[Review] A Second Opinion on ‘Fright Night 3D’

Last night we shared with you Chris Eggertsen’s brutal review of Dreamworks’ Fright Night 3D, their remake of Tom Holland’s classic 1985 take on vampires that’s now in theaters everywhere.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, a general consensus among Bloody Disgusting is that Marti Noxon’s screenplay was the crux, with the insane overuse of CGI being a close second (we’re being told that KNB had done tremendous practical blood on the set, so why Dreamworks covered it with video game crap is beyond us).

Anyways, BC chimed in with his review, while you guys can now write your own and tell all of BD what You thought? Are we idiots? You tell us…
Tom Holland’s Fright Night was a lot of things: fun monster movie, engaging 80s comedy, etc – but one thing that really shined through was that Holland wanted to pay tribute to both a type of horror flick (specifically Hammer films) as well as honor the sort of icons that the 80s generation had failed to create; the closest thing the 80s had to a Vincent Price or Peter Cushing was Tom Atkins, and most of his movies only got appreciated later on. You can see Tom Holland sitting there and saying “I want to make something today that honors the guys that inspired me!”, in other words. But here? You can just sort of see a bunch of execs sitting around looking over what hasn’t been remade yet, coming across Fright Night, realizing that they didn’t have much else to go on, and decided to make it in 3D and hope for the best.

And thus, while they carried over the plot, they forgot to bring the charm or even any real POINT. Colin Farrell is actually pretty good as Jerry; not as suave and romantic as Chris Sarandon’s version, but more of a dark and mysterious type of guy that women want to just plain fuck. Unfortunately, he’s a lot more likable than the film’s hero, since they’ve turned Charley into an asshole who mocks his former best friend in front of his cool new pals, shuts out his girlfriend, etc. I assume the idea is to give Charley an arc, start him off as a selfish prick who learns to man up over the course of the movie, but they never truly deliver that change – just because he walks next door with a crossbow doesn’t make up for the fact that the only reason he even knew about Jerry in the first place is because “Evil” Ed had to blackmail him in order to get him to hang out for a few minutes and fill in the exposition.

This is another major issue. One of the remake’s few genuinely good ideas is that Ed and Charley are former best pals that have drifted apart, and you get the sense that by hunting this vampire they’ll regain their broken friendship and even make it a bit of a tragedy. But no! They have one scene together, most of it spent arguing in between Ed explaining everything (Charley’s such a douche in this he doesn’t even notice Jerry’s strange behavior, Ed has to spell it out for him), and then Ed is killed/turned a few minutes later. Worse, Ed then disappears entirely until the 3rd act, which just doesn’t make any sense to me. First of all, Jerry doesn’t have a Billy Cole type character in this one, and thus he is the only viable threat during the entire second act. I know screenwriter Marti Noxon worked with Joss Whedon a lot and thus it’s not entirely inconceivable to think that they’d pull a shock twist and kill Jerry off at the end of the second act and make Ed the Big Bad, but by this point in the movie we have already been assured that being clever or daring was not an option.

Following the script’s lead, all of the best 3D moments are in the first act, as director Craig Gillespie uses the technology not to throw shit in our faces (though I actually flinched at the first “Comin at ya!” gag, so kudos) but to have fun with the visuals of three-dimensional corners and furniture. Charley sneaking around Jerry’s place, or Ed trying to avoid him – these scenes provide terrific 3D, turning otherwise bland suburban homes into minor carnival funhouse arenas; I actually found myself trying to peer around corners and such. Unfortunately, the cat and mouse stuff is largely abandoned once Jerry blows up the house (an event that you see in the trailer that occurs much earlier than expected), and even when they have a potentially fun set, such as Peter Vincent’s weapons room, they never utilize it for anything good. Instead, they start using the technology for (admittedly impressive) sparks and embers flying around after a vamp is toasted, and endless (less impressive) digital blood splatters. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you should SKIP the 3D if you head out to the theater (it is native, after all, not a post-convert), but it’s definitely not worth the extra dough in my opinion; if you have any issue whatsoever with the format, this will certainly not change your mind.

Back to Vincent, he was surprisingly one of the better things about the movie. I’m not familiar with David Tennant, but I enjoyed his work here, as he plays a sort of Russell Brand type, masquerading as a Criss Angel-esque douchebag (the scene where he slowly strips himself of the persona is one of the film’s highlights). There’s an idiotic back-story about why he has an interest in vampires, but for a character that was clearly reverse engineered from both the need to live up to the original and also for Charley to get some ancient weapon, it could have been a lot worse. Still, I wish Charley sought him out specifically FOR his weapons, not “how do you kill a vampire?” advice, as it seemed like an anachronistic leftover from the original; why couldn’t he just Google it, the same way he Googled how to pick a lock? Nothing about it is new (stake through the heart, sunlight = bad, etc), and thanks to Ed we know that this is the “real world” (Twilight is mentioned), so it’s not like vampires are some sort of foreign entity. It’s like they started coming up with ways to make the Peter Vincent character relevant for 2011 (he was originally a corny horror host, remember) but forgot to finish.

Ultimately the movie’s biggest problem is a total lack of personality or creativity. They didn’t really bring anything new to the table, and curiously dropped things that you’d think would be fun to see with improved visual effects (Jerry doesn’t turn into a bat this time). It’s not terrible or even BAD, per se, but it just has nothing to say or offer, and leaves no lasting impression. You might even argue with me now, but by the time it comes out on Blu-ray I’ll bet you’ll already forget why you disagreed. And no, the fact that “Jerry doesn’t sparkle” isn’t enough for me to give this a pass, and if it is for you, then you’re apparently too easy to please.

2/5 Skulls

Read BC’s “uncut” (slightly spoiler-y) review at Horror Movie A Day!