A fright for sore eyes
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Marti Noxon
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell and David Tennant
When Charley Brewster discovers that his new next door neighbour, Jerry, is a blood-sucking, more-real-than-Twilight vampire, nobody believes him. After all, Jerry happens to be hot, effortlessly charming, and played by Colin Farrell. Who’s to complain?
What’s positively more frightening, and harder to believe, is how this 3D remake of the fun 1985 horror-comedy, Fright Night, failed to sink its fangs into genuinely scary and funny material when it had a unique genre to work with, vampire fandom to mock, and an exceptional cast on its side. Resurrected by Australian director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) and screenwriter Marti Noxon (co-writer of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer), Fright Night painfully overcompensates with CGI action to mask its unimaginative treatment of the enjoyable eighties flick, oozing in its sleek, modern and attractive look at the expense of a good story, entertaining characters and the heart-skipping scares that it desperately needs.
While Charley may have been a geek back in 1985, 2011 favours the teen with an attractive girlfriend named Amy and a couple of douchebag friends he chooses over the eccentric and quick witted Ed – a best friend from a nerdy past he’d rather forget. When Ed (played by Superbad‘s Christopher Mint-Plasse) tips Charley off about Jerry’s connection to the disappearances of their classmates, he leaves Charley with a curiosity that soon places Amy, his mother (Toni Collette) and his own life at grave risk.
In 3D Fright Night, changes to the original plot are slight, but distracting – even for those who have not seen the first film the remake’s introduction of Charley’s new social scene and the peer pressures that come with it ultimately has no relevance to the essential chase between vampire and pubescent boy, left relatively loyal to what was done 26 years ago. While its predecessor used Jerry’s seduction of Amy as a metaphor for the temptations of adolescent sexual experiences, the remake doesn’t try to convince a modern audience that a young teen girl might be unprepared for sexual endeavours. Instead, it invites a stripper over to Jerry’s for a quick drink (Jerry does most of the drinking) and severs any metaphorical connections the plot may have had with Charley’s social life.
The modern adaptation, however, does offer some interesting changes in relocating the film’s setting to a housing development in Vegas. As Charley’s neighbourhood features commonly blacked-out houses for people who work all night and sleep all day, the closely-knit and isolated suburb is creatively turned into a convenient blood buffet for Jerry who only comes out at night to walk the creepy long streets and peruse the houses built cozily close to each other. Aside from providing the only ounce of logic there is to the entire movie, Fright Night‘s Vegas setting is also visually effective, as the bright colourful lights of night clubs and casinos add to the sense of panic and utter helplessness that naturally comes with living next door to an eternally damned creature of the night and having no one believe you.
Unfortunately, the setting opens up no creative possibilities for the tasteless dialogue and unoriginal characters that Fright Night burdens its cast with. From the usually hilarious Mint-Plasse to Dr. Who‘s much-loved David Tennant as a cowardly vampire slayer, Fright Night drains such wonderfully animated acting talents with a poorly written script and predictable, weak jokes that lack the wit and strong characterisation necessary for a highly stylistic genre.
Shot unnecessarily in 3D, Fright Night throws perfectly good actors, ideas and plot lines at walls, through glass and into the faces of its audience. While the remake could have been a clever self-referential horror with extra comedic bite relevant to today’s vampire obsessions, Fright Night fails to meet its full potential despite having some serious advantages staring right into its pasty vampire face.