A remake of the 1985 horror-comedy cult classic in which a teenager tries to convince his friends and family that his next door neighbour is actually a vampire.
What we thought:
Fright Night may be yet another in a long line of cynical attempts to cash in on beloved horror films from other countries (The Ring, Let The Right One In) or Hollywood's own past (take your pick) but this is one remake that actually equals or surpasses the original in every way. Every way, that is, except for one – and it's not what you might expect.
The secret to this film's success lies squarely in its talent, both in front of and behind the camera. Director Craig Gillespie is a decidedly left-field choice for what is quite unashamedly a B-grade vampire romp, but the maverick indie director who launched his feature film career with the oddball romantic comedy Lars and the Real Girl brings a fresh, outsider's view to the story.
The truly genius move, though, was pairing a horror-novice like Gillespie with screenwriter Marti Noxon. For seven genre-redefining years, Noxon worked directly under Joss Whedon as one of the chief producers and writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and though Fright Night has none of the depth and intricate characterisation of the cult TV classic, Buffy is at least as much a keenly felt influence on this Fright Night update as the 1985 original is.
Along with Buffy's biting wit and its joyful eagerness to play with expectations, the adolescent angst that was the series' bread and butter is present in this updated Fright Night in a way that it never was in the original. It's not to the same extent as Buffy, of course – Buffy used its paranormal, genre trappings as window-dressing and metaphors for real, desperately human growing pains, whereas Fright Night is still far more interested in blood-sucking creatures of the night than in its lead character's search for identity – but Noxon's previous experience still makes Fright Night a more fully rounded, smarter and funnier film than its predecessor.
The cast too is an all-round improvement on the rather variable group of actors that brought the original to life. The 1980s Fright Night may have had Roddy McDowall and Chris Sarandon to elevate the rest of the cast but its 21st century counterpart works on a much more consistently high level. Colin Farrell is an incredibly cool, yet menacing vampire but the good guys are no less impressive as Anton Yelchin is an immensely likeable, well-rounded protagonist and is given some rock-solid support from Toni Collette and Imogen Poots.
Kick Ass and Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse is also, mercifully, a thousand times better as the good/evil sidekick than the immensely irritating Stephen Geoffreys was in the original. As for the already awesome David Tennant, he does steal every single scene he's in and is responsible for most of the film's best laughs but, most crucially, both he and Marti Noxon ensure that his character is played very differently – younger, brasher and with a different backstory – to Roddy McDowall's immortal take on the same character.
The film's only failing lies – very weirdly enough – in its special effects. All the CGI advances in the world are apparently no match at all for good, old fashioned physical effects when it comes to horror and that has never been more obvious than its is in this film's rather naff CG transformation scenes that have none of the gruesome horror and bone-cracking pain of what must surely be the original film's best moments. And don't get me started on the much, much too dark 3D...
Even with that said, though, I can't recommend Fright Night more. It might not be horror at its most thrilling or its most original but this is the most fun I've had with a vampire film in years.