This should be a fun review. For a start it’s a remake, a real one too, not just another adaptation of a book that happens to have been a film at some point. Also, I have never seen the original. So not only will I risk the ire of people who think all remakes suck, I’ll also be arousing the ire of anyone that feels the original is far superior and I’m an idiot for thinking that this remake isn’t all that bad. If it helps I have the original on my Lovefilm rental list so who knows, I might get to see it soon anyway. So, click the jump for the review and to count how many times I spell the name as Fight Night by accident.
Fright Night has one of those plots that’s nice and simple to describe. Teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has reason to believe that his new neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. Then things happen that involve attempts at vampire slaying and blood sucking. Having not seen the original I’d imagine that it played off of suburban cold war paranoia that your neighbours could easily be your enemy. Much like The Burbs I’d guess. In this version of Fright Night that paranoia is almost there but instead of a slow build to us finding out if Charley’s neighbour really is a vampire in an effort to ramp tension up slowly we instead get told in about 15 minutes that he is a creature of the night. Hopefully that won’t class as a spoiler because if you’re gonna shoot your main tension building load that early you can expect a little bit of a mess afterwards… ugh. Sorry.
So this sounds like a bad start I suppose. It kind of is really. Because Fright Night tells you up front what the deal is you’re left without any sense that things may not be what they seem. There’s a couple of scenes in the film that would have benefited from us being in the dark as to whether Jerry is a vampire, instead we now know more than our main character and so you’re kind of one step ahead. A kitchen scene where Charley is fetching some beer for Jerry as he stands by the door hoping to be invited in works on the level presented but could have maybe done with an element of the unknown to make us unsure of what we would like to see. Thankfully the sequences that the film presents to us over its 2 hour runtime all work in their own way. This is a case of the films component parts being better than it’s structural base.
Another issue plotting wise is that because of the early reveal there’s nowhere to really go with the films set pieces except towards action based and occasionally quite violent and gory encounters, This is great if you’re the type that likes dumb gratification but if you like some semblance of cohesion from your films you’ll find that the second half really feels like a series of potential finales. As I mentioned though these are relatively well done sequences with plenty memorable sequences.
Now Anton Yelchin makes for quite a good lead. He’s very much from the early 90s brand of filmic teenager with his laid back drawl and slacker dress sense. More Bill & Ted than Seth & Evan. Side note: Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in Fright Night as Charley’s semi-estranged best friend Ed. Guess what happens to him. Colin Farrell makes for a quite one dimensional villain, and with an American accent he just sounds plain wrong. As villains go though his one note focus is actually pretty fresh these days where we’re usually given more reason to sympathise with a villain than to dislike him. If anyone in this film is really stealing the show though it’s David Tennant as Peter Vincent. He’s a TV magician and self stylised Gothic sage of all things vampiric. There’s actually a little more time spent on the layers of his character, that literally get peeled away during one scene with him. I don’t mean his skin. An early scene with him shows us his façade of his on stage persona falling away as he gradually peels off layers of his make up. It could have been handled with a little more tactfully but it’s good to see that someone thought about using a visual metaphor to show a characters public self giving way to his real self.
The film has some nice presentation here and there. The small suburban town Charley lives in is presented like an island in the middle of the Nevada desert. The location is also a smart choice for a vampire setting what with a lot of the locals working nights in Vegas. Gives a vampire a decent cover for being nocturnal. The film is shot competently enough but there’s an over abundance of blue filters used to make scenes appear darker than they really need to be. Also, as a by product of being shot in 3D there’s a lot of random CGI objects being thrown towards the camera and some odd forced point of focus shots to give the illusion of greater depth. I’ll never understand why you’d include stuff like that when 90% of people viewing this will be watching it in 2D either on DVD or on TV.
I mentioned before that by and large a lot of the action sequences are well done. That is barring one sequence. A sequence which I’m sure sounded great when the guy that had just watched Children Of Men came up with it but in execution it falls horribly flat. Basically there’s a sequence where Charley, his mother (Toni Collette) and girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots… heheh… poots) are driving along a desert road being chased by Jerry. The whole scene plays out inside the car with the camera moving around the characters as they react to bikes being through through the rear window, to running Jerry over and along to him trying to claw his way through the floor of the car. It mirrors a sequence in Children Of Men but the big difference is in the execution. In Children Of Men whilst CGI was used the sequence looks real, the tension feels less forced and the scene has a traumatic result. Here it’s a mess of bad CGI, poorly hidden edits and an action sequence that feels largely pointless.
While Fright Night does have plenty of plotting flaws and one quite badly handled action sequence it manages to still be entertaining and delivers a good dose of gore, more than I expected to be honest. The films lack of direction in the second half is what really hurts it due to the fact it let all it’s potential slow boil go right at the films start. Largely what it does it does well and it has more than enough entertaining moments to make this a pretty decent popcorn flick. I don’t think it’s a bad film, or even an average one, it’s just flawed and misguided.