The episode of Revisited covering the Fright Night remake was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Adam Walton, Edited by Lance Vlcek, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Remakes: they used to be rare and few in between, but at this point, they are a dime a dozen, with just about any movie being up for a remake, especially in the horror genre. One remake that fans of the original were not happy about seeing it being made was that of Fright Night. The original film was released in 1985 and has become a classic to horror fans, one they love to return to and quote. It’s got that perfect balance of horror and comedy with fun performances, good music, rad effects, and everything a horror movie of the mid-1980s needed. Then, the remake happened. This remake of Fright Night (watch it HERE) was admittedly aimed at a different generation than the original, so obvious changes were made to appeal to the teenagers of 2011. As a teen in the 1990s, I didn’t see the original until then, but it still hit just right with the performances, the effects, and the fun. Granted, I had grown up with images and clips from the film preparing me for the day I’d finally get to rent it and watch it in peace. Or watch it in a battle for the basement television, which led to us taking turns in who would get to use it and who would get to choose what was watched on it. One tv, two sisters, a battle for the ages.
Now, here comes the remake; I’m an adult, married, watching more horror movies than just about anyone I knew, and I worked for a major website at the time, so that was no easy feat. While some horror fans hated it without seeing it, something I never understood for any movie, others were looking forward to it. Me? I just didn’t care. There was nothing there that appealed to me and nothing there that told me I would dislike it. So, it took me a while to see it, and when I did, I found it to just… be.
Let me explain, I watched the film, and it was just not hitting anything in me. No interest, no dislike, like nothing. Granted, the time period may have been wrong for the film for me, so I filed it away in my memory to be mostly forgotten. So, I rewatched it, and well, it’s not horrible, and it’s not great; if we rated it like my high school rated my work, it would get a passing grade, so 6 out of 10 seems fair here.
Let’s see how my rating came to be. The film isn’t bad; it’s not great, either.
In terms of story, it uses the first film as a base, and then new scenes were added, characters were changed to have them modernized and more fitting for 2011, and some of the story beats were changed as well. Comparing usually only leads to sadness, but this is a case where it’s needed. The original was written and directed by Tom Holland, not the Spidey one. My love for Tom Holland is never-ending; he is one of the sweetest men at any horror event he attends. In terms of his horror creations, the man gave us Child’s Play, episodes of Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, Thinner, Fright Night, and a bunch more. He created Chucky and Jerry Dandridge, his cred as a master of horror is never to be questioned.
So, to remake one of his most loved films was a losing bet when it came to horror fans. When it came to this horror fan, while trying to watch the remake with an open mind, it was difficult not to keep looking for his trademarks. Since he is credited for the story, I was hoping for something with more courage. It is unclear which changes came from his story credits and which were from screenplay writer Marti Noxon, it’s a bit difficult to say who did well and who messed what up exactly, but there are both here. Some of the scenes, even new ones, work really well, and some of them just fall completely flat. For example, changing the location is not a big deal; it makes some sense with Vegas to bring in the desert, a spot perfect for a vampire to hide, and all the nightclubs around town make a club scene still fit.
The changes made to Charley’s mom, and Amy are fine; they work. The changes made to Ed, just no. Please, less of him. Every single time he showed up on screen, it was like nails on the chalkboard, just annoying and aggravating. It turned out Ed was even worse. Yes, the original Ed was not exactly great, and that is part of the deal here, but this Ed didn’t work great at all. Of course, changes were made to our favorite leader, the one and only Charley Brewster, and well, in his case, most of it works. He’s still a little dorky, a bit more popular here, and seems to fit better as a modernized teen. Gerry Dandridge is quite different; he seems more open and obvious; he’s lost the assistant and gained some freedom here. Some of this works and some of it doesn’t. The main character with the most changes is Peter Vincent. Vincent here is less a mix of Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, less classic horror, less like versions of Van Helsing merged together, and more Vegas magician. He should have been renamed Blaine Copperfield to go with his douche bag Criss Angel look. The changes made to him came off very much as things one would have noticed meeting Criss Angel back in the 2000s; from experience, he wasn’t exactly the nicest guy, to say the least, and the Supernatural episode titled Criss Angel is a Douche Bag fits here. The look, the mood, the show type, it all fits. Thankfully for viewers, the part went to David Tennant, who can make a wet paper bag appealing, so his work here is to be thanked for the characters not being completely dis-likable from start to finish. Of course, the character gets a redeeming arc like in the original film, making his Peter Vincent much more likable by the end, even on paper.
And that is part of the problem here. The film’s most likable and enjoyable performance is that of David Tennant. This is not to say that the rest of the cast didn’t do well, but some of them were saddled with some terrible characters, and it just showed from start to finish. For example, Ed, oh my god Ed, he’s just so off and off-putting that you don’t want to feel bad for him when he’s getting bullied, you don’t care when he gets turned, you don’t care when he gets hurt. This flawed character loses his redemption, even though he’s a fan of Peter Vincent here, and his being an old friend of Charley matters for the defining part of the first act. This is largely due to the writing; the character is just unlikable. Anton Yelchin is a decent Charley, a teen trying to be cool but not quite managing, the guy who warns folks about the vampire next door, and the dude who has to save the day with an entertainer who may not know as much as he claims about vampires. Playing his mother is Toni Collette, who seemingly can do no wrong. Even in scenes where it’s pure nonsense, she keeps it classy and gives a great performance. Again, she comes off as part of those actors who can be given any part and make it great. Playing Amy is Imogen Poots, and she’s just charming, right on point, and brings the right energy to the part. Then there’s Dandridge, played by Colin Farrell, and getting him in to bring a vampire’s charm was a solid decision. He’s also an actor who can do the most out of just about anything, so he did all he could with the part. But here is where the vampire character fails, or rather was failed by the production: The special effects.
Yep, one of the main issues here is that darn CGI. Like seriously, it’s not because you think you can that you should movie people! If something can be done with practical effects, don’t cut corners and go with CGI. Here, the CGI has aged horrifically. It starts early on, and it doesn’t stop. The scene where one of the turned victims is brought into daylight by her savior Charley and then explodes? I’m sorry, but that explosion is just ridiculous. Even in 2011, it just didn’t work. Over a decade later, it comes off even worse. Any time the film has a sequence that needs bloody splatter, it’s CGI. Why? Blood splatter is something special effects folks have been working on and perfecting for decades, so what not use practical effects? One last major gripe is with Gerry, Mr. Dandridge, our lead vamp. His monster makeup in the original is iconic; it’s remembered clearly by fans of the film and non-fans of it as something that stands out, something that looks fantastic and creepy, like one bad vampire. Here? It makes you want to laugh and then cry. Yes, the design is basically the same in thought, but the transformation is all CGI, and it just does not work. That scene in the desert, right before the cameo by the original Dandridge, the one and only Chris Sarandon, that sequence, omg, it makes you cry; it doesn’t fit and comes off cheap. And yell at the screen. And laugh. There’s also CGI fire here and a few other bits and bobs that just don’t work.
The Fright Night remake is a frustrating film because it has all the bones of a good remake with a decent story update, some good ideas, a solid cast, etc. It’s well-filmed, the music is decent, and the soundtrack songs are annoyingly 2011, but that is to be expected. The character of Peter Vincent could easily have been based on the television host using someone like Svengoolie or a made-up one that is closer to the original Vincent, maybe one based on more recent incarnations of Van Helsing, someone named after classic horror actors should not be made to be a sort of Vegas Magician, and if that is the road you are going with, lean in, change the name, change it all. As it is, this Fright Night is not exactly scary, not spooky, and not as much fun as the original, but it could be better. A passing grade is as good as it gets.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!