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Movie Talk: ‘Fright Night’ (2011) Review


Fright-Night-2011_(1)

Written by: Wayne C. Rogers

First of all, why remake a classic horror film if you’re not going to surpass it?  Why waste the money when it could be used for another movie?  I’ve never understood Hollywood’s way of thinking with regards to this.  Of course, nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie, but it still happens on a regular basis, especially with remakes.  Maybe the newer version of Fright Night got made because Steven Spielberg was willing to put up the money through his Dreamworks Production Company.

Okay, in 1985 the original version of Fright Night was written and directed by Tom Holland.  Even a novelization of it came out by the great Craig Spector and John Skipp (authors of Light at the End).  The movie starred William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige (the vampire), Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent, Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson, and Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed.  The film cost 9 million to make and grossed over 24 million.  By Hollywood’s 3-to-1 ratio, it didn’t quite break even, but it got great reviews and became an instant cult classic within the horror genre.

In the fall of 2011, the remake of Fright Night hit the theaters.  This time the film was budgeted at 30 million dollars.  It grossed only 18 million.  What does that tell you?

In the new version, Anton Yelchin (he played the young Bobby Garfield in Stephen King’s Hearts of Atlantis) takes on the role of Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandrige and David Tennant as Peter Vincent.

What basically happens is that a vampire moves next door to Charley Brewster’s house.  No one believes him when attempts to tell them about the creature.  In time, he enlists the aid of Peter Vincent to help kill the creature of the night.  By then the vampire has kidnapped Charley’s girlfriend with the intention of turning her into a blood sucker.

I have to tell you that Anton Yelchin as a teenager just doesn’t look or feel like a Charley Brewster to me.  William Ragsdale did, but not Anton.  It just didn’t feel right throughout the entire movie.  Though Colin Farrell does a good job on Jerry Dandrige and tries to have fun with it, the whole thing just doesn’t ring true to me.  Chris Sarandon as the vampire was utterly handsome.  He was also suave, debonair, charming, an excellent dresser, and totally ruthless when provoked.  Colin Farrell simply plays a handsome redneck vampire with little of the charm and debonair.  It’s not his fault, but rather the writer’s, or maybe it’s the director or studio, who dictated how the character of the vampire was developed on the big screen.  David Tennant as Peter Vincent, who’s supposed to be a huge Las Vegas magician/entertainer, reminded me quite a bit of Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.  I never took his character seriously and felt it was a let down to the performance Roddy McDowell gave in ’85.  Forget about Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  He can’t even come close to Stephen Geoffrey as Evil Ed.

FRIGHT NIGHT

The highlights of the film for me were Toni Colette as Jane Brewster and Chris Sarandon in a cameo as a driver who crashes into the back of Jane’s car.  Toni brought a sense of freshness to the role she portrayed, especially when she flirts with Jerry Dandrige and then later sticks a Century 21 sign through his back.  That was funny.  Chris Sarandon was a surprise to see when he appeared in the film.  I found myself wanting him to demonstrate to Colin Farrell just how to play a damn vampire, but it didn’t happen.

The story supposedly takes place in Las Vegas this time around, but it was actually filmed in New Mexico.  I live in Las Vegas, and I’ve never seen a suburb of new homes twenty miles outside of town in the middle of nowhere with nothing around them, except a two-lane highway.  The housing in the suburb also didn’t look like the houses in Vegas.  They looked more like the homes in the mid-west or maybe back east.

Last, a foot or so beneath the top soil of Las Vegas is hard rock…very hard rock.  It cost a fortune to blast it out to make a basement below a home; yet, Jerry Dandrige’s house had an area about fifteen feet beneath the main floor that was vast in scope and filled with a ton of dirt.  How did Jerry manage to do that with the neighbors living only a few yards away?  Let’s also not forget the multitude of vampires that crawl out hidden cavities within the dirt walls below the main floor of the house.  Except for some aerial shots of Vegas that were inter-mixed into the film, that’s about as close as the production company got to sin city.

In the original version of the movie, facial makeup and prosthetics were used to depict the vampires in their natural state.  CGI, however, was used in the remake and it clearly shows.  Even in the way the blood was displayed looked like pure CGI.

Now, after all of this, I’ll say that Fright Night 2011 wasn’t a totally bad film.  I would give the original version an A+ and the remake a B-.  Buy the original for your horror collection, but rent the remake.  If you love the remake, then by all means buy it for your pleasure.

Once last thing I enjoyed about the movie was the song 99 Problems that was sung while the end credits rolled along.  The tune with its banjo playing in the background reminded me of the music from the television series, Justified.

There isn’t much in the way of behind-the-scenes stuff on the single disc of the DVD.  Maybe the Blu-Ray edition has more.  I don’t know.  There are some bloopers that aren’t very funny and mostly show actors flubbing their lines.  There’s also the extended version of a short film called Squid Man, which Evil Ed, Charley and another guy made when they were supposedly kids, though they appear as teenagers in the short, short.    Finally, there’s a music video which I stopped watching after the first ten seconds.  Needless to say, it wasn’t 99 Problems from the end credits of the film.

Whereas I still remember large parts of Fright Night 1985, I’ve already forgotten most of the 2011 version.

Rating: 3/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

4 Comments on Movie Talk: ‘Fright Night’ (2011) Review

  1. Here’s my 2 cents….
    My family went camping for two days. I stayed behind to finish up a novel. After working on the story all day decided I’d hit up the theater. Fright Night 3D was playing. I never cared for the original, but figured a 3D experience with some non CW vampires sounded perfect. I had zero expectations about the actual movie….but I fucking loved it! I loved the actors (even Colin whats his names performance of “Jerry”).
    I actually loved all of the actors in here. I thought the film was excellent.
    I bought it as soon as it came out and watched it plenty of times since.
    The soundtracks is also pretty freaking rad….
    If you love the original, you might not be so hot on this…but if you’re like me and could care less for the ’80’s version, you might be surprised.

    Cheers-GR

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  2. Wayne C. Rogers // February 15, 2014 at 12:03 am // Reply

    grolfe,

    This is kind of what I’ve saying for the last couple of years. Everyone has a different opinion about the book they read or the movie they saw. What I liked, someone else might not, and vise versa. I’m glad you loved it. That makes it worth while.

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  3. This was a film much more satisfying then the original although the original was good. You can’t always tell what people like about a film from the box office. Most of he people i know saw it on DVD and was pleasantly surprised so they may have made a lot of money there.

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  4. This one kind of pisses me off in a weird way. Colin Farrell is surprisingly awesome. Toni Collette is a brilliant actress, yet she’s terribly underused. She’s technically the strongest performer in the film, and she’s got a glorified cameo, and ends up in a hospital for the vast majority of the film after she collapses – not severely injured, mind you. Maybe the stress of running into a vampire leads to lengthy comas, I don’t know – fortunately I’ve never run into a vampire lol. David Tenant was good, and brings a fine new spin to the Peter Vincent character. Anton Yelchin does a good job with his performance, but his character has been completely assassinated. The guy went from being a frantic but genuinely GOOD guy in Holland’s film, into a borderline hipster douche bag who betrays his best friend Evil Ed in Gillespie’s take.
    Then you’ve got Evil Ed… who – in the original – is an awesome character with LOADS of great scenes and a SOLID amount of screen time, now transformed into a bit player who has virtually no place in the film. If you clock his total screen time it probably equals 6 minutes, and he’s essentially in 3-4 scenes. We never even get the chance to care about him, in the slightest, so when he turns into a bloodsucker, we don’t feel any emotion for him. He’s just another victim.
    I LIKE the idea of utilizing Vegas as the primary location, because it is a city that never sleeps, but I’m not sure they sold it quite as well as they could have.
    The first 30 minutes of the movie are an absolute blast. I can watch that half an hour over and over again simply because the pacing and humor is effective, and Farrell is frighteningly debonair. Then act 2 kicks into gear and the CGI buries the film, right there, on the spot. It is quite literally the worst display of visual effects I’ve ever seen in a commercial film. I’ve honestly seen student films that have vastly superior CGI (you can also track down some simple fan films that have stronger CG right over on youtubeI) – that doesn’t bode well for the film as a whole.
    There were a LOT of really good things going for this, and a LOT of really bad things going for this. I purchased it, and I like to watch the first 30-40 minutes every now and then, but I turn it off after that. I want to see monstrous vampires, not cartoons. And these quite literally look like someone super-imposed a bad cartoon into the frame.
    Such a weird film, all in all. I consider Holland’s flick one of the 3 best vampire films of the 80s (Near Dark and Lost Boys being the other two), and I think this one had the potential to be a genuinely good remake – but at the end of the day, I can’t look beyond the horrific visual effects. They could have hired a straight out of film schooler, paid him next to nothing, and he could have improved the film immensely. I have ZERO idea why they DIDN’T do that.
    A clear run to the endzone, with a ludicrous fumble on the 50 yard line. Strange, strange business.

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