Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Considering the phenomenal success of the "Twilight" franchise, I understand why this film got remade. In fact, the idea of a "Fright Night" remake had been floating around for some time. Several years ago, I groaned when I was told that the remake script had something to do with teens stranded in a carnival funhouse fighting vampires. Thank god that never came to fruition. There was even some rumbling that Sony was going to produce a "Fright Night" TV show closely patterned after the two original films. There was hope of striking gold with a "Buffy" for boys. But once again, there were some key elements in the way. And then the 2011 remake got off the ground. Like always, the people behind this "re-imagining" just didn't have a keen understanding of their source material's bones. While the original movie stands as an effective horror film, there are numerous tribunal nods which pay tribute to vampire cinema. It is a smart and well-studied homage. The film's antagonist Jerry Dandrige is shades of Barnabas Collins, having just recently surfaced in a run down Victorian home just next door. And much like Collins had a Cerberus-like familiar in Willie Loomis, Dandrige has Billy Cole. Then there is Peter Vincent, whose name and character are both an amalgam of horror stars Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Our hero, the horror film obsessed Charley Brewster, played by William Ragsdale, even bare resemblance to Roman Polanski's bumbling, love-struck Alfred from "The Fearless Vampire Killers." Brewster's best friend Evil Ed even falls into the Renfield role. There are numerous other references to the cinema of the blood sucker, which is a tremendous part of this movies appeal. Probably 98% of the original "Fright Night"'s purpose was lost on the producers of the remake, so what they wound up with was a very shallow and direct retelling of the original film with some pointless alterations that add nothing to the proceedings. They do go to the trouble of retaining the actual "Fright Night" title font, because they want to assure people that there is some connection to the original film. However, what Hollywood continually fails to realize is that the original film's cult following sees these re-imaginings as entirely blasphemous. The very concept of a remake alienates the core fanbase because it is seen as tampering with something that is nearly perfect to begin with. And if you're going to go to such extreme lengths to maintain the identity of the original films, why not just make a sequel? Seriously, they couldn't just trot out Ragsdale as a dad and pit his kid up against a similar threat?

At any rate, this film has actually aged remarkably well, though I have seen some people call it dated. Not exactly sure why or how. Some people say it's corny, but a lot of it is intended to be sort of campy as it is largely a tribute to an era of horror that was bygone at that point. Besides, it has Sparks on the soundtrack, so it automatically wins forever.

The plot: Charley Brewster suspects his neighbor Jerry Dandrige is up to no good when he recognizes the photo of a murdered prostitute on a local news report as the woman he saw next door. So, naturally Charley gets nosy and while spying discovers his neighbor is actually an unholy bloodsucker. Interestingly, Dandrige initially tries to reason with the teen, but Charley is far too terrified to consider his proposal. Naturally, this leaves Dandrige with only one choice: to silence Charley forever. The story's great twist occurs when Charley approaches Peter Vincent, a washed-up horror star who hosts the late night television show "Fright Night," which incidentally has just been canceled due to the declining interest in more traditional horror. Vincent utters a great line about how the new generation prefers killers in ski masks hacking up young virgins. But not Charley. Charley believes in vampires. In fact, there's one living next door to him, and he needs Vincent's help to kill him. Charley comes off as pretty delusional, which scares Vincent away. Charley's friends, Amy and Evil Ed grow more concerned that he's experiencing some sort of break down, and so they approach the destitute Vincent with cash and arrange a fake test where Vincent will prove that Dandrige is not a vampire in front of Charley. Unfortunately, things don't go quite like they planned, and soon Charley and his friends are running for their lives.

Virtually everything about this movie continues to work. The script and direction by the uber-talented Tom Holland are top notch. The effects are strong. The photography in particular is beautiful. Each member of the cast is an absolute jewel to boot. Roddy McDowall as horror host Peter Vincent demonstrates a fairly wide range, from hilariously self-obsessed to terrified and eventually confident in his identity as a true vampire killer. Chris Sarandon is absolutely magnetic and likable as Dandrige. However, Stephen Geoffreys as the immortal Evil Ed might just turn in the most memorable performance of the lot.

Trailer courtesy FoundFootageHorror.

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