Check out Matthew’s Day 2 where he watched both versions of Last House on the Left. I’m skipping that remake but I do plan on watching the original later in the month. Because I hate myself, apparently.
Fright Night, 1985. Dir. Tom Holland, Written by Tom Holland. Starring William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys.
Fright Night, 2011. Dir. Craig Gillespie, Written by Marti Noxon. Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
For today’s post I actually watched both the original and the remake. I’ve seen Fright Night before but it’s been a while so I figured I’d give it a watch again. I’m really glad I did! It’s so much fun and so much better than any of the remakes I’ve watched so far.
This was my first time actually finishing the remake. Yes, it’s one of those movies I tried to watch and found myself bored and distracted before we even got to the second act. So I fell asleep. But this time I watched it all! And guess what, it’s probably the best of the three remakes I’ve posted about so far. We’re improving here. I am very excited about that.
Let’s start with that question, was this remake worth it? I’m on the fence about that. I don’t think the original really needed a remake, as campy as it is I love it. The camp is just part of its charm really. It’s also sort of an odd choice for a remake. Fright Night isn’t like most of the other films being subjected to the remake treatment. Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. were all parts of long running horror franchises. I Spit on Your Grave fits in with the trend of torture porn that was so popular for a while there. Fright Night is more just an odd little 80’s vampire flick that happens to be pretty cheesy and full of gay (in the best way possible).
The remake isn’t really offensive or anything, its worst sin is that it’s boring. It does try to bring something new to the table though and it has something different to say. While I don’t think it’s terribly successful, I give it points for trying.
Where the original is full of camp, the remake tries to play it a lot straighter (oh on so many levels). We all know at this point that vampire stories are a lot about sex and sexuality and the Fright Night remake is no different. Only this time, they try to tackle the experience of male adolescent sexuality. It’s a coming of age film and our hero Charlie is going through those growing pains.
I found it to be a really interesting take on the subject and I’m not really sure I can think of another movie that handles it in quite this way. We have Charlie, still insecure in his new found social status and not quite sure what to do with his hot and more mature girlfriend. Then we have the fact that he has no father figure to look up to. Like in the original, he’s being raised by his single mother. Then we have this hyper masculine neighbor, Jerry, who moves in next door. Immediately Charlies insecurities coming raging forth and Charlie begins an unhealthy obsession with Jerry. Spying, sneaking into his house, etc. Then when Charlie realizes he is no match for Jerry’s masculinity, he turns to what could be another male role model, Peter Vincent. Vincent isn’t up for the job though and is quite frankly terrible at it, he’s the opposite of Jerry – an imposter, lacking sexual prowess, uncomfortable in the facade he’s created for himself. Of course Charlie’s pleas for help force him to confront his own incompetencies and by the end he becomes what Charlie needs and Charlie is able man up and win back his girl.
Of course, we have this all happening in the context of Vampires. Which should make it awesome.
Sadly, it’s not. Some parts of it are, don’t get me wrong. The acting for one is all pretty decent. I mean, this is pretty great cast overall. Anton Yelchin is perfect for this version of Charlie, Toni Collette is great always as Charlie’s mother, I’m a David Tennant fan girl so of course that made me happy to see him as Peter Vincent, and Colin Farrell is appropriately sleazy and gross as Jerry.
I think the problem I had with the film is honestly in its structure. In the original, Charlie is still a geek obsessed with the TV program Fright Night, and he’s the one who immediately suspects his new neighbor is a vampire. His mother suspects their new neighbor is gay and let the camp begin, but I digress. In the update, it’s not Charlie who suspects a vampire has come to town, it’s his friend Evil Ed. Only, Evil and Charlie aren’t friends anymore. So there’s this big set up of Ed just trying to get Charlie to talk to him, Ed trying to convince Charlie that Jerry is a vampire, and everything is just laid out too easy. We’re told everything by a secondary character rather than discovering it for ourselves through the eyes of the main character. It’s kind of a problem. It kills a lot of the tension, makes what should be scary just “so what?” and it wastes a huge amount of time while Charlie has to decide what he believes.
I’m honestly not really sure why this change was made but it really didn’t work for me. As much as I enjoyed Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse is hilarious), his character is actually pretty much wasted. He serves the purpose of explaining the plot then disappears for most of the movie.
Man, thinking on it now I can’t even remember what filled up the middle portion of the movie. Charlie’s mother is featured more so maybe that took away from some of Ed’s screen time. But mostly the middle of this movie is a big chase scene on a dark highway (not a terrible scene actually) and it all just sort of blurs together.
I can see where this movie was really trying to be something good and interesting, and that makes me even sadder that it didn’t really work. It’s one of those movies that gets my brain excited by the ideas it’s trying to talk about. But then it put me to sleep. Which is never a good sign.
Instead of the fun camp of the original, it’s just a boring vampire movie with a few interesting ideas that it doesn’t really do justice to.
(minor spoilers about the original ahead)
Before I end this, can I just talk about how delightfully gay the original is? It really made me happy. I mean, it’s hard to deny that’s what they were going for when his mother’s first reaction to the new neighbor is “he’s probably gay.” I’m also not really one to consider an actor’s real life sexuality (several people in this cast are actually gay, the kid who played Evil Ed went on to star in some spectacular gay porn) but when you cast Roddy McDowall, that is kind of a thing. And while Chris Sarandon is pretty powerfully attractive to the ladies, it seems like he might be equally attractive to the boys. Which is kind of a fun take on the vampires being sexually attractive beings. It makes sense they would attract both sexes.
Beyond all that, we have Charlie’s obsession with Jerry, which is a lot more voyeuristic in the original, we have the character of Jerry’s male roommate who is cut from the remake but the two of them have some pretty snuggly moments. Then we have Jerry catching Evil Ed, and embracing him inside of a trenchcoat while he penetrates him (with his teeth) and turns him into a vampire. THEN we have Peter Vincent, played by Roddy McDowall, who finally uses a stake that is probably the most phallic looking stake I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty good.
But don’t take my word for it. You need to see this one for yourself.
Original, definitely recommend. Remake? Meh. Maybe just have something else picked out if you find yourself too bored to continue.