Up until just a few weeks ago I hadn’t seen Fright Night in years. In fact, I think I might not have seen it since High School, back when every weekend I would spend my days biking to the local video store, only to close out my evenings by watching the films I had discovered just a few hours earlier.
I remembered enjoying Fright Night, but it had been lost in the shuffle of comedies with a vampire/comedy bent that seemed to come out every couple of years back then. Once Bitten, Vamp and Innocent Blood all existed in this odd little niche of horror films that came out during the eighties and early nineties.
I knew that Fright Night had since grown to become a bit of a cult phenomenon, often being mentioned as one of the better vampire related films ever made, and even one of the better horror films made in the eighties. But my memory was faded on the film, and with the remake’s release fast approaching it seemed as good a time as any to revisit the film.
The good news is that the original Fright Night has aged incredibly well. It’s funny and queer and is filled with whip smart timing. It’s a very smart film, made especially impressive due to the fact that it was aimed primarily at a teenage demographic that didn’t seem to put much weight in that skill during much of that time period. But besides being smart, the film also contains several fantastic performances from its cast and some ridiculously impressive practical effects.
To say it is one of the better teenage comedies of its time period isn’t much of a stretch by any means, nor is it much of a stretch to claim it is certainly one of the better vampire films that you’d be able to track down should the need ever arise. Then, when you toss in the fact that it was one of the first true horror/comedies, a sub-genre that would rise to prominence when a certain scream related film would come along in the nineties, and Fright Night quickly becomes a film that should be labeled must watch for those who are fans of genre films.
With the quality of the original Fright Night confirmed, it now becomes a question on whether or not the film even needs to be remade. For me, that’s a fairly easy “Yes.” Fright Night, while a damn good film, just never quite entered into the popular consciousness like other horror films of its time. While it was popular enough to spawn a sequel, that sequel’s perceived lack of quality essentially killed any chance of a franchise erupting. So lesser franchises (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween) stepped in and dominated the horror genre through the eighties and nineties. So a remake stands a good of chance as any to remind genre fans that a damn good movie is just waiting to be watched by those willing to take the time to track it down.
But is the sequel good enough to get people interested in the original? I’m happy to say that is a “Yes” answer as well. While the film is without a doubt inferior to the original, it is still a solid and entertaining film that does its best to pay homage to the original, while simultaneously attempting to stand on its own.
Certain plot points are paid homage to, but the film rarely sticks any closer to the original than that. Yes, his best friend is turned, though when it occurs is a bit surprising. Yes, a scene in a dance club occurs, but it is vastly different than the original. And yes, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) enlists the help of an elder to fight vampires, but it isn’t some eunuch in charge of a low-rent late-night cable show, but rather a rather inventive and inspired new profession altogether. Even the setting of the film, Las Vegas, makes ridiculously good sense for a place for vampires to hang out.
The one thing the film pays closes attention to is maintaining a solid, if sometimes subtle, layer of dark humor throughout the film. While not quite as entertaining as in the original, Fright Night does its damndest to make sure you know it is having as much fun as you are. From shameless 3D shocks, to over-the-top characters, to a fantastic sight gag of Colin Farrell hissing at a beam of sun light, perhaps the most obvious call-back to the original is a great cameo appearance that leads to a bloody delicious end.
While I might regret the fact that more and more films I enjoyed while growing up are being remade by studios desperate to make a quick and easy buck, for once it seems as if the studio has at least taken the time to make a film that isn’t going to make audiences question why such material as revisited in the first place. And frankly, if forced to choose between Fright Night and the 80th iteration of Final Destination, I’ll take Fright Night and never think twice about it.
Fright Night 3D moves in to your neighborhood on August 19th.