Review: “Fright Night (2011)”

Fright NightI must have seen the original Fright Night about a hundred times. So when I saw the promos for the new Fright Night, I had high expectations. To me, the original movie had reinvigorated the whole vampire genre. It took the basic story format I had seen in so many other B-movies and updated it for modern times. I doubt that Fright Night was the first movie to do this, but it was the first one that really left a mark on my young brain.

Roddy McDowall made an especially powerful impression as the cowardly, washed up actor who had to man up to help Charlie save the girl. You know, the average looking one that would later appear in Married … with Children. So when I learned that Peter Vincent would be played by Doctor Who … er, I mean David Tennant … I thought we might have a real winner here. Just in time, too. Twilight has infected all our most recent vampires with the gay. I have nothing against gay people or the Flintstone’s theme song, I just don’t like my vampires with too much glittery gayness on’em. Sorry.

So, did the new Fright Night win? Or did it suck like your mother-in-law’s addiction to Twilight and soon-to-be-dead soap operas?

Fright Night wins, baby. And it wins pretty damn big. For this Atheist Geek, only the ending held it back from true cinema glory. Even so, all is forgiven. I’d watch it again.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are
easily repelled by crosses.
Even the angry ones.

First point in Fright Night’s favor, we have the requisite homages to the original. I realize that some people find this annoying, but I don’t. I admit that Fright Night pushes it right to the limit. We even get a cameo from one of the original actors in this one. (And it’s not Roddy McDowall … smart ass.) But you’ll get over it. Or enjoy it, as I did.

Second, and far more importantly, most of the script is really smart. We see the new Jerry Dandridge – who is just as cool as of the original Jerry Dandridge – working the rules of vampire lore in new ways. As you probably saw in the promo (spoiler landing on runway seven, people) instead of simply charming Charlie’s mom into inviting him into their home, Dandridge goes into kill-Charlie mode by ripping up the gas lines that run into their house and igniting them. As the vampire Dandridge correctly points out, the whole invitation thing doesn’t work so well if you got no house. Suck on that, my beloved True Blood.

Third, Evil Ed gets more screen time in this movie. My wife thought (another spoiler here) his “seduction” over to the dark side wasn’t as good as the first movie’s, but he does play a larger role at the beginning. In many respects, he and Charlie are reversed in this film. Here, it’s Charlie who’s skeptical of Ed’s belief in vampires. Charlie’s jibes will come back to haunt him later in the movie once Charlie realizes that Dandridge really is a vampire.

Some atheists aren’t
as impressed by holy
symbols as others.

Fourth, Colin Farell is an uber-cool Jerry Dandridge. The original was just as cool, but this Jerry is all ego and no id. Or is it the other way around? He’ll remind you of your pervy uncle or that neighbor who kept coming over to “borrow” your mom’s birth control pills for his “lady friend.” Everybody had one of those guys, right?

Fifth, Tennant is awesome as Peter Vincent. He isn’t as simpering and fearful as McDowell’s original character, but he’s screwed up in other ways. Some of them are damn funny. Sadly, this Peter Vincent isn’t used to his full potential in the new movie. He reveals the key details of his past at the wrong time, and when he shows up to help Charlie during the big confrontation, his appearance doesn’t get the fanfare it deserves. The last act should have been Vincent’s chance to really shine in this movie, but it feels as if the editing was rushed at the end. Too bad.

Maybe there were scenes we didn’t get to see? I feel a special edition coming on. Or maybe I’m just thinking about Charlie’s girlfriend. Or his mom. Making out. Yeah, that could be it1.

Let me ruin the entire film by giving you some details of how it ended now. (Hurray!) Or rather, I’ll tell you how I wish it had ended.

The Doctor has
changed his views
on gun ownership.
About time.

The movie shows us a montage of Charlie preparing himself, Rambo style, for the final battle leads us into the last chapter of the movie. He charges into Dandridge’s house with a crossbow and a bunch of other vampire killin’ stuff. Then, out of nowhere, Peter Vincent just appears next to him before anything has really happened yet. This may sound like the original, but it doesn’t work very well. Too underwhelming. Instead, I think they should have had Vincent show up right as Jerry Dandridge was about to lock a defeated Charlie Brewster in the dungeon with Amy.

Think about it this way. In my version, we see the big hero is about to lose everything when his ass gets pulled out of the fire by the cowardly Peter Vincent, a man who swore he’d already done all that his jittery nerves would allow. Big music soars as blasts of hot lead go zinging past Jerry’s head from the maw of Vincent’s shotgun. Then Peter Vincent tells Charlie to run for it, because he’ll hold the vampire off!

“I’ve got this. Just get Amy and go!”

Yeah, now that’s how you show David Tennant overcoming his fear of vampires, dammit!

Of course, in my version, Amy attacks Charlie before they even leave the room because she’s already a vampire. Then all hell breaks lose as Dandridge brings the hurt on Peter Vincent with vampire speed.

At least
she’s into it.

These are actually minor changes, but I think they could have made a big difference. And it would have been a bigger reveal for the fearless vampire killer, too.

Pete, you deserved better. So did David Tennant, really.

Instead of blowing the secret of Peter Vincent’s past (his parents were murdered by Jerry Dandridge when he was a child, which fueled his obsession with the occult) I think they should have revealed this when Vincent was fighting during the final battle I just described above. And why not? This is more exciting and it makes at least as much sense.


Hey Dracula!
Hand check !

The movie already had Jerry running a monologue about their last encounter anyway, so why not let that be the moment of the big reveal instead of blowing it back in Peter Vincent’s place when nothing is happening?

This would have made the whole thing feel bigger and more dramatic. Suddenly, at the height of the action, we understand how high the stakes really are. Everything would have clicked.

Of course, Vincent could have hinted at this back at the office – perhaps even revealing that he had seen a vampire. But that’s just the setup for the reveal that’s soon to come.

Whether you like my version or not, Fright Night is still a good movie. Go see it. Or you’ll have to loan Jerry Dandridge a beer while he makes out with your girlfriend.

Seriously. She won’t be complaining about it, either. Dammit.

glittery gayness

This is how many chicks see Edward Cullen in their dreams.

Oh, and screw you Twilight Saga. We don’t need no glitter. Thank you.

  1. I’m a horrible person.

About The Atheist Geek

The Atheist Geek is a former Jehovah's Witness turned secular humanist. He's a lifelong sci-fi geek and a writer wannabe.
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