Review: Fright Night

Fright Night is a remake of the 1985 film of the same name, and though I haven’t seen the original in a long time, I feel as though a successful remake formula could be thus: 1. Don’t remake the best films and 2. When you do remake a film, put your own stamp on the material.

Its unique voice is what makes the new Fright Night so much fun. From the script upward the film has a sense about it that is one part scare, one part tongue- firmly-in-cheek. The film was written by Marti Noxon, an alum of both Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men. Noxon brings a wonderful voice to the film, especially through the dialogue. Her creativity and unique ideas really shine through, elevating Fright Night into one of my favorite movies of the entire summer.

Besides the battle plan featured in the film’s climax, Noxon’s most interesting contribution may be in the location. The new incarnation is set in a suburb of Las Vegas, as Noxon was inspired by her trip there during the last presidential election. She writes:

You’d think I would have been contemplating the greed and ineptitude that led the nation to this sorry state, but instead my mind was fixed on one dogged thought: “God, this would be the greatest place to be a vampire. Sinners aplenty just down the road, a transient population that works all hours of the night and day … and all these abandoned homes. You could pick people off and who would ever be the wiser?”

She cites additional inspiration coming from the Amblin films she grew up with, like ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, and Jaws. All of these films bring the fantastic and danger to the mundane world of the suburbs, and Fright Night captures this better than any American film in recent memory, including Super 8. In fact, I imagine replacing the film’s soundtrack with the most recent Arcade Fire album would be a fascinating experiment.

The other thing that makes this film one to be seen are the performances. Colin Ferrell is terrific as Jerry the neighborhood vampire, and the actor’s charisma is used to great effect. Jerry is so much fun to watch, as is the scene-stealing David Tennant (Doctor Who) as the vampire expert Peter Vincent (a stage magician in this incarnation). Tennant’s particular sensibilities are a perfect fit for the role, and he provides much of the comic relief in the film’s last third.

I also applaud Fright Night for bringing back the old school evil vampire. Jerry is malevolent, unrelenting, and insatiable. There is nothing redeeming (or sparkly) about him. He, like the shark in Jaws, is a force of nature to be reckoned with, not reasoned with or interviewed. It’s also refreshing that with these ‘chaste’ Twilight vamps running around, Fright Night brings the sexy back, showing Jerry as having an intense physical reaction to being near his prey, especially in the olfactory sense.

Fright Night is easily the surprise of my summer, one I wasn’t even anticipating (it didn’t even make our summer movie preview). Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a retro fun monster movie.