Touchstone Pictures // 2011 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 13th, 2011
You can't run from evil when it lives next door.
I somehow managed to miss the original Fright Night, though I was the perfect age to have a nostalgic connection to it during its '80s heyday. So, if you're going to be offended by yet another Hollywood remake and want to hear how the update eviscerates your childhood, this isn't the review for you. Instead, despite its remake pedigree (something I usually abhor), Fright Night offers an effective blend of horror and tongue-in-cheek (or is that fang-in-cheek?) comedy, with a pinch of sexy from the all-star cast. The film's solid impression is only aided by the excellent Fright Night (Blu-ray) presentation.
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) lives in a small suburb just outside of Las Vegas. So, it's no surprise that some of his neighbors work all night and sleep all day. The problem is that his neighbors start disappearing -- except, of course, for new neighbor Jerry (Colin Ferrell, In Bruges). Charley's friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kick-Ass) thinks Jerry's a vampire and when Ed disappears, Charley is convinced. To tackle Jerry, Charley enlists the help of vampire expert/magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant, Doctor Who).
I swear I didn't know that Marti Noxon penned the script for Fright Night, but about halfway through the film I thought, "There's no way that the average guy they get to write films of this budget could have possibility written this script." My evidence? First, Colin Ferrell almost always plays heartthrobs or jerks. Here, he rides the line between both, presenting a macho kind of front that also allows him to turn up the charm when he needs to. He also spends a significant amount of his screen time with no sleeves or in an open shirt. Ditto for Mr. David Tennant, who appears quite often in tight leather pants, with his shirt often open or absent -- and he's wearing tons of eye makeup. The real clincher for me, though, was the character of Amy, Charley's girlfriend. Of course Charley blows her off when he discovers that vampires are afoot, but she calmly and rationally tells him she's having none of that. Most Hollywood screenwriters would just make her an accessory, and her attempts to help Charley would come off as harping. Not in Fright Night.
Imagine my surprise when the credits rolled and Marti Noxon's name came up as the screenwriter. Of course I recognized her name from the numerous episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer she helmed, so her vamp credentials are well-known. Suddenly the whole movie made sense. The mixture of funny and broody vampires, the pop-culture nods (including a mention of Twilight), the stinging dialogue. Remember when movies had memorable dialogue and the lines became part of the way people talk to one another? Fright Night has that kind of dialogue and does it better than many films these days.
In addition to their shirtless qualities, both Ferrell and Tennant are excellent as the older generation of adversaries in the film. Ferrell does an admirable job modifying his accent (though since he's a vampire, one wonders why he couldn't have his Irish lilt), while Tennant amps his up as "Peter Vincent" (the name still a nod to those great horror actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). The younger cast are equally excellent. Anton Yelchin has a baby faced charm that gives his Charley believability as a "former dweeb" while still allowing him to be a romantic lead, and Imogen Poots is a strong opposite number.
The updates to the original are fun and feel appropriate. In an age when local stations running their own horror show celebrities is a thing of the past, "Fright Night" becomes a magic show in Las Vegas, and Peter Vincent is recast in the mold of Criss Angel. Gone is the fatherly feeling of Roddy McDowall (and the associations he brings as an actor, like his role in Planet of the Apes). There are some smaller touches, like the Vegas setting that really work in the film's favor as well.
The film is also aided by a spectacular Blu-ray presentation with this set. Disc One includes a 3D version of the film. Fright Night plays well in 3D; the gags are there to add dimensionality, but they don't feel forced in the 2D version. Most fans are going to see the film in its 1.78:1 AVC-encoded transfer on Disc Two, which is just a hair's breadth shy of perfect. The film takes place primarily at night (not at all surprising for a vampire flick) and the black levels are totally impressive. They're deep and inky, but there's detail when the shot requires it. Detail overall is impressive as well, with lots of fine textures. Colors are also spot-on, and no digital artefacts crop up to mar the presentation. My only complaint is that the film doesn't feel very filmlike; it's a little too perfect in places. The DTS-HD 7.1 audio track is just as impressive. Dialogue is mixed well, and surrounds are used effectively, but it's the bottom end that shines here. The rumble during fight scenes is satisfying without being overpowering.
The disc disappoints a bit where extras are concerned. It's nice to have the 3D and traditional Blu-ray discs in the same set, and the bonus DVD/Digital Copy helps. However, the rest of the extras are taken up by a couple of throwaway featurettes, some deleted scenes, and a few minutes of bloopers (the last two exclusive to the Blu-ray). Oh, and a Kid Cudi music video. Considering the 3D process involved in making the film, and the following of the original film, more extras focusing on production and reception would be nice.
I enjoyed Fright Night, but I'm not sure it's a film with legs. The original still has fans over twenty-five years later, but I'm not sure the 2011 outing is going to have fans in twenty-five months, let alone twenty-five years. That means a rental for most folks rather than a purchase right out of the gate.
Finally, the film doesn't quite earn its R rating. There's a bit of cursing, and a bit of blood, but this barely feels like a PG-13 production, and in today's horror climate that might disappoint some fans.
This is a fine example of contemporary Hollywood remake culture. By giving the film to an interesting director and the story to a great screenwriter, and filling the film full of good actors in on the film's jokes, Fright Night manages to offer something a little bit memorable and a whole lot of fun. It might never have the cult appeal of the earlier flick, but it deserves a rental for fright fans and anyone who has a crush on Ferrell, Tennant, Yelchin, or Poots.
I don't want Jerry living next door to me, either, but Fright Night is
Review content copyright © 2011 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* 2D Version
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site