It is no secret that Fright Night is a popular cult classic. Likewise, it is no secret that studios like to remake movies that have a following. It is so much easier than just coming up with a new story. This is exactly what happened, when they remade Fright Night (2011). Combining a bigger budget and some decent CGI effects, they hoped to cash in with a new one.
The Film: 3.5/5
Along with updating the movie with some newer effects, they threw in some new faces. In the place of William Ragsdale, we get the up and coming Anton Yelchin. For the peculiar friend, we get Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Instead of Al Bundy’s neighbor, we get Imogen Poots. As our antagonist, we get Colin Farrell in place of Chris Sarandon. The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, in place of Roddy Mcdowell, plays the “Fright Night” host. Farrell and Tennant are probably the most equal trades casting wise for the remake. I’d argue that everyone else is an upgrade over the original (sorry Stephen Geoffreys).
Next step, we move the setting. Colin Farrell’s version of Jerry Dandridge has just moved into the half-abandoned neighborhood next door to the Brewster’s. This time, he works construction on the Vegas strip. This is why he’s never around in the daytime. It also explains why he is doing so much work on his own house. However, in reality, he is doing all the construction so that he has somewhere to keep his food and build a vampire nest.
But, maybe I’m getting ahead of the story here. The movie starts with a scene of a son fleeing from something. We see the chaos his predator has caused. As expected, he does not become a major character in the movie and we don’t really get to see much of his predator – yet. We are then introduced to Charley, his girlfriend, and his worthless friends. Finally, we meet Charley’s former best friend, Ed.
Yes, everybody, our hero is kind of a jerk. He has ditched his best friend Ed, along with their other nerdy friend, so that he can hang with the “cool guys” of the school. All because he felt, he needed to not be a nerd to be with his girlfriend. Just as an aside – don’t be that guy, folks. Those friends aren’t worth it. Anyway, early in the movie, you do actually feel kind of irritated at how bad of a friend Charley was to his best buds. In the same vein, you begin to sympathize with Ed. As a result, his story gains a bit more gravitas. This will provide Charley some personal growth later in the movie, which was unfortunately, not given enough time nor told effectively enough.
That said, that is probably the worst part of this movie. Outside of his past transgressions, Charley is a pretty likable character overall. After some convincing, he and his former best friend do a little investigating into the disappearance of their mutual former friend. This leads to Ed’s disappearance. Once Ed disappears, Fright Night hits its momentum and maintains it for the majority of the film. While looking into why Ed is gone, Charley discovers Dandridge’s secret and is caught snooping. Once Charley knows that Jerry knows, the ride begins in earnest and the pursuit is on.
Despite the fast pace of the second half of Fright Night, I think we get plenty of time with the characters. We are given the opportunity to enjoy them. Charley’s mom and girlfriend are pretty solid characters, even though they are only given a little time to be appreciated. I don’t think Yelchin was given a ton of room to shine in this one, but I think he did fine as it was.
I think the best role was Colin Farrell. He was quite enjoyable as a new Jerry Dandridge. I’m sure this is a controversial opinion, as I too really love the way Chris Sarandon plays Jerry Dandridge. I don’t think Farrell is better, but just very different, and I like that they made his character different. He was a bit bolder of an antagonist. You could tell that he was a bad guy throughout every scene. There was almost always something off and imposing about him.
Now, while we are talking about roles being changed, we must talk about the host of the movie’s namesake, “Fright Night.” Instead of portraying Peter Vincent as a horror host, like Roddy McDowall played, David Tennant is an over the top magician with an occult spin. Some viewers liked the change, as horror hosts are not as big these days. I could have gone either way with it personally. I would have never thought of a magician, but it works well enough. Now, I wouldn’t have envisioned Tennant for a horror host, but he works great as the magician.
While I felt the beginning of the movie spent too much time showing how Charley is a jerk to his friends, as many high school kids are, the rest of the movie was much better. Once the mystery starts unfolding, it was very enjoyable and reminiscent of the original, while also being different. After the secrets are revealed, the pace moves much faster. Everything is quicker and more explosive than the original. This is to be expected of the remake because modern film has to be flashier and more robust. The action was probably less clever than the original, but still a lot of fun.
I’m sure some people will hate this, but I really do prefer the final showdown in this one. This preference isn’t because it just moves along faster. While it does move quicker, there is more to it than that. Where the original had one major antagonist at the end while trying to save the girl, this one has gang of vampires before the main antagonist. Also, while a bit silly, the suiting up scene is still kind of fun, even if it has been done before.
In the end, I can’t say that this remake is better or worse than the original. The tone and pacing is different. There are some improvements in actors, but mostly they are just different actors with different takes on the characters. The story is mostly the same with a few minor, updated tweaks. I think they did the right thing by keeping the set up the same and just changing things that make it feel different. A remake should keep a lot of the stuff that works and just change the things that don’t. As it is, I think they kept the most important pieces and just went a different direction with the other things. If anything, I wish it were a little more different. Despite this, I think it is still fun and different enough that you can enjoy this along with the original, and its sequel.
Just stay away from the “sequel” to this one, Fright Night 2.
Picture Quality: 4.5/5
Fright Night (2011) has a very nice transfer on this release. The source material is very good. They image is clean throughout, in all lighting conditions. The colors look good even in darker scenes. Blacks look satisfyingly dark as well. There are hardly any imperfections in the image.
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Buena Vista supplied us with an equally nice audio track for this release. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is as about as nice as they come on Blu-ray. The score is delivered well, so that you can feel the bass. Also, the surround is well directed and balanced throughout. Music and dialog are clear during the film. Not once was the dialog obscured by the effects or score.
Special Features and Packaging: 2.5/5
Deleted Scenes: Most of these weren’t really necessary. I think the film is stronger for these to have been cut. There is one where Charley is a little more likeable for how he defends Ed.
Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind: Short bit in the world of “Fright Night.” This fits as if it were a short promo tacked on at the end of a TV show to garner interest before the show starts.
The Official “How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie” Guide: This is a short feature where you get small snippets from the actors and effects members. This kind of reminds me of the kind of thing I’d see on HBO between movies. Mostly limited in scope and depth, but still with a little bit of meat to it.
Squid Man: Extended & Uncut: I hope they had fun filming this. It is pretty terrible and yet kind of entertaining.
Bloopers: So, this was a fun set of bloopers. I really enjoyed the annoyance caused by one little fly.
Music Video: Kid Cudi’s “No one Believes Me”
There is nothing special about the packaging here. I believe the first pressing came with a slipcover which would be long gone by now.
Fright Night (2011) Overall : 3.5/5
While Fright Night (2011) has lackluster extras, it has really nice technical details. I find this different enough from the original, while keeping enough of the good, that it is certainly worth watching and owning. I would even recommend watching them all in one weekend for a good time. I’m thinking maybe I’ll hit them all as October starts to wrap up. But seriously, don’t bother with the most recent. Leave that one in the trash. I watched it, so you don’t have to, and it was terrible. This release is recommended for fans of the original or those who think the premise is interesting.