Sorry for lack of posting lately, but I took an awesome long weekend to Jersey for Jersey Live! Amongst the music, the drinking and general happenings of the eventful weekend, we did manage a trip (or two) to the cinema. And one of these outings was to see Fright Night in 3-D. Out of all the remakes and reboots that have, or are going to, grace our screens this year, Fright Night is the one that has interested me the most, for many reasons. I did really enjoy the 1985 cult original, it truly is one of the most definitive 80’s movies, deftly handling laughs and horror to establish a fine balance, creating a fun ride. So there was the question as to whether this movie had enough to establish itself as an original remake, and how it would deal with blending the two genres. Another main reason is that it’s David Tennant’s first forray into Hollywood following his successful stint as Doctor Who, and being a Doctor Who fan, I was interested to see what and how Tennant would do with life outside of the Tardis. And in terms of these two expectations, this new Fright Night largely delivers.

In terms of story, the premise remains largely unchanged from the ’85 original. The life of high-school student Charley Brewster (Star Trek‘s Anton Yelchin) is going pretty great; he’s gone from geeky outcast to one of the cool kids seemingly overnight by gaining a hot girlfriend in the form of Amy (Centurion‘s Imogen Poots), much to the dismay of his ex-best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz ‘Mclovin’ Plasse). Ed goes to his old friend for help when he begins to suspect that Charley’s new neighbour, Jerry (Colin Farrell), may well be a vampire following a number of disappearances in their hometown just outside of Las Vegas. Charley finds it hard to believe his old friend, but must soon face the horrible truth that his new seemingly normal neighbour is in fact a bloodsucking demon who will stop at nothing to attain his feed. With his mother’s (Toni Colette), his girlfriend’s and his own life at stake (get it), Charley goes to seek the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Vegas magician who specialises in the occult, to put Jerry to rest once and for all.

In terms of the tone of the movie, proceedings are a lot darker than they were back in 1985. This is largely due, thankfully, to trying to establish this movie as a much more old-fashioned gritty vampire flick, unlike the sparkling, baseball playing queers were used to seeing sporting a set of fangs in our cinemas as of late. This is a much more satisfying vampire movie in that respect, we’ve got the old mythology back, stakes, holy water, crucifixes you name it. We also have splatterings of gore and an unsettling tone that creates a strong antagonistic feel to Farrell’s Jerry. His Jerry is the Alien from Alien, or the shark from Jaws as Ed states, he has complete disregard for living things, killing and gathering his victims as he sees fit. And Farrell plays him with relish, really letting himself go and having fun with the role. He embodies the character with a strong sense of animalistic instinct and nature, with quick eyes and jerky movements, as he goes from merely toying with Charley to straight up trying to kill him. Farrell puts in an unsettling yet also wickedly comic performance which is fun to watch.

It is, in fact, the way in which the characters have been redefined that make this movie a worthwhile remake. The characters were strong archetypes in the original movie, but with the remake they have been refreshingly rebooted for modern times, and come out a lot more likeable than they did the first time round. Yelchin’s Charley is a lot more likeable as a lead, injecting a real sense of humanity into the proceedings. He’s easy to see as a guy who was once a bit of an outcast but now can’t believe his luck that he has managed to score such an attractive girlfriend. Sure, he seems like a dick for leaving his old friends behind, but Yelchin manages to give Charley a sensitive side that shows he still cares for his old friends, yet doesn’t want to lose what he has now. He also has a way of making the vampire antics seem very real, establishing a sense of teenage panic alongside the heroic confidence to carry the film through. Mintz Plasse is pretty much doing the same thing he’s done in Superbad and Kick Ass, but hey, at least he’s good at it and has a natural chemistry with Yelchin as the two estranged friends (one of the relationships that changes the most from the original). He also seems to have a lot of fun with certain elements of his character, and both he and Yelchin do a fine job of displaying the sometimes hard to understand separation that can happen between two once inseparable friends. Poots and Colette bring a lot of charm to the girlfriend and mother roles, but unfortunately don’t do a great deal more for the story then just being the characters Charley has to protect and save. And how about Tennant? His Peter Vincent is very different from Roddy McDowell’s TV host from the original. Tennant’s Vincent has much more of an edge, both in terms of his nature and his humour. He’s egotistical, drunk, crude, yet beneath it all, tortured and scared, fighting repressed memories. He, along with Charley, is a lot more of a drawn out, realistic character, then that of the original, and Tennant clearly has a ball. Sure, every other line just requires him to say ‘Fack’ in a cockney accent, but he deals with the layers of the character very well, from the alcohol induced stage-star to the (still alcohol induced) vampire killer. Tennant injects the film with a much-needed burst of energy, as the story does tend to bogged down by Charley’s attempts at killing Jerry, and his eventual running away.

Where this film falls short is in its vampire action. There are a few notable set pieces which work rather well, the blowing up of the house and the attack in Vincent’s flat certainly stick in the mind. But certain scenes which are played for tension tend to be drawn out too long and don’t help the pacing much at all. And where the original prided itself on using all practical effects for the creatures (sure it looks dated now, but it’s still impressive for the time and the budget), this remake settles too much for CGI. While the initial transformations and atmosphere for the vampires is unsettling, the resulting product looses much of its charm as a result of the computer wizardry. Farrell’s Jerry falls victim to this, as much of the charm from his performance is lost behind a mask of obvious CGI. The 3-D itself isn’t entirely remarkable, however some shots do look quite cool (ash clouds is all I shall say), so this film isn’t going to do anything for those who still aren’t sold on the format, but it does inspire some nice old-fashioned horror shots. The film, however, does make the mistake of not having enough of its strongest characters. Sure, Yelchin is a strong lead, but the film really gets its energy from Farrell and Tennant and the script doesn’t really allow them moments to really soar, and a bit more of a Farrell/ Tennant face off would’ve been appreciated. The climax itself could have done with a lot more action, although it does feature some pretty clever writing and some of the best use of the 3-D format.

Was it really necessary to remake Fright Night? Probably not, but then again, what remakes are really that necessary? This Fright Night is certainly a different beast, with a bit more grit in its eye and it’s all the better for it, allowing itself to be very much its own film. That’s not to say it forgets its roots, as it does manage to throw in a few nice references to the original, from a cameo appearance by the original Jerry, to subtle inclusions of quotes from the ’85 original (‘You’re so cool Brewster’). But is it better? Well, it’s never terrifying, more unsettling then scary, and does offer a good few laughs to go along with its tongue-in-cheek tone. So, it is very similar in terms of how it balances both horror and comedy, and I think that this one makes for a much darker experience, but not quite as much of a fun one as the original, which was much more insane. However, it certainly impresses on its own merits, from the brilliantly old-fashioned and adrenalin pumping score from Ramin Djawadi, to the performances of its leads and the stylish lashes of gore. And it’s a darn sight better then Twilight.

3/5– It’s not as action-packed as it should be and the pacing slacks from time to time. But with a creepy atmosphere and a trio of impressive performances from Farrell, Tennant and Yelchin, this Fright Night manages to be a good dose of old-fashioned vampire fun!

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