20 August 2011 | lakini71
Welcome to Fright Night 2011
It has occurred to me that when people refer to a new "reimagining" of a beloved film, they use the term "unnecessary remake." I've been guilty of that myself. I really tend to think, however, that technically any remake is unnecessary. No one "needs" to be told what is basically the same story (in most cases) twice. I've also heard the argument that bad films are the ones that should be remade, not good ones. I can understand that to an extent, but do people really want to sit through a new version of something they hated the first time? No remake is going to make everyone happy; it's just not possible. Unless of course, you haven't SEEN the original.
So, just how should a remake be judged? As a stand-alone film, or how it compares to a previous one we love so much? And I do love writer-director Tom Holland's 1985 vampire flick FRIGHT NIGHT. It is just the right mix of comedy, terror, suspense, terrific performances, and an affection for old-fashioned scares. Many others have fond memories of it as well, so I relate to the "why"s and the "oh don't screw it up"s, and the "leave it alone"s. After all, beloved films are dumped on all the time by would-be filmmakers out to make a quick buck for the safe Hollywood studios.
Most of the central story is intact: Anton Yelchin leads the cast as Charley Brewster, a used-to-be high-school misfit who comes to the realization, thanks to childhood buddy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) that his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. It isn't long before he's convinced his single mother (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) of this discovery...at which point all sorts of bloody hell breaks loose.
Screenwriter Marti Noxon has infused a basic story (whose plot points and situations weren't always very believable) with some new smarts, including adding more depth to the central characters. And the setting has changed to a cookie-cutter suburb of Las Vegas, where people sleep during the day, work at night, and are much more transient. Another interesting change is the character of Peter Vincent. In the original, Roddy McDowall played a hammy horror host and actor: Peter Vincent, the Great Vampire Killer. Here, David Tennant assumes the role, but Vincent has become an elaborate Vegas magician who performs vampire-killing antics on the stage. In both versions, they are recruited by our hero to help slay the bloodsucker. It's an ultra- modern twist, but within the location context, works beautifully.
During the first hour or so of 2011's new incarnation, I was shocked to think that I may end up liking this remake even more than the original. But after some hair-raising moments in the first half, culminating in a dark, desert car chase, the film threatens to go off the rails in a sequence that's a bit hokey, over the top, and unfortunately timed. And there are a few iffy CGI instances as well. Luckily, things get back on track with a climax that's executed with a uniquely creepy wit, and a few good shocks and surprises. Director Craig Gillespie (LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, "United States of Tara") earns respect for pulling off (for him) an unfamiliar genre; he also pays homage to a few memorable scenes in the original without trying to copy or disrespect them.
Most of the performances are engaging and authentic (aside from Mintz-Plasse in his later moments), with Tennant's wry turn a real treat, and the ever-wonderful Collette's naturally grounding presence adding a needed weight of normalcy. It is Farrell, however, who is the real deal; he absolutely nails this role (no, he won't make you forget the original's suave Chris Sarandon, but in fairness, Jerry is written much differently in this update). Farrell combines sexiness and utter menace to the fullest: this vamp means business! Some of the best work of his admittedly spotty career is on display, including the film's most brilliant moment, where Jerry's fidgety impatience with being invited into the Brewster home is both hilarious and nerve-wracking.
FRIGHT NIGHT is a solid film in its own right; if there's not enough love from the original's fans to spread out to its remake, that's unfortunate.