Fright Night 2011
Craig Gillespie, Director

Starring Colin Farrell and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Review by Wayne C. Rogers

This is going to be a short review because of a lack of time this weekend.

First of all, why remake a classic horror film if you’re not going to surpass it? Why waste the money when it could be used for another movie? I’ve never understood Hollywood’s way of thinking with regards to this. Of course, nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie, but it still happens on a regular basis, especially with remakes. Maybe the new version of Fright Night got made because Steven Spielberg was willing to put up the money through his Dreamworks Production Company.

Okay, in 1985 the original version of Fright Night was written and directed by Tom Holland. Even a novelization of it came out that was by the great Craig Spector and John Skipp (authors of Light at the End). The movie starred William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige (the vampire), Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent, Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson, and Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed. The film cost 9 million to make and grossed over 24 million. By Hollywood’s 3-to-1 ratio, it didn’t quite break even, but it got great reviews and became an instant classic in the horror genre. In ’89, Fright Night 2 was made, based on the success of the first film, though it wasn’t quite as good.

Now, in the fall of 2011, the remake of Fright Night hit the theaters. This time the film was budgeted at 30 million dollars. It grossed only 18 million. I don’t think there will be a remake of Fright Night 2.

In the new version, Anton Yelchin (he played the young Bobby Garfield in Stephen King’s Hearts of Atlantis) takes on the role of Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandrige and David Tennant as Peter Vincent.

I have to tell you that Anton Yelchin as a teenager just doesn’t look or feel like a Charley Brewster to me. William Ragsdale did, but not Anton. It just didn’t feel right to me throughout the entire movie. Though Colin Farrell does a good job on Jerry Dandrige and tries to have fun with it, the whole thing just doesn’t ring true to me. Chris Sarandon as the vampire was utterly handsome, suave,debonair, charming, an excellent dresser, and totally ruthless when provoked. Colin Farrell simply plays a handsome redneck vampire with little of the charm and debonair. It’s not his fault, but rather the writer’s and how the vampire is described within the screenplay. David Tennant as Peter Vincent, who’s supposed to be a big Las Vegas magician/entertainer, reminded me quite a bit of Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. I never took his character seriously and felt it was a let down to the performance Roddy McDowell gave in ’85. Forget about Christopher Mintz-Plasse. He can’t even come close to Stephen Geoffrey as Evil Ed.

The highlights of the film for me were Toni Colette as Jane Brewster and Chris Sarandon in a cameo as a driver who crashes into the back of Jane’s car. Toni brought a sense of freshness to the role she portrayed, especially when she flirts with Jerry Dandrige and then later sticks a Century 21 sign through his back. That was funny. Chris Sarandon was a surprise to see when he appeared in the film. I found myself wanting him to show Colin Farrell how to play a damn vampire, but it didn’t happen.

The story supposedly takes place in Las Vegas this time around, but it was actually filmed in New Mexico. I live in Las Vegas, and I’ve never seen a suburb of new homes twenty miles outside of town in the middle of nowhere with nothing around them, except a two-lane highway. The housing in the suburb also didn’t look like the houses in Vegas. They looked more like the homes in the mid-west or back east. Last, a foot or so beneath the top soil of Las Vegas is hard rock … very hard rock. It cost a fortune to blast it out to make a basement below a home, yet Jerry Dandrige’s house had an area about fifteen feet beneath the main floor that was vast in scope and filled with a ton of dirt. How did Jerry manage to do that with the neighbors living only fifteen feet away from him. Let’s also not forget the multitude of vampires that crawl out hidden cavities within the dirt walls below the main floor of the house. Except for some aerial shots of Vegas that were mixed into the film, that’s about as close as the production company got to sin city for the making of Fright Night.

I thought I was going to see a bit of the city. Wrong!

In the original version of the movie, facial makeup and prosthetics were used to depict the vampires in their natural state. CGI, however, was used in the remake and it clearly shows. Even in the way the blood was displayed looked like pure CGI.

Now, after all of this, I’ll say that Fright Night 2011 wasn’t a totally bad film. I would give the original version an A+ and the remake a B-. Buy the original for your horror collection, but rent the remake. If you love the remake, then by all means buy it.

Once last thing I enjoy about the movie was the song 99 Problems that was sung while the end credits rolled along. The tune with its banjo playing in the background reminded me of the music from the television series, Justified.

There isn’t much in the way of behind-the-scenes stuff on the single disc. Maybe the Blu-Ray edition has more. There are some bloopers that aren’t very funny and mostly show actors flubbing their lines. There’s also the extended version of a short film called Squid Man, which Evil Ed and Charley and another guy made when they were supposedly kids, yet they appear as teenagers in the short, short. Finally, there’s a music video which I stopped watching after the first ten seconds. Needless to say, it wasn’t 99 Problems.

Whereas I still remember large parts of Fright Night 1985, I’ve already forgotten most of the 2011 version.

Editor’s Note: Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas – The Encounter, The Tunnels, and The Cat From Hell. These can be purchased as Kindle e-books on Amazon for ninety-nine cents each.

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