Fright Night 1985: For young Charley Brewster, nothing could be better than an old horror movie late at night. When two strange men move in next door to him, Charley, with his horror movie experience, believes that their strange behavior is explained by the fact that they are a vampire and his undead day guardian. He enlists the help of old Hammer Horror vampire hunter Peter Vincent to help save himself and his girlfriend Amy.
Fright Night 2011: Charley Brewster guesses that his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige is a vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths. When no one he knows believes him, he enlists Peter Vincent , a self proclaimed vampire killer and Las Vegas magician, to help him take down Jerry.
Billy: There’s a reason Fright Night was made in the eighties. There’s something about eighties movies that’s just so perfect. It is, regardless of genre, my favourite period of cinematic achievement. The original Fright Night hits so many perfect notes in my mind. It has the right actors, the right score, the right look. In many ways it couldn’t be made at any other time. Peter Vincent, the ultimate amalgamation of 1970s Hammer Horror, is here to pass the baton between those classic films and the upcoming genre of the 80s slasher. Fright Night has a foot in both of those worlds, straddling eras in a sublimely erotic display.
Sarandon plays Jerry in a way that’s sexy as hell. He is pure confidence: masculine and charming. More charming than Henry Frankenstein, to be sure. He takes the virginal Amy and seduces her. He plays people to bring out the worst versions of themselves by their own choice, like he does with Evil Ed. There are so many great choices to his character, like the fact that he eats apples both to clean his teeth and reference the fact that there might be a little fruit bat in him. Brilliant.
Amelia: I know it’s the 80s, but what the fuck is with this girl’s hair? Why is it up with ribbons like she’s seven? Also, are those overalls she’s wearing? Yup, yup, yup, definitely the 80s. But what’s great about this movie is that as much as the 80s-ness of the original Fright Night is maybe a little distracting, it never detracts from the overall story. And the overall story? A vampire is living next door to a prying teenage boy. Simple, easy, and a frightful good time. There’s humour, there’s interesting characters, and there’s some super freaky prosthetic work.
Billy: And then there’s the remake. When Colin Farrell eats that apple, my heart sings, but that doesn’t last for long. It isn’t true to the original’s perfect placement in time or character, revamping each character in strange directions to create a film that only vaguely resembles the one it’s ostensibly remaking. Farrell’s Jerry doesn’t play the same games. Instead of laughing off the idea of being a vampire, this version of Jerry firebombs Charlie’s house and chases down his car with the intention of killing everyone inside. He doesn’t rise above his barbarism at any point. This is about survival.
He’s a horrible person. A sociopathic asshole. Sarandon seduced Amy in the club scene, Farrell drugs her and figuratively rapes her. “Women need to be managed” is a line that I am almost certainly sure was in this film. I appreciated when Tennant’s Vincent explained that Farrell’s Jerry was a different breed of vampire, because it helped explain the difference, but it’s a sharp one, and diehard fans of the original will certainly take offence at these characters sharing a name.
Amelia: First off, Colin Farrell? David Tennant? The nerd with the fake ID from Superbad? Could you have put together a cast that would piss me off more? Second, there’s the pacing and how it’s non-existent. Third, there’s the weird to just terrible effect shots. Fourth, and possibly the most important, there’s the fact that this movie didn’t need to exist because who at all cares about Fright Night in 2011? It didn’t need to be modernized. Sure, the original movie has become a period piece, but like any good period piece, it will hold up indefinitely because it’s more than it’s uber 80s wardrobe or soundtrack, it’s just an entertaining movie. Not the remake though. Six years later and it’s faded to wherever all subpar remakes go after their initial release.
Billy: In contrast, everything Fright Night 2011 does with sharks was fantastic. Vampires aren’t seductive in this version. Instead, vampires are killers. They hunt. They strike. They feed. We first get a sense of this when Ed says that Jerry is “like the shark from Jaws” and that’s finalised in his early death when Jerry kills him in the pool. His eyes turn black when he goes into attack mode. Fangs are rows of teeth. These are incredible ways to make vampires more intimidating that paid off in the end when the scent of blood is all that’s needed to incite a feeding frenzy from all of Jerry’s newly turned sires. It just… isn’t Fright Night-y.
When Jerry said “Welcome to Fright Night… for real” in the original, you got chills. He was a cat playing with a mouse. Farrell is a shark, and it makes no sense. He said it because it was in the script. Fright Night 2011 is strongest when striking out on its own and weakest in trying to emulate the original. Farrell’s Jerry is only poor in comparison to Sarandon (although I loved that Sarandon came back for a cameo as a victim). Fright Night 2011 takes the original’s thrust in the way things change and evolve and brings it to a more personal level that relates only to Charlie. These themes don’t relate to the reimagined Peter Vincent, Amy, or any ancillary characters. Jerry, like a shark, is unevolving.
Amelia: The only thing I liked about the remake over the original is the lore that this breed of vampire is stronger than others. I love the thought of different areas of the world breeding different types of vamps. I love lore. Lore makes horror more often than not. It’s just a shame that the lore created had to be included in a subpar remake instead of its own thing.
Billy: Eight and a half vampires out of ten for the original
Four vampires out of ten for the remake
There’s no contest here. The original Fright Night wins here in almost every single way. It’s such a damn enjoyable movie. It has the horror, but the heart and humour are both there and it has a perfect sense of purpose in when it was made to make a statement about horror movies in general. While I admire the independent direction the remake went, the weight of the original film hangs far too heavy on its frame, and moments of reference like the apple, the rejection of faith, and lines like “it’s Fright Night… for real” just fall flat. Peter Vincent becomes a distraction in a remake of a film where he was the manifestation of its theme.
Amelia: Six and a half vampires out of ten for the original
Two vampires out of ten for the remake
The original Fright Night is a seriously charming movie. There’s scares and tension but also humour and heart. It’s maybe just a touch too dated for my tastes, but it makes vampires (a monster I’ve never cared that much about) interesting for the span of the movie. But the Fright Night remake? Anton Yelchin is the only reason this movie is getting anything from me. What a waste of my time. What a waste of fucking everything.