needs to be invited into your house. I loved it because it’s going back to the old school rules of vampire mythology, something that modern day vampire movies always seem to forget."

I disagree with you that modern vampire movies seem to forget the rule of inviting the vampire into your house.

It seems that more than ever these modern takes on vampires use this, from the Twilight movies to True Blood to this remake.

Just off the top of my head as I am writing this I can only think of Near Dark, John Carpenter's Vampires and this year's Stakeland that disregard this. I'm sure there's more but as I said those were just the ones that came to mind as I am typing this.

I was actually asked why Valek in JC's Vampires could go into a motel room towards the beginning of the movie. Other than saying, "How should I know I didn't write the movie" I speculated that it was because it was not a proper home but a public building used by patrons which could go hand in hand with Dandridge destroying the house and saying that you don't have to be invited in when there is no house. There is still the standing remnant of a dwelling but the "rule" seems to be for enclosed structures.

As I said earlier I do believe that more modern film than ever are using this rule, actually many movie monsters lately have been taken to task and seem to have their older rules more strictly adhered to, but that could be due to more past fans becoming modern filmmakers.

Cav said...

Sandman, great review. I like your writing style. :)

Number One, I feel you're off in one of your statements.

You said:

"It seems that more than ever these modern takes on vampires use this, from the Twilight movies to True Blood to this remake."

1.) True Blood is a show, not a movie. While it does showcase the "need for an invite", I believe the Sandman was just referring to movies.

2.) Twilight's vampires never had the invite clause at all. Rewatch or Re-read it. There aren't any kind of invites.

You are right that there are recent movies that have used the Invite clause. Both Let the Right One In and it's American Remake, Let Me In, used it.

I think the invite clause could be attributed to Marti Noxon and her work on Buffy. I think it was a carryover element that I feel worked really well for the film in that one scene.

Number One Son said...

Cav, thanks for pointing that out. I don't want to turn the conversation into semantics regarding movies or television or even literature. I just wanted to mention the vampire sub genre in general in regards to invites.

I think it was a good review, I wasn't knocking it.

HorrO said...

So I finally made it to this review my friend. Glad you didn't hate it, and gave it a chance. I think people that passed on this movie made a mistake. It was good enough, and probably for one of the reasons you mentioned... it is almost its own movie. Great review comparing the two movies. I can't say I'm a huge Fright Night fan so there is no way I could get as detailed as you did. I tried to view this movie more on its own. I liked the acting, and the action. The CGI and 3D were bad. Take that out and you have a pretty good movie. I guess the comparison to the original and where it fails in that respect are its only major draw backs.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I just wished they could change a few more things and make it something other than a remake. That way I wouldn't feel compelled to compare it to the original. Oh well.

King Dinosaur said...

Thanks for this - I have the remake dvd sitting in front of me and something was keeping me from watching it. I love the original so much I guess (like a lot of remakes) I just thought "what's the point?" Now I'm thinking "why bother?"


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