- Rated R
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All photos © Walt Disney Studios
Reviewed by David Medsker
henever a studio decides to remake a movie, the news is usually met with two responses. The first response: Hollywood is out of ideas. This one is largely true, as the marquees from this summer will readily attest (“Transformers,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Cars,” “X-Men,” “Fast Five,” plus three more superhero movies). The second response: the original movie is a classic, and shouldn’t be touched. This one is almost never true; while many of the movies that studios choose to remake probably shouldn’t be, that is not to say that they cannot be improved upon. (Of course, ask us about this again when someone decides to remake “The Princess Bride” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”)
“Fright Night,” as it turns out, proves both of the previous statements. The modern-day updates to the story work well on a number of levels, but the movie doesn’t really need to exist, and certainly not in 3D. It holds its own far better than virtually any other horror remake from the last five years, but that’s not saying much.
Las Vegas teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is still adjusting to his recent promotion to the cool crowd, to the point where he can’t believe that the smoking hot Amy (Imogen Poots) is actually his girlfriend. When Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a friend from Charley’s dorky past, tries to convince him that his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire, Charley thinks he’s nuts. The next day, Ed disappears, and Charley reluctantly admits that Ed may have been on to something. Desperate for answers, he turns to famed occult illusionist Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who turns out to be a whole different set of problems.
Relocating the movie to Vegas was a genius move. It’s the perfect place for a vampire to “hide,” and as an added bonus the movie gets several laughs at the expense of douchebaggery, be it Charley’s new stoner friends or the ridiculous get-up Vincent wears for his act. If only screenwriter Marti Noxon, who knows a thing or two about vampires after serving as show runner for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and producer of “Angel,” had put as much effort into the structure of her script as she did the verbal jabs the characters volley at each other. Ed’s parents (sweet cameo there) are oblivious to their son’s new schedule, and the sun rises awfully quickly – and conveniently – during an escape scene. To Noxon’s credit, though, she tried to make the horror movie equivalent of the ‘car ambush’ tracking shot from “Children of Men,” so she gets bonus points for that…and she loses them for not knowing when to wrap things up. The movie is a good 10 to 15 minutes too long.
The acting is pretty solid as horror movies go, with the exception of Yelchin. He’s turned in impressive performances in the past, but he is unconvincing as the transformed geek Charley. He never seems to know when to be confident and when to be vulnerable, and he certainly has a blind spot when it comes to disappointing his hot and willing girlfriend. Mintz-Plasse isn’t in the movie nearly enough, but he makes every second count as “Evil Ed.” The movie’s real star, though, is the superb David Tennant, who plays Peter Vincent like he’s channeling Greg Travis’ stand-up routine as David Sleaze, punk magician. Colin Farrell, enjoying a career renaissance after his amusing turn in “Horrible Bosses,” was born to be a vampire, and is quite deft at playing both the charmer and the demon. On the other hand, Toni Collette, who plays Charley’s mother, spends half the movie sleeping. Literally.
In retrospect, “Fright Night” is the perfect movie to remake; the original doesn’t have the ‘classic’ buzz that “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has, even though their box office grosses are nearly identical. The movie reeks of underdog potential, and who doesn’t want to be a part of that? Ultimately, they didn’t quite pull it off, but it’s entertaining enough to grant the horror remake a stay of execution for the time being.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray 3D edition of "Fright Night" has almost as many versions of the film (Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, digital copy) as bonus features. The two standout bits are the one outlining the keys to making a funny vampire movie (the vampire's union has a surprising amount of rules) and the extended version of "Squid Boy," the amateur film within the film. The deleted scenes are understandably nonessential, though the gag reel has its moments, namely Christopher Mintz-Plasse trying repeatedly to break into the abandoned house. The movie is definitely worth a look, though.