Review: Fright Night (15) / Directed by: Craig Gillespie / Screenplay by: Marti Noxon / Starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Toni Collette / Release date: February 20th
I can’t seriously believe that a remake of the cheesy 1985 Tom Holland original Fright Night would really have been particularly high on Hollywood’s to-do list if not for the enduring current popularity of vampires courtesy of the - whisper it quietly - Twilight franchise and its photocopied rip-off TV series The Vampire Diaries. So it’s not a huge stretch to imagine some Hollywood bean counter looking through the back catalogue for any previous vampire hit which could be resurrected, dusted down and given a modern make-over.
So here we have Fright Night, shorn of the thudding synths, big hair and unbelievably-irritating Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed) of the original, scrubbed up and given a bit of a post-modern makeover and a slightly darker screenplay courtesy of former Buffy the Vampire Slayer scribe Marti Noxon. While Fright Night 2011 might not have been the most necessary remake of all time, it’s actually a pretty good one, playing to the strengths of the original and replacing the dodgy bits with some real scares, tension and an appreciably more terrifying vampire bad guy with Farrell’s Jerry Dandridge considerably more feral and animalistic than Chris Sarandon’s often urbane and domesticated vampire from the original (although he still shares the former‘s taste for apples).
As in the 1985 movie, our High School hero Charlie Brewster (Yelchin) discovers he’s living next door to a vampire but no-one believes him. He enlists the help of sleazy TV showbiz showman Peter Vincent (David Tennant) but he’s quickly kicked out by Vincent who dismisses him, perhaps understandably, as a nutter. Before long vampire Jerry goes seriously psycho, blows up the Brewster home and sends Charley, his girlfriend Amy (Poots) and mother (Toni Collette) on the run into the wilderness around Los Angeles and all Hell breaks lose before Vincent finally, reluctantly, agrees to help Charley finish off Jerry once and for all because it seems that Vincent knows a bit more about the undead than his tacky TV persona might suggest.
This is rattling good stuff and, whilst there are moments of humour in the script, the emphasis here is on making a darker, scarier film than the original. There are less high school hi-jinks (Charley’s former geek friend Ed, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, gets short shrift but ends up fairly…er…‘armless) and more visceral thrills as blood pumps from gouged throats and vampires explode when exposed to sunlight. If David Tennant’s intention was to leave his goody two-shoes Doctor Who’image behind him via Fright Night’then it was a wise choice; his Peter Vincent is worlds away from Roddy McDowell’s fusty TV host of the original. Tennant’s Vincent is a Russell Brand-style lothario, all leather trousers and bare (if skinny) torso, his every utterance punctuated by the sort of language which would shame a sonic screwdriver. Farrell’s good value too; his Jerry is a lone hunter, lean and mean and quick to abandon his pretence at humanity when the need for blood becomes too great and he presents as an unstoppable, implacable demonic force far removed from the original Jerry who just became a rather silly monster at the end of Fright Night in 1985.
If there are any minor quibbles then they’re carried over from the original, with vampire lore casually rewritten so that the vampire’s victims are returned to normality on the death of the vampire himself (just so we can be assured a happy ending to Charley’s romance with Amy) and whilst this version of the movie is more intense than the original, some of the humour occasionally unbalances the film where the 1985 version was pretty much farcical from the off.
Better then than the original but ultimately probably a bit of a pointless exercise, Fright Night is worth a look if you’re tired of the toothless vampires of the Twilight saga and it’s particularly worth your time to see Farrell clearly enjoying himself and Tennant acting resolutely against type. Good fun.
Special features: Not much on either format. The DVD boasts a few deleted/extended scenes and an unwatchable rap music video, the Blu-ray adds some bloopers, a brief guide to ‘how to make a funny vampire movie’ and Tennant as Peter Vincent basically introducing some clips of himself from the film which is about as pointless as it sounds.