Fright Night (in RealD 3D!)

(NOTE: Contains Spoilers)

There used to be a time when monsters were just that, monsters. But these days, vicious blood-sucking vampires and ferocious werewolves have been humanized into relatively tame creatures that you’d be more likely to invite to dinner with your parents than run away from. Yes, Twilight, with your werewolf-vampire-human romance, I’m looking at you.

Fright Night eschews this notion of the “friendly” monster and sticks to the basics – lots of blood and violence at the hands of unrepentantly evil vampire Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell). Unlike the dwellings of other cinematic vampires, Jerry doesn’t live in a cave or a vast mansion: he’s a suburbanite. He’s lives in the cookie-cutter house right next to Charlie (Anton Yelchin), a high-school senior who has shed his social standing as a “geek” (including his still-nerdy best friend Ed – played by an underused Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and instead devotes his time to waiting in line for trendy sneakers and hanging out with his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots). Before long, Charlie’s next-door neighbour has set his sights, and fangs, on all of them.

The remake loses a lot of the charm that made the original Fright Night a horror classic. In the 1985 version, Charlie and Ed are horror aficionados that tune in weekly to a program hosted by washed up actor Peter Vincent (a great performance by Roddy McDowall) titled- what else – “Fright Night.” Years of horror programming has tuned the two friends to the signs of supernatural monsters and they soon suspect Charlie’s new neighbour to be a vampire based on his strange habit of only appearing during the night (and a scene where Charlie witnesses Jerry biting a young girl’s neck). The original Fright Night was part wish-fulfillment – watching hundreds of hours of horror movies is actually useful – and a tongue-in-cheek genre entry that mixed equal parts thrills with laughs.

Like most remakes, Fright Night (2011) goes for louder and bloodier, but not necessarily better (it’s also shown in RealD 3D…for the explosions and stuff). Within the first ten minutes of the film, Jerry is “outed” as a vampire, not through Charlie’s voyeurism, but through the assertions of ex-pal Ed. This is literally the exchange between the characters:

Ed: Your neighbour’s a vampire.

Charlie: I don’t believe you.

Ed: No seriously, he is.

Charlie: Okay.

At no point is there even a consideration that Jerry might not be a vampire. He just is, and that’s that. Fine – we can deal with that. The problem arises when Jerry – the four-hundred year-old vampire dynamo that he is – realizes that Charlie knows the truth and acts in the most unbelievable way possible: he blows up Charlie’s house. I just want to take a step back here a second and assess the thought behind that last line. Jerry’s worried that people will find out his secret (vampires aren’t as popular in Las Vegas as they are in Bon Temps) so he blows up his next-door neighbour’s house. Great work Jerry, no one suspects you’re a vampire. Now you’re a terrorist.

Here’s a thought for what Jerry could’ve done: nothing. Just let Charlie blabber on about his “my-next-door-neighbour-is-a-vampire” shtick to everyone he knows and he’ll be given a prescription for anti-psychotics faster than Jerry can unpack. But I digress. Why stick to logical solutions when logic just looks soo boring in RealD 3D?

That’s where Fright Night falters: the film is guided by what sequences would look best in 3D. So there’s an explosion, a car chase, lots of glass breaking, blood squirting the screen, and projectiles that just miss Jerry. The plot plays second-fiddle in connecting the showcase 3D sequences, and it shows.

That’s not to say Fright Night is entirely bad, just mostly. It’s passable summer entertainment with more than enough action and a couple of nice gotcha! moments that serve the film well. There’s also a couple of great throwaway gags – one with Mintz-Plasse talking about Stretch Armstrong and another where Colin Farrell acts nonchalant about all the destruction he’s causing. And that’s about it.

Grade: C

Sidenote: The Peter Vincent (David Tennant) in this version is a hard-drinking Criss Angel-style magician that collects vampire gear and acts like Russell Brand (because the only way a British character can be funny is by imitating Russell Brand, right?). He’s an underwhelming caricature easily surpassed by the original’s down-on-his-luck actor.

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