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John’s Horror Corner: Fright Night (2011), reflecting on the 1985 original through the lens of a remake.

August 15, 2017

MY CALL:  Relying far more on its outstanding cast than effects, this wasn’t so great “as a remake.”  But remains very entertaining.  Let’s be honest.  Nothing can compare to the original Fright Night (1985)!  MORE MOVIES LIKE Fright NightWell, you should really see Fright Night (1985) and Fright Night II (1988).

REMAKE SIDEBAR: Other quality horror remakes include Friday the 13th (2009), Carrie (2013), Evil Dead (2013), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Halloween (2007), The Fly (1986), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Thing (1982; yes, this was a remake) and The Mummy (1999; adventure genre). Those to avoid include Poltergeist (2015), The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Cabin Fever (2016), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Night of the Demons (2009), Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), War of the Worlds (2005) and The Mummy (2017; total adventure-style reboot-imagining).

Director Craig Gillespie (The Million Dollar Arm, The Finest Hours) wasn’t known for horror, nor is he now (beyond this movie). But here he is making a contemporized remake of the very first contemporary vampire film ever: Fright Night (1985). In doing so, we relocate the Brewster family from northern California to Las Vegas, a city in which night owls and late shifts are the norm and children of the night need no camouflage.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin; Odd Thomas, Green Room) is a solid iteration of the original. He and is single mother (Toni Collette; Krampus, The Sixth Sense) find a handsome single man moving in next door and Charley’s love-hungry girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots; 28 Weeks Later, Green Room) is the first to notice when his attention deviates away from her advances to the goings-on of his mysterious neighbor.  2011’s Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse; This is the End) offers context to two once-best friends who have now grown apart, but are now forced to face their local threat; whereas 1985’s Evil Ed is clearly strange and is, to some degree, a friend or ex-friend (or something), yet neither his nickname nor his relationship with 80s-Charley are explained.

Our new Jerry (Colin Farrell; Total Recall, True Detective) is quite the change up from 1985’s Chris Sarandon (The Resurrected, Fright Night). Sarandon was seductive, smooth, and offered every opportunity for his would-be protagonist victims to survive if they would just look the other way or accept whatever he offered; more forgiving and, perhaps, wise from his lengthened undead years.  But our fanged Farrell, while cagily charming, is typically more sleazy, crude and predatory before his patience is even tested—creating a more cat-and-mouse semi-slasher tone in lieu of occult mysticism.

Jerry also moves in with little baggage, and nary a ghoulish servant or subordinate vampire in sight.  I liked the bullying humor and domestic kinship Billy (Jonathan Stark; House II: The Second Story) brought to the original.  For me it was disappointing finding nothing analogous in role or tone. But a great contemporized remake victory is found in Peter Vincent (David Tennant; Doctor Who), who feels perfectly modeled after an occult-themed Criss Angel (Mind Freak) with a passion for vampirology and a sarcastic cowardice.

I love that we go from this (ABOVE), to this (BELOW)…

Overall, this remake makes decent use of parallels to the iconic scenes of the original, but really they pack none of the atmospheric punch. This is a great flick, a “good” horror movie, but it can’t hold a candle to the original. That said, this remake clearly succeeds at giving us quality entertainment. Yes, I’ve seen it more than once. Yes, I will watch it again. And yes, I bought it. But no, I won’t watch it a fraction as often as the original.  Why…?

2011 vs 1985

We get a toothy maw transformation, some Jedi-jumping and wall-crawling, and all manner of blood gushes.  But where’s the rest?

2011 vs 1985

This just reminds me of Van Helsing (2004)

Truth is, these CGI effects lack the practical old school charm of Amy’s gaping monstrous mouth. In fact, the effects generally don’t impress much at all.  That’s not the film’s strength.  This remake succeeds on the merits of its cast, and everyone seems to do a fine job.  From Tenant’s quips to Charley’s frantic desperation and Ed’s hammed up campy vampire shenanigans, I enjoyed this a lot despite the lack of any memorable effects.  It barely does any justice to writer/director Tom Holland’s (Child’s Play, The Temp, Thinner, Fright Night) original but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.  Give it a chance.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2017 6:35 am

    I own the original Fright Night, but would rent the remake again. It was a fun film to watch. I just really disliked Anton Yelchin’s portrayal of Charlie, The main character. I thought he was too much of a douchebag. It’s funny that you put Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and American Werewolf in Paris as quality remakes. Because I would put them on my avoid list. However I am in full agreement on your Avoid list

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 16, 2017 8:50 am

      Well this is why we have a comments section. I’m just one man. I can’t shepherd everyone to cinematic safety all the time. I need people like you to keep me in check. LOL

      To be fair, I should have called AAWiP or Halloween enjoyable movies (for me…depending on one’s taste) that weren’t so hot “as remakes,” but since I enjoyed them, there they went. But no, they’re definitely not very good “as remakes,” very much as I’d consider 2011’s Fright Night. However, I was quite fond of the new TCM approach.

  2. August 17, 2017 6:03 pm

    I love me some Fright Night remake.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 17, 2017 6:27 pm

      It’s growing on me.


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  2. John’s Horror Corner: Fright Night 2 (2013), a non-sequel filled with bloody boobs paying no proper homage to the 1985 original or the 2011 remake. | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. John’s Horror Corner: Stephen King’s It (2017), a worthy re-adaptation and R-rated remake of 1990’s TV-PG Pennywise. | Movies, Films & Flix
  4. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  5. The MFF Podcast #133: Fright Night (1985 vs 2011), part 1 | Movies, Films & Flix
  6. The MFF Podcast #134: Fright Night (1985 vs 2011), part 2 | Movies, Films & Flix
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  8. John’s Horror Corner: Hereditary (2018), an emotionally heavy family therapy session and séance gone wrong. | Movies, Films & Flix
  9. John’s Horror Corner: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), a meta-sequel remake of the seminal slasher classic. | Movies, Films & Flix
  10. John’s Horror Corner: Suspiria (2018), a stylish yet retro-chic remake of Argento’s Italian classic about a witch coven nested in a German ballet academy. | Movies, Films & Flix
  11. John’s Horror Corner: It’s Alive (2009), a gory over-the-top “baby horror” remake. | Movies, Films & Flix
  12. John’s Horror Corner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), a worthy remake bringing new levels of meanness to the franchise. | Movies, Films & Flix
  13. John’s Horror Corner: Friday the 13th (2009), a remake/requel love letter to the early 80s featuring brutally familiar death scenes. | Movies, Films & Flix
  14. John’s Horror Corner: Maniac (2012), a brutal remake of a slasher classic, and starring Elijah Wood. | Movies, Films & Flix
  15. John’s Horror Corner: Child’s Play (2019), the fun reboot of the 1988 classic evil doll franchise that we deserve! | Movies, Films & Flix
  16. John’s Horror Corner: Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), a mediocre medical-mystery horror remake of the 1978 classic. | Movies, Films & Flix
  17. John’s Horror Corner: The Grudge (2004), the suspenseful remake of the Japanese Ju-on: The Grudge (2002). | Movies, Films & Flix
  18. John’s Horror Corner: Unhinged (2017), an equally lame remake of the forgettable 1982 exploitation slasher film. | Movies, Films & Flix
  19. Frantic |

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