In a world where Hollywood is overrun by remakes and 3D films, one such movie defies stereotypes to create a fun ride through a kitschy creature feature. Inspired by the much-beloved ’80s film of the same name, 2011’s new “Fright Night” from DreamWorks gives horror genre fans a reason to visit the local cinema, offering enough similarities and tributes to the original to make fans excited but enough differences to keep audiences wondering what will happen next. And it’s all presented in a rare 3D experience that’s actually worth seeing.
Both “Fright Night” films are set in a typical suburban neighborhood, where a family is curious about who’s moving in next door. And as it turns out, they have every right to be concerned as the newcomer has nothing but sinister motives for moving in. And while “Fright Night 3D” is distributed by Disney, it certainly doesn’t mean there’s anything family-friendly about this film.
The original 1985 “Fright Night” has quite a cult following, with fans of Chris Sarandon’s vampire-next-door Jerry Dandridge wondering how Hollywood could possibly improve on the classic horror flick. But many liberties have been taken with the story, characters, and casting choices to differentiate the new “Fright Night 3D” from its 26-year-old counterpart. Those who have seen the original will recognize quite a few similar moments in the new film, but reworked into new parts in the story. The original’s opening scene featuring a lovers’ quarrel between the lead characters of Charley and Amy thrusts viewers into the world of vampires immediately, whereas the new version establishes all of the film’s characters and normal lives independently first before moving into the world of the paranormal. The result is an extended opening act that might have “Fright Night” fans itching for the action to begin, but ultimately does better explain the premise of what’s to come.
Once the occasionally-forced exposition is complete, the film kicks into high gear pitting the good guys against the bad guys, blurring lines of exactly who is good and who is bad along the way. Each character works in his or her own right, but differ in portrayal from the original film. And “Fright Night” is certainly rich with stand-out characters.
Colin Farrell’s version of Jerry is a far quirkier vampire than Chris Sarandon’s charming Jerry in the first film. But quirks aside, Farrell still puts on plenty of charm, sending girls in the audience into a swooning frenzy. The evolution of “good looking” Jerry to “I’m going to kill you because I’m a vampire” Jerry is far more drawn out and suspenseful in “Fright Night 3D.”
And speaking of good looking, Imogen Poots lights up the screen as Amy with a contemporary casual style that outshines Amanda Bearse’s distinctly ’80s Amy. The character is still fairly one-dimensional, but still ultimately an important part of the plot.
Then there’s Ed – or “Evil” as is often called in the original “Fright Night.” No one could top Stephen Geoffreys’ over-the-top performance of the wacky, nerdy character with the memorable crazed laugh. So instead, Ed dropped the “Evil” monicker with Christopher Mintz-Plasse (best known as “McLovin” from “Superbad”) playing the nerd role he has perfected. It’s not subtle, but it’s not quite as nutty as the original either.
“Fright Night” would not be complete without the character of Peter Vincent, who has been completely reinvented for “Fright Night 3D.” No longer a Vincent Price-style TV horror host, the character, well-played by Doctor Who’s David Tennant, is now a Chriss Angel-type stage “illusionist” – with a healthy dose of Russell Brand thrown in. Fans of Roddy McDowall’s iconic portrayal of Peter Vincent in the original might scoff at this recreation of the classic character, but given a chance, the new character becomes just as likable by the end.
The least memorable of all the characters in “Fright Night 3D” is Charley Brewster – the lead. Anton Yelchin’s Charley is rather one-note, much like William Ragsdale in the first film. An obviously important character, Charley both leads the direction of the film and disappears amidst the eclectic cast he surrounds himself with. He’s ultimately the hero, but doesn’t leave much of a mark along the way.
The new “Fright Night” was shot in 3D, not converted in post-production, and for the most part it shows. Shots are planned with 3D in mind, offering both “in” and “out” of the screen effects, each when most appropriate. Some may call select moments “cheap 3D tricks,” but such effects work perfectly for the horror genre. This is a rare film that I’d actually recommend seeing in 3D.
Viewers new to the world of “Fright Night” will enjoy meeting its many unique characters and those familiar with the original film should enjoy revisiting them, provided they’re viewed with an open mind. “Fright Night 3D” is not a shot-for-shot remake of the first film. In fact, it’s barely a remake at all. If anything, the new “Fright Night” is inspired by the original, taking the characters on a similar, but new adventure. There are plenty of tributes to the 1985 film (including one applause-gathering cameo from an original cast member) but ultimately “Fright Night” returns to the big screen in an enjoyable combination of horror and cheese that will entertain most thrill-seeking viewers.