Vampires were all the rage in the 1980’s. The Lost Boys, Near Dark, Once Bitten, The Hunger, Lifeforce, Vamp, Vampire’s Kiss. Like the zombie takeover of popular culture in the last 10 to 15 years, the neon decade was saturated with bloodsuckers. Nestled somewhere between The Lost Boys and the more obscure Near Dark, Tom Holland’s Fright Night was a minor horror hit. Critics loved it, and Fright Night scored modestly well at the box office. Yet in spite of its cult status among horror fans, Fight Night always remained a more ‘hidden’ hit from the decade. Not surprisingly then, some Hollywood executives saw it as the ideal next choice for a remake. Loved by some but unknown to just enough moviegoers to justify the 2011 remake.
Fright Night Put a Fun Twist on the Vampire Movie
If vampire fatigue was starting to set in by 1985, Tom Holland found the cure. Fright Night wasn’t just an excellent blend of horror and humour. Holland took a little bit of Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window‘ and sprinkled it with some of the midnight movie nostalgia to which his movie aspired. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. And Fright Night’s premise of suburban teen who, discovering his neighbour is a vampire, turns to a late-night horror movie host for help makes for perfect B-movie fun. From the premise onward, everything about this vampire thriller still works.
In fact, one of the movie’s strengths is the way in which it maintains an old-school B-movie sense of fun alongside the 80’s style of over-the-top gore.
As a director, Holland knows how to deliver scares and when to inject some humour into the proceedings. Nothing feels out of place. In fact, one of the movie’s strengths is the way in which it maintains an old-school B-movie sense of fun alongside the 80’s style of over-the-top gore. Not surprisingly, some of the effects look a little dated. But it’s not a steep decline in quality. Moreover, Fright Night’s unique visual vampire effects more than compensate for any of these limitations. All of this is crafted into a movie that never drags its feet or wastes its time.
Peter Vincent and ‘Evil Ed’ Steal the Show
With regards to its casting, everyone in Fright Night nails their roles. In particular, Chris Sarandon seems to be having an absolute blast playing the villain. But Roddy McDowall and Stephen Geoffreys steal the show. A genre icon, McDowall’s ‘Peter Vincent’ mixes nervous energy, charisma, and cowardice into a character that still elicits sympathy. You laugh at what a sham Vincent’s ‘vampire killer’ turns out to be, but still like him regardless. And Geoffreys’ ‘Evil Ed’ is the kind of eclectic character that turned up a lot in the 80’s, but is in short supply today. It’s a credit to both the actor and writer when you want more of a character in a movie. Both McDowall and Geoffreys understand what Holland wants in his movie and deliver in turn.
Fright Night Remake Faithfully Resurrects the Premise
Like most horror movie remakes, Fright Night wasn’t crying out for a new treatment. Tom Holland’s original vision still holds up remarkably well. Additionally, Roddy McDowall’s scene-stealing ‘late-night horror movie host’ was irrelevant by 2011. Most horror fans born after 1990 wouldn’t have a clue why a someone was ‘hosting’ a movie. However, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer scribe Marti Noxon tweaked Holland’s concept just enough while keeping the story intact. For instance, she updates Peter Vincent to sleazy Las Vegas magician. While that update makes sense, Noxon also switches up the ‘Rear Window‘ narrative. This time around it’s former friend ‘Evil Ed’ who discovers that neighbour Jerry is a vampire. It’s change for the sake of change that adds little to the movie. These changes accompany a few other unnecessary connections that feel just a bit superfluous.
After her tenure on Buffy, Noxon puts that show’s trademark banter and sharp wit to good use here.
What Noxon’s screenplay gets right is the humour. Like Holland’s original movie, the Fright Night remake dishes out scares, blood, and laughs in equal measures. After her tenure on Buffy, Noxon puts that show’s trademark banter and sharp wit to good use here. Along with its quick pacing and some rousing action-horror bits, Fright Night feels like it has an extra jolt of energy. What you have here is a remake that understands why fans loved the first movie. No, it doesn’t make the remake any more necessary. Nevertheless, the 2011 Fright Night still feels clever and funny.
Pitch-Perfect Casting Highlights Remake
Whomever cast the Fright Night remake deserves some recognition. Regardless of how much you loved the original movie, the remake boasts some pitch-perfect casting. First, Colin Farrell’s ‘Jerry’ is every bit the charismatic, but menacing, villain as Chris Sarandon. Pardon the pun but Farrell bites into the role and clearly is enjoying himself. Though replacing the legendary Roddy McDowall was daunting, David Tennant was an excellent choice for the role. He brings the same nervous energy, wit, and sympathy to the role. Similarly, Stephen Geoffrey’s ‘Evil Ed’ was so distinct that it was impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Still if you had to replace Geoffreys, you couldn’t get much closer than Christopher Mintz-Plasse. And while the late Anton Yelchin (Green Room) has an A-lister look, he still convinces as the boy-next-door.
If the Fright Night remake improves on its predecessor, it’s with some of its action set-pieces. Director Craig Gillespie has an eclectic filmography. Yet nothing in his resume suggested he would prove to be as apt at Fright Night’s bigger moments. Jerry’s ‘turning’ of ‘Evil Ed’ improves on the 1985 original. Charley’s gruesome basement discovery is well-executed ‘cat-and-mouse’ suspense. And the car chase scene is among the better horror scenes you’ll find this decade. All of this adds up to what’s a surprisingly brisk, bloody fun horror-comedy.
Fright Night Remake Proves That Some Concepts Are Immortal
Guess what, the Fright Night remake actually works. From casting to its sharp humour and vampire mayhem, the remake gets it right. Ideally, the best remakes re-imagine a movie with new ideas or commentary that fit their time period. Though the 2011 Fright Night doesn’t do more with its premise, it faithfully re-creates Tom Holland’s original movie. As a result, the remake serves as a nice companion to its predecessor. Fans of the original can watch and enjoy Gillespie’s underrated remake without feeling like they’ve cheat on Holland’s vision.