Count me among those who has a pleasant memory of the original 1985 version of Fright Night. That vampire movie may not rank up there with the original Dracula or Nosferatu, and my memories of it may be hazy with time (I haven’t seen the film in its entirety probably since around that time!), but I recall having a few chills and plenty of laughs (intentional!) regarding that horror/comedy hybrid.
When I heard that a remake of the film was being made, I wasn’t terribly perturbed. The original was hardly one of those movie “classics” one is incredulous the studios movie studios would dare consider remaking. When I heard Jerry the vampire would be played by Colin Farrell and would feature David Tennant in the showy role of Peter Vincent (originally played by the late -and great!- Roddy McDowall), my interest in the film spiked. I like both actors quite a bit and thought each could take their roles and push them toward interesting directions.
The 2011 Fright Night came and disappeared from the theaters rather quickly. The reviews were generally pretty positive (on Rottentomatoes.com, the film has a 74% approval from critics and 64% approval from audiences. Not bad, although the original film scored a higher 93% and 71%, respectively). I remained curious to see the film.
Yesterday, I finally got to do just that.
The remake of the film follows almost the exact same storyline. The first half of the film, in particular, is quite effective, leading to the film’s best sequence wherein Jerry first attacks, then chases down our protagonist, his mother, and his girlfriend. That extended chase sequence, which concluded with a hilarious -then grisly- cameo appearance from one of the main actors in the original film, was the movie’s highlight and was suspenseful as hell.
At that point, I thought the film was a complete winner and couldn’t understand why audiences weren’t drawn in much more.
Alas, immediately after that sequence it became clear why. Quite simply, the movie ran out of gas. Colin Farrell’s Jerry became a one dimensional threat, stalking the protagonists but not really doing this stalking all that effectively. Given his fearsome abilities, was it really that urgent for him to hunt them down like he did? The fact is, he had all the time in the world to wait them out, and realistically they couldn’t go to the authorities to report a vampire without getting locked up…or worse.
After that brilliant chase sequence, we’re also introduced to David Tennant’s Peter Vincent. In this incarnation, he’s a flashy Las Vegas magician with a past history, we find, with our vampire. The introduction to Vincent is quite vulgar and funny, but, like Colin Farrell’s Jerry, his character rapidly becomes one note and predictable. The movie flat lines, leading to a climax that wasn’t anywhere near as suspenseful as the chase presented earlier.
In the end, the first half of the film easily earns 3 stars. The second half, unfortunately, was a very mediocre 2 stars. Because of that flat second half, I can’t recommend the film. A pity.