14 December 2011

Fright Night 1985 vs Fright Night 2011

This movie remake I was very skeptical about, considering all the awful horror movie remakes of late. I was pleasantly surprised for many reasons. First of all, I really like the original movie from 1985. It is one of those campy comedy/horror movies that just somehow managed to work and was actually quite good. The original has however, not aged very well - in that regard I can see the point of doing a remake.

I was pleasantly surprised that the filmmakers had kept the core story, but made it new and fresh. Adding enough new stuff to make it stand on its while being true to the original in other regards. The story is about a kid having a vampire move in next door and causing trouble ultimately ending up chasing the kid wanting to kill him because he has seen too much and would not stop causing trouble for the vampire.

It is hard to compare the movie without doing a comparison of the characters first, and there are a handful of important characters to compare in both movies.

Charley Webster, the main protagonist and kid.  In the 1985 version he is more of a nerd that by accident happens to notice how the neighbor moving in has a coffin carried down into his basement, how he seduces women, hears female screams and then sees body bags being carried out of his neighbors house. He becomes really scared and worries about his mom and girlfriend and constantly tries to convince his girlfriend and buddy Ed about the vampire next door. No one believes him. It is actually both funny and frustrating to watch. Charley knows of the vampire, the vampire knows about Charley knowing, but no one else seem to understand.

In the remake it is not Charley who uncovers the true identity of his neighbor first but rather his friend Ed. Ed in the original was this annoying airhead who had an asinine laughter and kept poking fun of Charley. In the remake, Ed is obsessed about Charleys neighbor and had already been tracking his activities prior to the start of the movie and is already up to speed when he is introduced to us. He is the one who simply states "Man, your neighbor is a vampire, we need to stake his heart" 10 minutes into the movie. Charley is afterwards being convinced about the true nature of his neighbor and starts taking up the same role as he had in the original. Charley in the remake is played by Anton Yelchin, the guy who played Chekov in the 2009 Star Trek "reboot" (surprisingly good movie btw).

The vampire neighbor, Jerry was in the original this weird middle aged guy who just had an lofty aura channeling old school vampires. In the remake Jerry is this suave charming guy that acts like a psychopath serial killer instead. Both versions are intimidating, but the remake version is a bit more scary as he acts like a real creep. Colin Farell is really great in this role and seems to be having a great time himself.

Charley’s mom was just a cardboard character in the original movie, pretty much only there to fulfill one single purpose which I won't spoil. But it makes a big impact on the plot. However she was not an active character and was completely clueless, then just disappeared in the second half of the movie. In the remake she is taking active part in the plot and actually adds another element to the story and in the end this change of character brings along an improvement.

Charleys girlfriend Amy, was your typical damsel in distress back in 1985 and to some extent still is in 2011.The original character was more shy and "girly", the remake character is more straightforward, less whiney and a tad less of a victim. Though she is still the typical throwaway "girlfriend character".

In both movies Charley ends up seeking help to deal with his neighbor by meeting with a performer called Peter Vincent. I love both renditions of this character. In the original he was this goody character who was starring in a cheesy Vampire TV show called "Fright Night" (hence the movie title) and was just hilarious in his insecure facial expressions and his ways of trying to avoid the facts. He looked a lot like Roman Polanskis character in "The brave vampire killers". In the remake Peter Vincent is this rockstar personality that has a Las Vegas illusionist show with a supernatural theme, he acts more like an ass and looks like Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction.  He is just as cowardly as the original Peter Vincent and he is equally funny. The remake character is played by David Tennant, which is said to make Dr Who fans go nuts – I myself don’t watch Dr Who but thought the actor made a good job anyway. Perhaps the original Peter Vincent is a bit more sympathetic.

The differences in the story between the both movies is that the original has a very long buildup before it goes crazy with vampire attacks and chase sequences. The remake drops the bomb "your neighbor is a vampire" like 10 minutes in. It does keep a pretty good pace though but does not create this frustrating feeling when Charley tries to convince everyone about his neighbor being a vampire (something that is quite funny to watch in the original).
In the original Jerry also had a thrall helper who kept watch over his house during daytime, there is no such character in the remake. The remake Jerry still gets by and somehow I feel that adding the helper in the remake would be redundant. The original however felt as if it had characters with more background than the remake has, this could perhaps be explained by the remake having a faster pacing.

The remake also creates great tension by allowing Charley to take a peek into his neighbors house quite early on, something that was not done until the end of the original Fright Night. In context to how the story is told it works well the way it is handled in both movies.

If we are talking effects then I think the original had superb practical effects and makeup. There are a couple of nice transformation scenes and the overall look was quite cool, funny and partially scary. There was only one thing that didn't work , a scene with a flying bat which was obviously strung up with a wire in a very brief sequence. The remake has mostly CGI effects. To be fair, it adds a few really cool scenes - but it does lack transformation scenes or much of the vampire powers from the original movie. It does have at least one very technically impressive scene during a car chase though.

I was pleasantly surprised that the remake was not only good, but had a fresh take on the story and contained enough new content to make it worthwhile to watch. I highly enjoy both movies, even though they are the same story they are different enough to warrant watching them both.

As an anecdote, upon recommending the movies to a female friend she said 'They were both good movies, but I liked the new one more because the vampire in the remake was sexy while the original vampire was ugly looking. And also the girlfriend was Marcy D'arcy from 'Married with children'. This made me laugh. I knew the girl in the original looked familiar. And talking about actors looking better in the remake, the same can be said about the girlfriend character, if it matters.



Fright Night 1985 - Fright Night 2011 is a draw. Both are good for various reasons and each is a good movie on its own.

7 comments:

  1. Nothing beats the original's heart, great actors and effects! If you haven't seen the second one then give it a try. I think you will be surprised how good it is.

    Brian

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  2. Never saw the sequel to the original Fright Night, though I've read mixed reviews. Some said it was quite good - others that it did not live up to the original at all.

    I just never got around to watching, probably because I liked the original so much that I didn't want to spoil it :-)

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  3. Hi Anatoli, firstly, I would like to say thanks for the excellent review, you are becoming quite the reviewer, I plan on watching the re make this week end, cheers.

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  4. hmmm i was going to give this a miss. I loved the original as a kid and wasnt sure about a remake.

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