A bite, a little sucking and a withered corpse. With the unnecessary remake Fright Night, director Craig Gillespie found something to chew, sucked away the perfect blend of campiness and horror that made the original so good and produced a forgettable corpse of a movie.
Fright Night, available on Blu-ray and DVD this week, stars Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) as teenager Charley Brewster, who begins to suspect that his next door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a bloodthirsty vampire that doesn't sparkle in the sun. As he attempts to kill Jerry, the killer sets his sights on Charley's mom (Toni Collette) and girlfriend (Imogen Poots).
On its own, Fright Night is a straightforward and adequate horror-comedy, a movie with a simple premise, some typical vampire horror and a few laughs, but not many. It isn't very scary, nor is it very funny, but the movie is generally entertaining, with Yelchin giving an inspired performance and Farrell chewing up the scenery with a deliciously evil performance.
The 1985 original, which starred William Ragsdale as Charley and Chris Sarandon and Jerry, is a horror classic, a movie that still stands the test of time despite, or even due to, its 1980's campiness. The original Fright Night was a legitimate vampire movie, but it also was funny. And cheesy in all the right ways.
The modernized version shows just how much horror has lost its edge over the last 25 years. The story is dumb-downed and streamlined, simplified for modern audiences. It also takes itself too seriously, losing its identity in the process. Whereas the original defined itself with its blend of campiness and horror, Fright Night is too straight-laced, too serious for its own good. The resulting product is an uninteresting vampire thriller that plays like the countless, forgettable horror thrillers that are released each year.
Fright Night sustains itself for the first two acts despite all this, but falls apart in the third as Gillespie wander into the trap that so many horror directors find themselves: relying on CGI special effects. CGI graphics aren't scary and probably never will be; they certainly aren't here. As soon as Colin Farrell gets replaced by cheesy special effects, Fright Night devolves into standard horror fare where the protagonist must battle against an uninspired, unbelievable and non-threatening villain. It's very disappointing.
Fright Night isn't a terrible movie, but it pales in comparison to the original in every way. Farrell and Yelchin do their best, but the movie deserves to be cast into the sunlight where it will erupt into flames and then ash.
The Blu-ray bonus features don't do much to improve matters. The bloopers are amusing, but the deleted scenes and featurettes - which include "Peter Vincent: Come Swim in My Mind" and "The Official How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie Guide" are pretty routine.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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