Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fright Night : Thoughts On The Original & Remake!


After I got home from seeing Fright Night last night, I cooked up some bacon and roast beef hash (the latter cooked in the grease of the former ... I like my food deadly) and popped my VHS of the original Fright Night into my VCR (thanks for that Jesse!), being that it had been a few years since i'd seen it. I've never really talked about the movie on here in the past so I wanted to quick give my very brief thoughts on it before I get into whether or not I dug the just released redux. Here goes that.

Like most of you probably are, i'm a big time fan of the original Fright Night, a practical effects filled blast that has copious amounts of all the qualities I love in 80's horror flicks; humor, gore, creatures. It's such a great story, with a horror loving kid and a horror actor banding together to try and survive a horror movie come to life, and i'd go so far as to say it's one of my favorite horror movies to come out of that time period. It's just so damn fun. So that's that.

Oh and by the way, isn't it ironic that the actor who played Evil Ed ended up becoming a gay porn star, given he ends up naked at the end of the film with a giant piece of wood inside of him? Just sayin' ...

I wasn't terribly excited when I heard that Fright Night was being remade, given that I feared it was only being done to capitalize on the vampire craze of late, but my thoughts changed once I saw the trailer. Right after that trailer came out I did a Yay or Nay? feature on it and I pretty much predicted (and hoped) that'd it'd be a fun and entertaining movie, if nothing else, and I didn't expect much more from it than that. So was my prediction correct? Well, I guess you could say I was half correct.

Fright Night 2.0 gets off to a pretty rocky start, with an awkward first half that drags and bores. Full of jokes that fall flat (the only good joke it seems to be able to make is that Jerry is a goofy name for a vampire ... which it reminds us of a couple times), unnecessary cursing that seems thrown in only to get a "cool" R rating, and lame attempt after lame attempt at being hip and current, the first hour or so of the movie is entirely lackluster. Nothing much happens and if i'm being honest, I was pretty damn bored every step of the way. That being said, there was one subplot regarding Charley and Evil Ed that I quite liked in this first half, which was something entirely new that was not seen in the original. Long story short, in this one Charley and Ed were good friends prior to the events of the movie but in an attempt to be cool and get chicks, Charley tosses his geeky side and his friend on the backburner, while Ed remains the same Ed that he was when they were best friends. It's a nice little touch that adds some depth to the story, one that seems to be entirely derived from that iconic line from the original (which gets repeated in this one too), where Ed mockingly tells Charley that he's "so cool". Aside from that clever little addition, the first half of the film is a total snooze fest. I was not liking what I was seeing. Not one bit.

I've seen countless horror movies that start off good but get worse as they progress and very few that actually start off bad and get better. Much to my surprise, and delight, Fright Night 2011 is one of those rare movies that actually recovers from a seriously lackluster first half, somehow managing to turn itself into a pretty damn entertaining ride. After one particularly kickass sequence about halfway through the movie, things suddenly take a serious turn for the better and this Fright Night starts to feel more like the Fright Night we all know and love. The blood starts flying (even if it's CG blood...), the laughs start piling up, an actor from the original makes an awesome cameo and it ultimately morphs into the movie that I was hoping it'd be from the start. Just prior to that one sequence that turns the whole ship around, Jerry Dandridge blows up Brewster's house in an attempt to be able to get to him without being invited in, a scene you probably remember from the trailer. It truly feels as if the director and writer that had been working on the film prior to that scene died in that blast on set and were replaced from that moment on by a director and writer who knew how to make an entertaining movie. It's like two different movies, one far better than the other, and I quite enjoyed myself while watching the kickass almost 80's style go for the jugular movie it became in the second half. Much like a vampire, I guess this one just needed to suck for a while before it really had any life in it. It's only fitting.

One of the main things I was worried about in regards to this one was the character of Peter Vincent. While I feared that the Criss Angel meets Russell Brand turn that the character appeared to be taking in this remake was going to be one of the big downsides of the whole thing, that character actually ended up being one of the best things about it. I always loved the fact that Vincent was a vampire slaying actor turned horror host but I found myself unbothered by the fact that he was changed into a stage magician who knows a thing or two about vampire killing (afterall, it'd be pretty unfitting to the times to have him still be a horror host). David Tennant was solid as Vincent, as was Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge. As for McLovin, it was cool to see him get to play something other than a doofy nerd, even if he just gets to be a doofy nerd who turns into a slightly less doofy vampire nerd. It was also awesome to see familiar character makeups used for the vamps, most notably on Amy, which is a nice little treat for fans of the original. Speaking of which, I think my fellow Fright Night '85 fans will also notice many other little homages to the original throughout the film, which are oftentimes subtle but can't help but make ya smile nonetheless. It all feels quite familiar while still remaining fresh and different, which the better remakes always do.

All in all, Fright Night 2011 pretty much follows the same general beats as the original, it's just a slicker version that's updated for our current times. And as a revamped (har har) CGI filled redux of that 80's genre classic, it's pretty solid, despite the fact that it takes a while to get going. That first half could've used a pretty sizeable hunk of runtime cut out of it, but what can ya do. If you can sit through that lackluster beginning and look past it, I think you'll find this remake to be a rewarding and fun night of fright at the theatre. At the end of the day, I dug it and found the second half to be fun enough to make me forgive the far inferior first half. Just see it in 2D if you can. I always prefer to see movies in 2D over 3D so I usually say that, but I really mean it this time. Even if you're into the whole 3D thing, this one is quite clearly only utilizing that gimmick so that the studio can get more money out of your wallet at the box office. I saw it in 3D, only because I had no choice, and it barely even felt like I was watching a 3D movie. Save for a couple shots of CG objects flying at the camera, it's barely even noticeable and certaintly doesn't enhance the movie at all. So save your money if your theatre allows you the liberty to make the choice.


RobocopsSadSide said...

Good review. I revisited both Fright Night and its sequel last weekend. The first film still really holds up well for me, and I was excited to find 2 commentaries online with Tim Sullivan and many of the film crew, but the second one just doesn't work for me like it used to.

In the script for the original, Charley and Ed's friendship was a lot stronger, they used to watch Peter Vincent's show religiously together... then Amy comes into the game and Charley starts giving him the cold shoulder and Ed becomes bitter. After learning that, it helps the obvious deterioration of their friendship in the original film make more sense.

I'll eventually see the remake, because I try to see as much as I can, and I was a fan of the Director's Lars and the Real Girl, but I'm not too terribly optimistic about it. I've heard from a lot of people that Farrell is good in the role, but I just can't help the fact that I've never really liked the guy. Tenant, I do like, a lot, and as you say making the change from horror host to magician makes more sense for the times... but for me, at least, it doesn't make it any more easy to accept. Not down with the whole trendy goth look.

I do however think Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots, I think they are both terrific talents, and that's mostly what will persuade me to see it.

Can't lie, though, the fail of this and Conan at the box office this past weekend gave me a glimmer of hope that finally, just maybe, people want to see something entirely new, and preferably not with some ole gimmick tagged along with it.

The Frog Queen said...

Great review.....just watched the original the other night (thanks for the VHS - played great) so that I could see it again before I head out to see this one next week.

Glad to hear I will likely not hate it :D


VampireSlay said...

I have to agree the first half was such first half was such a snooze fest. I did like the last half of the movie. They should have done more of what the original did for the first half. One of the many things that makes the original great is the Vampire reveal is drawn out and I love how Jerry toys with Charlie. We don't get this in the remake.

Anonymous said...

Johnny, do you think its possible for a movie to "kick-ass" without being "fast and furious" for all of its running time. I mean do you think theres still a place for movies that build slowly to an astonishing last 30 or 40 minutes or do you think people now expect the entire 100 minutes to "kick-ass" non-stop ?.

Samuel Wilson said...

Just wanted to mention, regarding Peter Vincent's occupation, that I can watch four horror hosts every weekend on my local cable -- though admittedly one of them is Elvira and another has a beatnik gimmick. So it's not as if they're obsolete. But what's probably less likely now is that a kid Charlie's age would watch any of those shows.

Johnny said...

Anonymous - I'm actually glad you said that. I'm the kinda guy who loves slow starts to horror movies, where you get to know the characters and what not. It's not that this movie just has a slow start in that way. It just has a really boring and clunky one. So no, a movie doesn't have to be full of action for its entire runtime, i'm just saying that I was quite bored by the lame first half of this one. I wish to be entertained by the movies I watch, whether anything's happening in them or not!