The worst thing about Fright Night 3D is that the last hour really wastes a pretty decent first thirty minutes. Actually, the last hour of Fright Night 3D is the worst thing about August films, period, but it’s especially disheartening to sit through everything bad in the film after it seemed to be setting up something good.
While the original Fright Night hinged on the sexual panic Charlie Brewster feels as he’s coming of age, the remake seems - please note the word seems - to hinge on the decision Charlie must make as he becomes a man. On the one hand he has his old friend Evil Ed, a nerd who represents Charlie’s true, uncool inner self. On the other hand he has his hot girlfriend and popular, cool kid new friends. Will Charlie be a good guy or a douche? To add drama to the equation it turns out that Charlie’s new next door neighbor, Jerry, isn’t just a vampire, he’s like the king of all douches as a vampire. It’s as if Ed Hardy himself was undead.
In the opening thirty minutes of the film it seems like Jerry’s vampirism will represent soul-sucking douchebag behavior, and that the glamour of the vampire myth will represent the draw of being a cool guy douchebag. That the film is set in Las Vegas, a Mecca for ding dongs in Affliction shirts who blow a year’s wages on slots and table service in an attempt to attain a perceived image of coolness, supports this.
Except no. This isn’t the conflict for Charlie. There is no central metaphor. The vampire is just a vampire. Nothing means anything and every thing that happens in the movie happens for what feels like tedious studio-mandated reasons. What at first looks like it could be a fun game of cat and mouse between Charlie and Jerry instead turns into a very standard chase and kill scenario that goes on forever and ever and ever.
Fright Night 3D falls into the worst sort of remake trap in that it reuses elements of the original because it’s expected to do so, not because there’s any reason. Evil Ed in the new movie is in no way evil, losing the deliciousness of his turning into a vamp. He also has absolutely no function in the film. He shows up in act one, disappears for about an hour, and then shows up again for a few minutes during the bloated and endless third act. There’s no sense of the friendship between Ed and Brewster, except for what we’re told. Marti Noxon, the screenwriter, puts the audience through a lengthy conversation where Ed explains to Charlie their past history - it’s the worst kind of bad, shitty screenwriting, and I’m surprised and disappointed to see it from Noxon.
Peter Vincent also has just about no role in this new version. In the original he was a horror host whose show, Fright Night, was a favorite of Charlie’s. In the new version he’s a drunken Las Vegas magician whose show, Fright Night, is… well, nothing to Charlie. In the original the idea of going to Peter Vincent made a certain sweet sense, but in the age of the internet the motivation is lessened. And then the script gives Charlie absolutely no motivation at all anyway, no connection to the show or the magician. It actually doesn’t make ANY logical sense for Charlie to go to a magician. Why isn’t Peter Vincent the host of a Ghost Hunters-type reality show? That would at least make some modicum of logical sense.
What’s worse is that Peter Vincent is just as much of a douchebag as Jerry the vampire. You can see the film’s aborted attempts at theme coming through here, as we learn (too late in the game and via a laughable chunk of exposition) just why Peter Vincent is so douchey and how it was a choice he made when he was Charlie’s age. None of this grows organically from the characters or the story and feels like an automatic function of the Final Draft software. < insert belabored back story here > would be the macro.
Even without comparing it to the original, Fright Night 3D is terrible. The plot has Jerry going from sinister to psycho terminator in seconds; the plot point where this happens doesn’t feel organic or earned but rather like someone at the studio demanded a turn to surprise fans of the original. Director Craig Gillespie has no feel for the up tempo second half of the movie, and the pacing is all over the place.
The film does have some positive qualities. Colin Farrell seems to be having a lot of fun playing Jerry as a smarmy creep in the early scenes, up until Jerry just becomes a monster who shows up every few minutes, only to be stopped briefly and escaped from. There’s one great scene in the movie, where Jerry is stuck just outside of Charlie’s house because the kid knows not to invite him in, and a movie filled with moments as tense and funny and cool as that would be welcome. Instead Fright Night 3D hits this peak fairly early and decided that you’ve gotten enough of Colin Farrell doing anything cool or interesting and relegates him to boring monster status for the rest of the running time. This is another reason why I found myself hating the film after a while - it wastes its own best performance.
David Tennant is fine as Peter Vincent; essentially he’s a comic relief character and he, like everybody who isn’t Charlie or Jerry, has no function in the film (they change a bit of lore from the first movie in order to give Vincent even the slightest reason to be around at the end) but he’s enjoyable enough once you get past what an unlikable and irritating character he is.
Everybody else? Anton Yelchin is fine. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is stuck playing a character who has no character and who has no point. Dave Franco plays a character who surely had a real part in an earlier version of the script. Toni Collette is taking a paycheck. Imogen Poots is pretty but her accent is horrible; I spent half the movie convinced she was Slovakian or something. She’s really hurt by the fact that her storyline - she and Charlie are on the verge of having sex for the first time - is completely sidelined and, like most of the other character stuff, discussed but never really explored. Charlie’s first time was a big deal in the original which is apparently why it’s included in this movie as well, but this time nobody knows what to do with it emotionally, narratively or as a metaphor.
To say I hated Fright Night 3D would be completely fair. This is a bad movie even distanced from it being a horrible remake, and because it’s paced so poorly at the end it feels like it drags out forever. The runtime on IMDB is 106 minutes, but it feels like at least thirty minutes longer than that. Badly written, lethargically directed, smothering the few fun performances that could have saved it, Fright Night 3D sucks.