For a self-professed CineWhore, its probably not good for my street cred to admit that I have never seen the original 1985 version of FRIGHT NIGHT, but its true. I really haven’t seen the original. I went into the new remake of the 80’s classic knowing very little about the story and, quite frankly, I didn’t even have the overriding urge to see the remake. However, the surprisingly positive critical reaction to the remake got me interested and I figured I could do far worse at the movies this weekend by seeing something I know will be atrocious like CONAN THE BARBARIAN. The original FRIGHT NIGHT came out during a time in the 80s when the horror genre was moving away from serious slasher films and making more campy-comedy horror films such as THE LOST BOYS, HOUSE, and CHILD’S PLAY. FRIGHT NIGHT was among those films and it was successful enough to spawn a far less successful sequel. Amid the recent spate of 80s remakes thatHollywoodhas been churning out over the past couple of years, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear that FRIGHT NIGHT was going to be remade. I didn’t hold out very much hope that the remake would be any good, but I’m happy to say that I didn’t feel like I wasted my money seeing this (but I did waste money on the extra few bucks to watch it in 3D).

First, let me just tell those who don’t know that FRIGHT NIGHT is not meant to be scary. It’s a horror-comedy that is more horror than comedy and any scares that it may elicit out of you is a testament that you get scared way too easily. The remake takes place in a residential suburban development inLas Vegasthat is nearly empty presumably due to the foreclosure crisis. I say presumably because we quickly find out that the reason homes are emptying overnight has nothing to do with families being unable to pay their mortgage. It has to do with a resident vampire named Jerry (Colin Farrell), who satisfies his hunger for blood by picking through the residents of his neighborhood. Living next door to Jerry is a high school student named Charlie (Anton Yelchin) and his mom (Toni Collette) and they are completely oblivious to Jerry’s true identity or his nocturnal activities. Who isn’t oblivious to Jerry’s true nature, however, is Charlie’s nerdy friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Ed. Ed tries to convince Charlie that Jerry is a vampire, but Charlie has moved on in his life and has decided to no longer be associated with his past nerd existence, which includes being friends with Ed. Instead, Charlie hangs out with his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), and the high school bullies. Its not until Ed disappears (Jerry gets him and turns him into a vampire) that Charlie becomes finally convinced that Ed was right and that Jerry must be stopped.

FRIGHT NIGHT’S story is a bit lame, but its in keeping with many 80s films that were about teenagers who went off on their own little adventures and whose parents never believed them. Other 80s films with similar-type stories were THE GOONIES and THE LOST BOYS and the success of such films wasn’t in the originality of the narratives, but in how well they were executed and the draw of their characters. For one, I love that the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT is set in a desolate Las Vegas residential development and that the filmmakers decided to use the current recession in explaining the disappearances. And you can’t set a story in Las Vegas without also including the famous Strip, which this film does. As I said before, I never saw the original FRIGHT NIGHT, but I know that in the original, Charlie is helped by a late-night TV host (a la Elvira) named Peter Vincent. Here, the same character is a famous Vegas magician (Dr. Who’s David Tennant), a supposed expert on vampires (think Criss Angel). Although late-night TV hosts who show horror movies no longer exist, I still prefer it over the Vegas magician and it would have maintained a nice level of nostalgia in the film. It would have also worked better because I can’t believe for a second that a Vegas magician would also happen to be a vampire lore expert AND that he would give a high schooler like Charlie the time of day. It simply doesn’t work and I bet it was a conundrum that the filmmakers struggled with in trying to come up with an alternative to the TV horror show host.

Another issue I had with the story was the fact that Ed, Charlie’s friend, is already convinced that Jerry is a vampire. This is brought up very early on in the film and when it does, I felt like there must have been a scene missing from the film. I don’t understand why the filmmakers didn’t reveal Ed’s discovery about Jerry gradually. I also know that in the original 1985 film, the film contains a number of scenes that builds up to Ed’s discovery. Here, we waste no time in establishing Jerry is a vampire and that he’s bad. What would have worked far better is if the first act actually had a build-up toward that revelation.

With the exception of Colin Farrell, the rest of the cast does its job more or less to create passable characters. The weakest performers are, not surprisingly, the younger actors. One of the film’s earliest scenes features all the young actors interacting with one another in high school and these scenes were bad enough to make me feel like the film had already become unsalvageable. Much of this had to do with the sitcom-ish dialogue, which in turn made the actors look like they were performing in a WB teen sitcom. Fortunately, as the film’s story begins to grab you in, you don’t mind the amateurish performances from the younger actors. Anton Yelchin is probably the strongest of the young actors and that’s not a surprise given his memorable performances in the horrendous TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009) and as Chekov in STAR TREK (2009). FRIGHT NIGHT is the first time I have seen Yelchin star in a film and I would say he’s no worse than watching Shia LaBeouf try and carry a movie (and you can interpret that statement any way you want). I think most young audience members will be more interested in watching Christopher Mintz-Plasse (SUPERBAD, ROLE MODELS, & KICK-ASS). I’ve never been overly impressed by the actor’s talents and he’s marginally funny at best, but he has a following and for those who enjoy his schtick, then you get to see even more of it in FRIGHT NIGHT.

As for the older actors, Colin Farrell may not have panned out as the major movie star that Hollywood intended him to be, but he can be a damn fine actor and he has a hell of a good time hamming it up as Jerry the vampire. In one particularly good scene, Jerry stands outside Charlie’s house trying to subtly convince him to allow Jerry to enter his house (vampires cannot enter a house without permission…duh!). The coyness Farrell displays in his attempts to get Charlie to let him inside are great to watch and Farrell doesn’t disappoint throughout the rest of the film. As for the remaining older actors, we get a nice, funny performance from David Tennant (and a more entertaining one from his Spanish girlfriend in the movie) and a completely wasted one from Toni Collette. I was especially disappointed in Collette and not because she acted poorly in the film, but because the filmmakers didn’t bother fleshing out her character beyond the typical mom role. If her character is going to be this two-dimensional, then why even bother casting someone like Collette when any actress with half the acting talent will do?

There’s isn’t much more to say about FRIGHT NIGHT other than its an entertaining matinee-worthy film that really didn’t need to be remade. It certainly isn’t a film without issues and I have touched upon them above with the narrative and performance problems, but overall, its something you might dig if you like horror films or if you were a fan of the original.

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