The first horror film I ever went to in theatres was Fright Night. And I loved it. It was 1985, I was 8 years old, enthralled by the old Universal and Hammer vampire flicks of old, and now here was a tale of a bloodsucker that could have been happening in my very own neighbourhood. Chris Sarandon was smooth as Jerry Dandridge, the vampire who moves in next door to teenage Charlie Brewster (future Herman’s Head star William Ragsdale). Determined to reveal the truth about Dandridge, Charlie enlists the help of former movie star and “vampire killer” Peter Vincent (the wonderful Roddy McDowell), who isn’t quick to either believe or help.
Though it may not have the name recognition of 80’s franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th, Fright Night was a classic bit of horror that also had some humour thrown in for good measure. With all the history the film had with me, I was totally ambibvalent when I heard it was being remade. Even though it would have a stellar cast of strong actors, including Colin Farrell as the vampire next door, Anton Yelchin as Charlie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as his former friend, “Evi” Ed and David Tennant as Peter Vincent, along with a script from former Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Marti Noxon, the last thing I thought was that the world needed a new Fright Night.
After its lacklustre box office debut (6th place and less than $8 million gross), I’m guessing nobody else thought we needed one either.
Friday night, BBP’s Scott Guest and myself took in a late show of Fright Night. The theatre was far from full, a sign of the box office showing to come. While I think that horror fans would probably like a lot of what was on the screen, it turned out the marketing for Fright Night clearly didn’t connect with a wide audience. As for the movie itself, it does have strong performances from all of the leads, especially Farrell, who definitely is menacing as Dandridge. He and Antony Yelchin have a solid predator/prey dynamic throughout the movie. David Tennet’s Peter Vincent is much more over the top than Roddy McDowell’s, but it does work as well. So the film didn’t get any of it’s performances wrong.
Where Fright Night doesn’t get it right is never quite finding the line between horror and comedy. There are some decent laughs throughout the film, and a few tense moments of creepiness as well, but there’s never enough of either to make the movie altoghether work. Fright Night also has some of the most useless 3D effects I’ve ever witnessed – nothing ever made me recoil, and that’s what I’m looking for with 3D horror.
With Fright Night, a beloved film from my past, I didn’t want “ok” or “good enough” – I wanted “great”. Sadly, I didn’t get it. While it’s serviceable horror and gave me a fun night out, I was really hoping for much more from yet another reboot.
Luckily, there’s always the original to revisit. Or the musical.