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Back in the dog days of summer 1985, me and my best friend caught an afternoon showing of a new movie called Fright Night. It wasn't marketed as one of the big summer movies of '85 (Back to the Future had turned out to be the event movie to see at that time) but what Fright Night had was an understanding with its fans.
It was a modest horror movie that had a cool idea for its central premise: the new neighbor next door turns out to be a vampire. No one believes you that he's one of the undead, but you're able to convince a late night horror movie host (played by the wonderful Roddy McDowell) that the vamp needs to get staked.
Director/writer Tom Holland pulled it off and I loved the original Fright Night. Back then you could discover unknown movies like this without any advance knowledge that they were headed you way. Not knowing about the ingenuity of Fright Night and its love for vampire lore and late night horror shows made the experience of watching it that much sweeter.
The 2011 remake of Fright Night doesn't muck around too much from the central plot of the original but it does change some of the details. Anton Yelchin's Charley starts out as a dick to his best pal "Evil" Ed (played by Kick-Ass' Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and he's not into monster movies like the original Charley, William Ragsdale. The biggest alteration is to Peter Vincent's character who's now a Las Vegas stage magician in the mold of Criss Angel. It works, and David Tennant does a good job of playing his Peter Vincent as a ego-consumed dick, which gives the movie some comedy.
I also enjoyed Colin Farrell as the vampire-next-door, Jerry. Thankfully, he chose to play his version different from the playboy-ish charm that Chris Sarandon exuded in the '85 movie. Farrell's Jerry is summed up great by Mintz-Plasse's Ed early in the film as "the shark from Jaws," and it's a brilliant comparison to Farrell's performance. Watch him and you'll see that he's actually mimicing the rapid looking around head movements of a shark on the hunt. It's an added layer that separates the 2011 Jerry from the 1985 one, and gives the new Fright Night an added layer of originality.
While it had slick 3D and is most enjoyable, 2011's Fright Night rejects the monster fanboy culture elements that the original picture had, and I missed that. Yelchin's Charley is just like every other kid today; would it had been so terrible to have made him a monster nerd? Maybe, since the era of the late night TV horror show has ended and today's kids don't appreciate monsters the same way.
The older Fright Night also had more of a better melding between comedy and horror than the new one. Maybe with more Tennant in it (he's only around for about 45 minutes of the movie), and more of Mintz-Plasse's Ed in the second half, it would have given off more like that original Fright Night vibe.
Marti Noxon's script writing is ultra-tight. She's really demonstrating her past experience writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While it's servicable, it also doesn't allow for much room for the characters to step away from the story and breathe a bit. Charley's Mom and girlfriend (Toni Collette and Imogen Poots) are locked in stereotypical character mode until close to the end of the second act, but when they finally do get away from the standard I-don't-believe-you dialogue, there's more fun to be had. And it was nice to see Chris Sarandon in his cameo.
Go into the new Fright Night with reasonable expectations and they will be met.