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>> Tuesday, August 23, 2011

At the beginning of this year I found out that 2011 would break the record for most remakes and sequels in one year. I was aware of most of the sequels, but it's the remakes that have been taking me by surprise - both in quality and the fact that I didn't even know they were remakes. It was only slightly before watching Fright Night that I found out it had been done once before. In 1985 William Ragsdale teamed up with Roddy McDowall (known most for his Planet of the Apes roles) to conquer Jerry - a vampire. Once I knew about it, in preparation for this review, I found the original on Netflix and watched away. I wasn't disappointed by the film, nor was I profoundly entertained. I got a kick out of seeing McDowell perform sans ape and liked the storyline enough, but I felt it dragged and I was left underwhelmed.

Remakes as they go, always go in one of two directions. The first is that you end up with a shot-for-shot modernization of the classic that shouldn't have been touched in the first place. Horror films always seem to get revamped (small pun intended) and more often than not, in this style. I cite 1998's Pyshco remake and 2006's The Omen as prime examples. The other option is a reimagining, where you have a similar beginning and end but a different middle. Obviously there's variations and blends of this rule, but it's more or less the same. A reimagining though, isn't always good either (ie: Rob Zombie's Halloween). Fright Night, for the record, is a prime example of a reimagining.

Colin Farrell plays Jerry the vampire, a stranger who's just moved in next door to Charley (played well by Star Trek's Anton Yelcin). In the original, Charley is a sci-fi/horror geek who stalks Jerry until he finds out the truth. In this version, Charley is working very hard at being more socially acceptable in school and is later warned of Jerry's antics by his friend, Ed (played by McLovin himself, Christoper Mintz-Plasse). It seems a mutual friend has gone missing and Ed begs Charley to help him find their vanished comrade. After some investigation, more truths about Jerry come to surface and soon Charley finds himself in a head to head battle with Jerry to save his mom (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots).

I remember a time when I used to really hate Colin Farrell. I don't really remember why, or where I saw something to make me feel this way. I know I've seen him be an Irish prick on some talk show, where his real self shone through and I instantly put him in a class with Russell Crowe -douchebags who roam Hollywood thinking they're all that. Oddly enough, that changed for me after seeing Farrell in Horrible Bosses - when he was at his douchebagiest. But it showed a lighter side of Farrell to me and allowed me to experience just how good he could be. Fright Night is no exception. While some will argue this film belongs to Yelchin, there's a subtly in Farrell's performance that seals the deal for me. There's no ego attached to the fact that Jerry's a super cool vampire who knows he's probably going to bone your girlfriend. He just simply knows he's been around 375 years longer than you and has the experience to prove it. Nothing like respecting your elders, right? Or you know, wanting to plunge a stake into their heart.

Fright Night gets an open door. Despite some parts that seemed to move too fast (in definite contrast to the original), Marti Noxon (known for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series) delivers a solid script and some really witty moments (I couldn't place some of the dialogue patterns until after when I found out who wrote this adaptation). Even though it shares the same title as the original, this take on Fright Night feels like a different movie completely. It's fun and scary enough that if it's still kickin' around come Halloween, I recommend checking it out to get into the mood of things. Even before then, it's still worth your time.

*Stills courtesy of Dreamworks SKG


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