Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
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 newer 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 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 cult classic within the horror genre.
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. What does that tell you?
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.
What basically happens is that a vampire moves next door to Charley Brewster’s house. No one believes him when attempts to tell them about the creature. In time, he enlists the aid of Peter Vincent to help kill the creature of the night. By then the vampire has kidnapped Charley’s girlfriend with the intention of turning her into a blood sucker.
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 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. He was also 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, or maybe it’s the director or studio, who dictated how the character of the vampire was developed on the big screen. David Tennant as Peter Vincent, who’s supposed to be a huge 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 demonstrate to Colin Farrell just 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 maybe 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 a few yards away? 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 inter-mixed into the film, that’s about as close as the production company got to sin city.
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 for your pleasure.
Once last thing I enjoyed 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 of the DVD. Maybe the Blu-Ray edition has more. I don’t know. 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, Charley and another guy made when they were supposedly kids, though 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 from the end credits of the film.
Whereas I still remember large parts of Fright Night 1985, I’ve already forgotten most of the 2011 version.