Best Horror Movies of the Decade: Fright Night (2011) is a perfect update of a cult classic
All this month, we are counting down the 31 best horror movies of the decade and doing a closer look at why each one earned a spot on our list!
22. Fright Night (dir. Craig Gillespie, 2011)
Of all the horror subgenres, supernatural horror is one of my favorites. Yes, I have a thing for vampires. Whether it be Dracula, Near Dark, Interview with a Vampire, or Twilight, there’s just something about those suave, sexy bastards I adore. So when the remake of 1985’s Fright Night came along in 2011, I was onboard hook, line, and sinker. And unlike so many remakes, 2011’s Fright Night manages to be a perfect update on a cult classic.
One of the things that makes Fright Night an endlessly rewatchable film are its performances. This film is stacked with talent including, the late Anton Yelchin, Toni Colette, Imogen Poots, David Tennent (ahhhh!), and Colin Farrell as Jerry (yes, Jerry) the vampire. Yelchin and Poots are great as the youthful leads Charley Brewster and Amy, and their relationship lies at the core of the film’s coming of age (and repressed sexual desire ) themes (the latter being a huge part of vampire storytelling).
It’s rare to see David Tennent in films, let alone American productions, but his performance as Peter Vincent, a modern day Van Helsing, is nothing short of delightful. In the original film, Peter Vincent is the host of a TV show called Fright Night, but here, the show has morphed into a Las Vegas style stage performance, the last refuge of many a pop celebrity. Tennent plays the role as equal parts drama queen and savvy vampire hunter. Toni Colette is amazing in everything she does (you must watch her in United States of Tara) and the same holds true here in her role as Jane Brewster, Charley’s slightly horny single mother who is at the same time attracted to–and wary of–Jerry. Which leads us to Colin Farrell, in what is probably one of his more underrated performances. Farrell was made for this role, as a cocky, frightening, yet absolutely sexy-as-hell vampire. I hope he had a blast making this film, because it sure seems like it on screen. His line delivery, especially his repartee with Yelchin’s character (just think of the biggest dude-bro, holding a White Claw, saying “Hey, guy”), his swagger, his beautiful face…it’s just all perfect.
The film also makes great use of its location, Las Vegas, within the plot. Las Vegas has a high transient population, with most people commuting in and out of the city, and working odd hours on the strip. It’s also isolated, and surrounded by desert. The perfect locale for a vampire feeding frenzy. Few notice the number of disappearances occurring once Jerry rolls into town. There’s also just the right amount of playful nods to vampire lore and clever strategy in the film once it comes time to bid Jerry and his ilk adieu. Even Jerry has to get creative in his endeavors to kill Charley, Jane, and Amy, once it’s apparent he will get no invitation inside their house: “Don’t need an invitation if there’s no house.” Abandoned houses are also fair game in case you were wondering.
One of the best updates made to this film is the high school drama subplot. Charley used to be a geek, but once he starts dating Amy, he becomes a popular kid by proxy. His old friend circle, including best-friend Ed (played by Christopher “McLovin’ “ Mintz-Plasse) watches as Charley drifts further and further away. I love how seamlessly this plot is woven into the main vampire storyline while still lending enough time to linger on the foibles of growing up, and sometimes away, from certain people. These choices, like sticking with some friends over others, have consequences that the characters have to contend with as the film progresses.
Perhaps my favorite detail about Fright Night, and why it rocks so hard is that it was written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumna Marti Noxon. Who better to understand what Fright Night is than a writer on one of the most influential shows of all time that happens to include vampires? Like Buffy, Fright Night is all about embracing the fun (and a little silliness) of the vampire genre, while simultaneously exploring complex issues surrounding adolescent identity and burgeoning sexuality. Fright Night’s inclusion on this list of the best horror films of the decade is more than deserving, but don’t take my word for it. I urge you to check it out yourself this Halloween season.