Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell,
Imogen Poots, Toni Collette,
Another average remake. Another interesting concept taken to the most predictable of places. I’m amazed how much time I spend in theaters these days, reliving movies I saw years ago. It’s a strange and often uncomfortable place to be—like an episode of the “The Twilight Zone,” caught in an infinite loop. How many more times can I watch the same movie over and over again?
Last weekend was particularly prickly because the two biggest films were both remakes, the other being “Conan the Barbarian.” So my decision came down to: a 1980s film about a guy dealing with a next-door neighbor who’s a vampire, or a movie about a shirtless romance novel model who wants to crush his enemies and hear the lamentation of their women. This was not an easy decision.
The original “Fright Night” was one of those wonderfully imperfect, little horror films from the 1980s, with an inventive idea and some cheese-ball, over-the-top staging that made it a camp horror cult classic. The remake takes the core concepts, strips it down to its basic elements, and fundamentally changes it in an attempt to make the story relevant to modern audiences. In other words: blech.
The story has so much potential. Charley (Anton Yelchin) is a typical high-school student. He’s ascended from being geek to chic by ditching some of his less socially desirable friends. This sudden surge of social climbing has yielded some positive results—mainly an insanely hot girlfriend named Amy (Imogen Poots). He lives in a cookie-cutter northern Las Vegas suburban subdivision with his single mother (Toni Collette). At the onset of the film, Charley’s biggest problem is how to seal the deal with the hottest girl in school. That is until he gets a new neighbor.
Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a brooding charmer who immediately takes a liking to Charley’s mom. There’s something not quite right about Jerry. Rather than spend some time building up the mystery of Jerry’s sinister motives, and turning up the tension with a Hitchcockian rear-window-style scenario, we’re told in the first five minutes that Jerry is a vampire—and we’re told in the laziest of ways. Immediately, the filmmakers take away the fun of playing with the reality of the scenario. Before we can say “Nosferatu,” we know we’re dealing with a suburban vampire.
Once all the fun is drained out of the mystery, we are left to the inevitable escalation between Charley and Jerry. Horribly outmatched and running out of options, Charley seeks the aid of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Las Vegas entertainer and stage magician, who claims to be a master of the occult. Peter is reluctant to help Charley. He’s more happy binge drinking and dressing up than actually trying to fight the embodiment of darkness. Jerry’s appetite begins to grow, and more and more people are turning up dead, leaving Charley as the only one who can save his subdivision from the burgeoning vampire population.
So much of “Fright Night” is predictable—and not just because it’s a remake, either. These vampire films are commonplace nowadays. Every plot point, every piece of the vampire mythos, it’s all so telegraphed. Sure, Colin Farrell isn’t playing one of those glowing, emo ponces from the “Twilight” films; still, so much of this movie is generic. Nothing feels new or unique. The only thing about the original “Fright Night” that felt novel was the concept. Now, 25 years later, the concept isn’t even that interesting. It’s all been done.
The vampire movie has become such a cliché. “Fright Night” is the ultimate expression of average. Anton Yelchin is a likable actor. Colin Farrell has fun playing a remorseless bad guy. But, really, who gives a shit? We’ve seen all this before. Surely, Hollywood can do better than churn out another stereotypical vampire movie. Or maybe they can’t. Maybe this is what we’ve been relegated to.
I’m about to drop some philosophy: As this summer comes to a close, I’ve realized how broken our storytellers are. I don’t know how many more movies about toys, comic books and poorly conceived remakes I can stomach. It’s not as if all the movies are bad, but they’re covering the same territory. I’m feeling less and less engaged. “Fright Night” isn’t the worst movie ever made, but it certainly does little to inspire confidence in the current cinematic landscape.