Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fright Night (2011)


Craig Gillespie


Marti Noxon (screenplay), Tom Holland (story), and 1 more credit »
In a suburb on the outskirts of Las Vegas, young Charlie Brewster's High School life is finally coming together. He has a stunning girlfriend, his acne has cleared up, and he's distanced himself from his nerdy friends. Yet kids are going missing from school, and soon Charlie begins to believe that his strange new neighbour may be responsible, and may well be a lot more dangerous than a garden variety serial killer....

I really didn't want to see this film.

I won't rant on about my love for the original, you can read all about my reasons for adoring it in my review here. I will say though, that my loyalty to the original clouded my mind on the idea of a remake. Its the sort of shit that puts hate in a mans heart...

The trailers infuriated me. The casting of Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge infuriated me. The damned setting infuriated me. This film had 'cash-grab' written all over it from day one. Over the years we've all suffered through abysmal remakes of many of our most beloved classics, but I actually assumed FRIGHT NIGHT was safe. After all, its name alone wasn't enough to guarantee huge box office. Its not NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 or FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009. This was a film beloved by a small pocket of discerning and loyal Horror fans, not a commercially viable franchise. So why remake it? Why not just create a whole new vampire movie and leave my cherished classic the fuck alone? It made no sense then and it makes no sense now. In fact it makes less sense now that I've seen it, as it basically is an entirely new movie.

Lets get something straight, right off the bat.....This is not FRIGHT NIGHT. It has the same basic template as the 80's classic, but makes completely different creative moves and grooves along they way. The setting is different. The characters are different. The mythology is different. Other than the title, a vampire moving in next door, and a few very loose references to the original, this is its own beast. No one claims that the original FRIGHT NIGHT is an official remake of Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW, do they? It has the same bare bones concept with which its foundations are laid, and then it blazes its own trail. That's what we have here. Much like Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD really isn't a remake, (other than locale and name), FRIGHT NIGHT 2011 should be, and in time, I'm sure will be taken on its own merits. I'm at a loss as to why they named it FRIGHT NIGHT at all. This is a beast with its own unique bite.

With that in mind, and for the purpose of reviewing this film as its own entity, I'm renaming the fucker. From here on in, it will be called.....RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE. That way I can come to terms with my feelings about this film as I review it.

Normally with a remake, I'd compare it to the original constantly. I'll still have to make the odd reflection, but will keep it minimal. I want to get it out of the way very early on that almost everything I loved about the original is gone. No more spooky old mansion, no more fond looking back at the Hammer Horror classics, no more old fashioned spook-show theatrics. All of what made FRIGHT NIGHT such a joy, is gone. And yet, shockingly, unbelievably and despite all universal laws, I REALLY ENJOYED this movie!

It was a very clever move to go in a whole new direction here, as FRIGHT NIGHT could never be topped. Taking the template and running with it, allows the viewer to quickly adapt to this film as stand alone piece. I haven't had this much fun with a Horror movie in a long, long time. I cant believe I'm even writing this, but its true. RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE is freaking great! Once your mind is able to overcome the issue of 'remake', the film quickly proves itself to be a unique, fresh and vibrant Horror film that treats the source with great respect while courageously running wild in its own way. Some will suggest that by changing so much it shows a lack of respect, but I disagree. This film allows the original to remain untarnished, and due to the quality of this film, it will surely open up a whole new generation to the joys of the 80's movie. Now, can you say that about anyone who's introduction to NIGHTMARE was through Brad Fuller's shitster-piece? I thought not. By creating a whole new plethora of characters, situations and environments, RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE shows respect by avoiding cheap plagiarism for a buck. Sad then, that this film bombed at the box office while SHITEMARE ON ELM STREET done relatively well.

The setting is perfect. The small suburbs, completely isolated in the middle of the desert, makes for an eerie, desolate and very atmospheric hunting ground for our killer. And fits perfectly with his M.O, People are transitory there. People are not missed. And in this film, Jerry isn't concerned with fitting in for long. He's concerned with causing as much damage as quickly and as violently as possible. And while it makes little sense that Jerry would move into a house and then slaughter the entire neighborhood, it makes for a helluva lot of fun. This is sheer entertainment. Fast, frenetic and funny.

And its scary too. RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE is genuinely creepy at times, and has a handful of scenes that work brilliantly. Most notably a scene in Charlies doorway as he and Jerry enter an unspoken psychological game of cat and mouse, as Jerry pushes for an invite and Charlie tries not invite him in, while at the same time not giving away the fact the he suspects Jerry's a bloodsucking killer. Its downright excellent. Another early scene as Charlie attempts an improvised rescue in Jerry's lair drips with tension and provides real Horror goods. How about a car chase, (in a vampire movie!), that's as funny as it is intense. Yet the whole thing is also very playful, and has a real sense of fun.

While the writing and direction is great, much of the frightful fun is down to the stellar, (and I cant believe I'm saying this), performance of Farrell, as Jerry Dandridge. He's just brilliant. He's a very different beast to Sarandon's suave, seductive killer. This guy is far more animalistic, and far less sympathetic. This is a vampire who appears to be taunting his neighbour for the sheer fun of it all. A self satisfied smile is never far from this undead badass' face, even as his plans go awry. He's amused that a young kid could even assume to be any match for him, and he acts accordingly. I've never been a fan of Farrell, in fact Ive actively avoided his work, but here he really is the star of the show. If Sarandon was a vampire in the classic mould, then Farrell's incarnation is a serial killer who loves his work, and just happens to be immortal and superhuman. And he's gleefully aware of the advantage this gives him. His Jerry is a perfect antidote to the shiny emo wimps that have infested cinema since those goddamn Twilight 'movies' hit the scene. If for no other reason, this film should be celebrated for bringing the 'monster' back to the 'myth'.

Yelchin is great as Charlie too. Playing him as a nerd who's finally on the cusp of being accepted, and has became something of a douchebag in the process. Its a bold move to have your hero display such asshole tendencies, and its testament to Yelchin's ability that he remains likable, even as he turns his back on his friends and his true nature in order to, frankly, get a little pussy. His character arc is believable and interesting, as we watch him discover that the person he wanted to be was who he was all along. Good stuff.

The much hyped casting of David Tennant as, 'Peter Vincent', is a fine fit for this character. Channeling Jack Sparrow and remaining somewhat high as a kite for the whole duration of the film; he provides much of the comic relief. He even has a certain depth to him as the story progresses and we learn just why hes such a wreck of a person. Again, the creators of RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE are well aware that Roddy McDowell's beloved performance can't be beaten, so they avoid it altogether and recreate the guy from the ground up. Clever folks, those creators...

a little word on Evil Ed, he's okay. He's used very sparingly and mainly serves as a plot device, but I enjoyed him as he was. Mintz-Plasse does his usual routine, which works fine. Although I feel the character could have been used a little more, if only to please the fans.

In a film that gets practically everything right, theres only one issue. And its an issue us Horror fans have been complaining about since the inception of its technology. Yep, you guessed it...CGI. There are numerous moments where the CG is pretty cheap looking, and that really shouldn't happen with a production with such financing. We see this time and again in cinema, but it never fails to disappoint. Whats even more grating is that Farrell's vampire is so fearsome and magnetic that he doesn't need any digital enhancement. Thankfully, he's mostly in 'human form'. The few scenes where we see his true face aren't bad per-say, just rather unnecessary. And if a scene or two of Jerry in 'full vamp' was needed...why not go with prosthetics? The gore is also augmented with CG, but its far less jarring than the work we've seen before, however pointless. We all know squibs are far more effective than anything a  PC can rustle up, and I'm sure the creative team behind the film know it too. I'm willing to bet this is on the heads of those creative vacuums at the studios, who seem to believe the only thing the younger generation will respond to is computer graphics. Will they ever listen to what the fans want? I doubt it.

Overall, RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE is a real treat, and the most entertaining mainstream Horror of the year. Its fast paced, funny, atmospheric and frightening. It has some moments of brilliance, some unforgettable characters and it has the balls to groove to its own tune. FRIGHT NIGHT can rest easy. Its legacy is secured.

RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE is a blast. Give it a fair chance, it deserves it. Really....

9 Midnight Snacks out of 10


  1. Wow! Couldn't agree more with this review! I saw this film a couple of weeks ago. I went into the cinema with a completely open mind. As much as I adore the old-school, classic horror theatrics, I really don't have any attachment to the original "Fright Night" film, so that wasn't an issue. Anyway, like you, I really enjoyed "RANDOM VAMPIRE MOVIE".

    I'm also not a fan of Colin Farrell, but that turned out to be perfect. He's such a smarmy psychopath in this movie. And David Tennant was brilliantly funny.

    I also agree about the CGI. My husband and I both thought Colin Farrell's vampire was menacing enough with just the black eyes and the teeth. It was subtle and chilling. The gaping shark mouth was overkill (no pun intended).

  2. Agreed. He looked like death in a tight top. No effects needed when his performance was so damned threatening in itself. I'm still shocked that I loved this so much, but it really is freakin great. Thanks fro reading and writing, honey.