Remakes are no stranger in Hollywood, and it is the horror genre that seems to bring out the most of them. It would be fair to say that, for the most part, the remakes struggle to surpass the quality of their original counterparts. But every now and again, one comes out the gate that takes the core idea and characters of its predecessor and forges something new and fresh, enough so that it ends up being a stronger film as a result. Fright Night 2011 is one such case.
It's a simple but fun concept at the heart of both this Fright Night and Tom Holland's 1985 original. Both involve a teenager who begins to suspect that his new charming neighbour may in fact be a vampire. The remake moves the setting of a more traditional suburb to one out in the Nevada desert, a community where plenty of people sleep all day and work all night; the perfect cover for a vampire. Anton Yelchin plays Charley Brewster, the neighbourhood teen who begins to suspect that handsome neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a bloodsucker, after the disappearance of his childhood friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Desperate for assistance, Charley and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) seek the help of Vegas showroom magician, Peter Vincent (David Tennant).
The masterstroke of this Fright Night is in its casting. The core trio of performances in particular of Yelchin, Farrell and Tennant are what give this take its funnier, sexier and more dramatic edge. The late Yelchin demonstrates why he is so missed with the kind of performance that puts in a lot of believable humanity that helps ground the outlandish horror setup, making Charley an easy guy to root for along the way. Tennant relishes this rock star version of Peter Vincent, swearing and swigging away at absinthe while harbouring trauma underneath his thin cocky veneer. Then there's Farrell, prowling through the whole thing, indeed like the “fucking shark from Jaws” to quote Mintz-Plasse's Ed. He's a dangerous, undeniably alluring screen vamp, and Farrell has a great deal of fun turning on the blood-lusting charm. Imogen Poots and Toni Colette as Charley's girlfriend and mother also supply a great deal of attitude in roles which are admittedly somewhat underwritten.
Through stylish lashings of gore and some virtuoso camera work, this is a much more dynamic and bloody affair than its predecessor, even if the practical effects element is missed. This Fright Night very much came in the wake of the post-Avatar 3D boom, so while that often leads to some scenes being much less lit than they should be, it does also allow for a kind of old school matinee feeling to be thrown into the mix of the action. That is further enforced by Ramin Djawadi's fantastic score, mixing adrenalin pumping strings and guitar riffs with the old fashioned ghost house vibes of an organ to excellent effect, crafting one of the most memorable horror scores of the last 10 years.
Put simply, the 2011 Fright Night is both a funnier, smarter and more sinister movie than its 80's counterpart. It takes the concept and gives it lashings of attitude thanks to a perfect cast and a witty approach to its action and scares. That it struggled to make much of an impact upon its release is a shame, but like any tenacious vampire, this Fright Night is always waiting in the shadows ready to strike those looking for something fun and action-packed this Halloween.