Fright Night (1985) vs Fright Night (2011)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 1:12 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
1985 RT Critics Rating: 9.3/10
2011 RT Critics Rating: 7.4/10

1985 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10
2011 Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) - Tom Holland
FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) - Craig Gillespie

Vampires have constantly been depicted in the world of cinema. From the original 1922 silent film Nosferatu to the Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee portrayals of Count Dracula, the movie industry has always been welcome to the folklore blood feeders within the horror genre. In every vampire film, the story presents the idea of what if vampires are real. But in 1985, director Tom Holland expands on this idea and asks a new question: What if your *neighbor* is a vampire?

Fright Night revolves around Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a huge fan of a horror movie TV series "Fright Night" hosted by Hammer Horror style actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who plays a vampire killer in horror movies. Charley soon discovers that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. The film follows Charley as he attempt to convince his friend, "Evil Ed" Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys), and his girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse). In addition, he turns to his "hero," Peter Vincent, for help.

The first curveball Fright Night throws at the audience is the way it presents itself. From its conceptual stage already, Fright Night sets itself as a horror comedy, a self-aware satire on the horror genre while terrifying the audience at the same time. Though it parodies the cliches of horror films, it pays great attention and loyalty to the "facts" regarding vampires, including the effects of holy water, stakes, and crosses when used on them. This single inventiveness is what drives Fright Night fluently from beginning to end. In addition to scaring us, the comedy fuses it, making the overall tone more entertaining rather than frightening. At the same time, this method that Fright Night tackles never trips halfway nor appear as contrived or over-the-top.

1985 was a year when computer-generated effects have slowly began to appear, a specific example being the flying DeLorean in Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future. However, here, Fright Night follows the classic formula of animatronics. It accompanies the Gremlins effects with a combination of puppets, contraptions, and props. It bears the texture of every effect, creating a sense of realism. Of course, if looked at in the present time, the effects are obsolete. Nevertheless, I respect every present audience member who prefers classic animatronics over "cheap" computer generated imagery.

Ragsdale portrays the perfect nerd of horror films. The "wimpy-ness" in his actions and the stuttering in his dialogue all pave the way for his character. Though this fits his personality perfectly, it is surprisingly difficult to follow our beloved protagonist teen because of the very behavior he has. Amanda Bearse plays the ideal girlfriend as well as the cliche non-believer of supernatural objects. In spite of her disbelieving her boyfriend's zany claims about Jerry the Vampire, she tries everything to persuade him that he is hallucinating because she cares deeply about the one she loves. For once, the female supporting character in a horror film is a logical and lovable individual. Regrettably, "Evil Ed" is the most annoying character in the film. Halfway in, I refuse to listen to him. Even worse, halfway in we are supposed to care about him. By now, his character is too weakly fleshed to deliver such powerful emotions to the audience. McDowall's Peter Vincent is the best character in this film. His performance is hilarious and engaging, but at the same time bears enough depth for us to truly care about him and follow him. With the help of Peter Vincent's presence, our protagonist Charley is more convincing as the film progresses.

The greatest disappointment, though, of Fright Night is surprisingly the vampire himself. Having a plausible vampire must require intimidation and a certain fear-factor to their appearance. Jerry the Vampire is played by Chris Sarandon, who is known for portraying the witless Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride. In Fright Night, it is shockingly disappointing to say that Sarandon's silliness is still present here. Never once is he menacing. Not even the impressive makeup saved his performance. His radically low voice in his vampire form and lack of manly charm throughout the film makes him the most improbable vampire in vampire films. However, perhaps the film purposely desired to portray such a vampire, a blood-feeder who behaves in the complete opposite of our past memorable vampires in cinema. Fortunately, Jerry the Vampire is the main improvement that the remake Fright Night delivered in 2011. Colin Farrell is the fresh heart of the remake, with his darting eyes and facial ticks, giving a sense of attractiveness yet also a sense of danger and threat. His appearance is modernized, a true figure who expresses the "things are not as they appear" type of villain. This "upgrade" in Jerry's character is the pulsing core of the 2011 remake of Fright Night

In the 2011 Fright Night, Anton Yelchin plays the new Charley Brewster, with Imogen Poots as Amy Peterson, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as "Evil Ed." Even though the new teens performed exceptionally well, Fright Night's aesthetic take on the new Peter Vincent (David Tennant), Jerry (Colin Farrell), and the second half of the narrative is what makes this seemingly trivial remake work.

Anton Yelchin, previously known as young Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, plays the real Charley Brewster I sought for from the beginning. Furthermore, Mintz-Plasse, known as Red Mist from Kick-Ass, plays an impressive and favorable "Evil Ed." Unlike the original's Charley and "Evil Ed," this film's Charley is not a nerd. The "nerdiness" is instead transferred to "Evil Ed" instead, making his character development in the rising action of the film much more powerful than what the original film attempted at doing. At the same time, Yelchin's Charley bears a familiar yet freshly organic teen who naturally expresses the right responses to having a vampire neighbor. The new Amy is less developed here compared to the original. However, the remake's script takes its own unique path halfway in, making the new Amy's insignificance acceptable. As a replacement, Charley's mother is more notable here while in the original, she only appears for a few minutes. Finally, Tennant's take on Peter Vincent is the complete opposite of our lovable TV horror host in the original personality-wise. However, the originality of the new Vincent is strangely captivating. Unlike the serious characterization that Holland's film portrayed, Gillespie's remake took the "alcohol-drinking weed-smoking loser" aspect and replaced the seriousness with silliness. Then again, the new Vincent still has knowledge of everything regarding vampires, making him oddly scholarly. In simplicity, Tennant pulled a "Woody Harrelson" on Peter Vincent, a whole new take on the character. Even though this might dissatisfy past fans of the original character, the new Fright Night truly explores the full range of its characters and is never afraid to try things the reckless way.

Yet, Fright Night, despite itself being reckless, never trails off and become a mindless movie. The script here is intelligently written, keeping the original wit and cleverness that made the original so memorable. Surprisingly, the new Fright Night is funnier too. The only difference here is that it is now modernized. Instead of a typical 80s neighborhood, we are now set in an isolated town in Nevada close to Las Vegas. The settings designed for the plot are all familiar but at the same time original and fresh. In simple words, the new Fright Night never forgot its place. It knew that it is a remake, and thus never came close to falling into the hole that all horror movie remakes fall into. It is astonishingly confident in what it has to do.

Even though both Fright Night movies are highly recommended, the superior film is surprisingly the remake. In summary, Fright Night is a well blended mix of horror and comedy. I was scared as well as entertained. I screamed and I laughed. Despite the film having a disappointing vampire, Roddy McDowall steals the show with his unforgettable depiction of TV horror host Peter Vincent. However, if one lists everything pleasing in the 1985 film, it will all be found in the 2011 remake as well, but enhanced and modernized. The visual effects stylishly replace the animatronics, brilliantly executing visual scenes at necessary moments and not abusing the technique of computer generated imagery. The script is tightly written, with its pacing brisk, its performances compelling, and its comedy well scattered throughout with its scares, not to mention a breathtaking soundtrack. It qualifies as a successful horror comedy, a tricky type of movie to make. The 2011 Fright Night is highly enjoyable with traits that can make it even become a cult classic to vampire-flick fans. Frankly, the remake is, from the words of film critic Adam Graham, "A Night to remember."

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