Here Fright Night (1985) joins the mountain of remakes, all of which are inferior to their originals. The original Fright Night came just at point when the vampire was learning to ditch his cape, shuck period surroundings and tentatively search for a place in the modern world. There were a number of other vampire films made around the same time that offered up jokey treatments of the material. It was in essence the vampire becoming a postmodern figure and deflating its cinematic image. In this respect, Fright Night contrasted images of classic horror in the person of horror actor Peter Vincent (so named in tribute to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) up against the reality of a vampire living in contemporary suburbia. All of this was offered up inside a slick commercial package where the emphasis was on the 1980s fad for makeup transformation effects. The film was a reasonable success and produced a sequel with Fright Night Part 2 (1989).
Looking back at it, there was nothing particularly original about Fright Night it was driven by its makeup effects, an appeal to 1980s teen audiences and succeeded largely through its timing more than anything. Certainly, many vampire films since then have done these basics far better. When it comes out, Fright Night 2011 enters into a world where the vampire has attained an over-familiarity via contemporary works such as tvs True Blood (2008-14) and Twilight (2008) and sequels, which show the vampire as so well integrated into the modern world that it has become just another figure dealing with everyday life. More than anything, the remake seems to be trading on the brand name recognition of the original and judging from the box-office response for Fright Night, this doesnt amount to much.
Various changes have been made to the characters most of them pointless. Evil Ed has gone from a crazy to merely a nerd Christopher Mintz-Plasse doing about his 47th variation on the bespectacled geek role. There is a subtle change to the character of Charley as well. In the original, he was an average kid with a love of horror movies, no more than that. Now he is a kid who is trying to be cool and shuck off association with his horror movie-loving nerd friend Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Certainly, Anton Yelchin gives the role of Charley a studious and convincing portrayal but the idea of a vampire film that dismisses fans of the genre as annoyingly nerdish and uncool has How to Isolate Your Core Audience written all over it. In the original, Charley discovered that Jerry was a vampire by accident; now it is Christopher Mintz-Plasse who conducts the discovery and Charley who merely confirms these suspicions. Here there is also a good deal less play around Charleys insistent belief in Jerry being a vampire and the way that Jerry repeatedly contrives to deflate this in front of everybody else. The remake also does little with the idea of making a contrast between real and fictional vampires the original film borrowed the idea from An American Werewolf in London (1981) of a character suddenly forced to confront the old B-movie myth as real although Christopher Mintz-Plasse does get an amusingly snide line at one point: Im seriously so annoyed that you think I read Twilight.
Colin Farrell is reasonably well suited to the role of the new Jerry Dandridge. It plays into Colin Farrell at his devilishly handsome, bad boy best, although he gives us much more of a working class Jerry Dandridge than Chris Sarandons impliedly aristocratic seducer in the original. That said, what we have up on screen is simply Colin Farrell as a Vampire; it is not a character that you feel is undead, has lived across the ages and takes delight in seducing the innocent, it is just Colin Farrell playing with a smirk. The most incisive performance of the film is David Tennant in the Peter Vincent role. Now Vincent has been pointlessly rewritten from an aging horror actor into a Las Vegas stage magician, which again emasculates the originals contrast between fictional and real vampires. Thiis Peter Vincent is not drawn on classic horror actors so much as conceived as a combination of Russell Brand and Criss Angel. This proves entertaining, with Tennant doing a charismatically sexy turn that is almost unrecognisable from the role he came to fame in as the tenth Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005 ). Although for all that, David Tennant gets far less screen time here than Roddy McDowalls Peter Vincent did in the original and not enough opportunity to own the show as he seems eminently capable of doing in his first few scenes. There is also an amusing cameo from Chris Sarandon, the original Jerry Dandridge, who gets his throat torn out on the highway by Colin Farrell as the new Jerry Dandridge.
Despite a clear budget thrown at it, Fright Night 2011 is surprisingly slow. Director Craig Gillespie, who made the witty Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and subsequently went on to the critical acclaim of I, Tonya (2017), takes a long time to get the action happening, certainly a good deal longer than any other contemporary horror film. There is also a surprising lack of emphasis on effects and transformations. They are there but the film does little to make them stand out and be set-pieces that wow you. That only leaves Fright Night 2011 doing a none-particularly-exceptional variation on a vampire film where you feel that all of its moves have been done before. The sad news is that they have indeed, most of them had been by the time of the original Fright Night and that still managed to do them better.
Fright Night 2 (2013) was a sequel (more a remake of the original) with Jaime Murray as a female vampire named Gerri Dandridge.