This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would likely be more negative.
Oh no, it’s my worst fears realized. Lets look at the checklist. Gratuitous violence? ✔ Horrendous writing ✔ Lots of fanservice? ✔ Animal Violence X Vampires ✔ Terrible characters ✔ Well, it may not have been a perfect score on how bad a film could be, but it’s quite bad. It’s been a while since I saw a film quite like this one, but I can assure you that this holds its own against most of the other big horror films. I still think it’s really difficult to make a vampire film good and this helps my argument. There’s just not much in the way of positives here at all.
The film starts off with good ole Charley being one of the “cool” kids. He used to be a guy who was really into fantasy, play fighting, and other things that were deemed “uncool.” As a result, Charley dumped his best friend and started hanging out with the bullies so he could look cool for a girl. It worked quite easily and now they’re together. Charley is so cool that he doesn’t care about anyone else anymore. The bullies pick on his ex-friend, but that’s not Charley’s concern. Students start going missing and it seems as if a mass murderer is on the loose, but again…that’s not Charley’s problem. It gets to be an issue for him though once his ex friend is murdered and he finds out that the perpetrator lives next door. Okay…now it’s time to care. Can Charley take this guy down to save himself and his family or is it already too late?
It’s like the old saying, “First they came for the Johns, but I stayed quiet. Then they came for the Smiths, but I stayed quiet. Finally, they came for me and there was nobody left to help” It’s like that as Charley really couldn’t care less about the rest of the neighborhood until it was just him. He’s the main character and it’s a mainstream film so it’s not as if he has much to worry about, but it didn’t make him a likable character in the slightest. The film actually goes out of its way to make him a terrible character as he refuses to explain anything. Even once he learns that the guy next door is a vampire, he refuses to tell his Mom or Amy about it because he doesn’t want to look bad. This doesn’t work so well as it comes close to wrecking all of his relationships. Luckily, they’re better characters who don’t panic at everything and actually try to talk things out. Charley just gives them a hard time about absolutely everything. He never develops into a good character as you can’t forget that he is essentially a poser who betrays his ideals just to look cool.
Jerry makes for an imposing villain I suppose, but certainly not a good one. He spends a lot of time trying to make conversation with Charley. I guess he wants to get in the main character’s head to psych him out, but he drags on and on. He was so obvious as the villain that I was expecting a misdirect from the film, but it never happened. He certainly didn’t improve my view on vampires. Edward is supposed to be the sympathetic friend that you can root for. He was ditched by Charley and as a result his social life has completely fallen to pieces. Now there is no one to help him when he gets bullied and he also has to pass by the bully’s home every single night. It’s not very fun for him and then Charley refuses to acknowledge him and this finally leads to Edward being taken out by Jerry. So, he should have been sympathetic, but what doesn’t help his case is that he resorts to blackmail. Yes, he decides to blackmail Charley with old videos of them fighting together and the old hobbies that Charley had. It may have worked, but it’s certainly not a nice move. He also started unloading some pretty personal insults at Amy which just made him even more unlikable. I forgot another part of Edward that doesn’t help his case…he’s on drugs. He casually admits this to Charley during another one of those really terrible written conversations. Even the way he lets Charley know about the vampire next door is handled pretty unrealistically.
Amy was all right as I mentioned earlier. She helped out a little during the skirmish with the vampires and at least she didn’t get paralyzed with fear the way that many characters do. Amy played her part well. Peter is the professional vampire slayer who turns out to be a fraud at first, but then we learn that he has actually encountered Jerry in the past. He’s pretty unlikable and is supposed to be that way. He helps out quite a bit in the end, but mostly he is reluctant. By the time he jumps into action, it’s a little too late to care.
So, there are a lot of negatives here as mentioned in the intro. The writing is horrendous. Luckily, the edited version cut out all of the language with the nice air filters, but with how often they occurred you can see how bad the script was. Every character was constantly yelling strings of words that make you shake your head. Even when we get past the language, the rest of the writing isn’t much better. The boring conversations with Jerry come to mind and the forced tension between Charley and all of the other characters. His excuse in the computer room for why he ditched class is another awful moment as it shows he will go to great lengths to avoid telling people about vampires even if it hurts his reputation even more.
Next, there’s the gratuitous violence. This one’s pretty obvious. The vampires bite people just about all the way through the neck and it’s pretty violent. Every character has a habit of blowing up some blood even after they’re already dead or in vampire form. The blood sucking is as irritating as usual and I don’t think I’ll ever care for that aspect. I’m still pretty surprised that there was no animal violence so that’s a good thing. The “romance” here is of the usual Hollywood variety. It’s basically just the characters deciding to skip the formalities and just jump into the making love part. It’s mostly all they talk about at the beginning and the end of the film. At least they got over all of the gruesome murders really quickly eh? The film goes for a lot of excuses to have characters in pretty risque outfits as the heroes head to a night club (Where naturally nobody notices someone getting murdered right in front of them) and Peter has a secretary with benefits rooming with him. It’s definitely not a film that tries to take the high road.
I can’t really think of any plot holes surprisingly, but if there is any then it may be with Jerry being weak against sunlight. I could have sworn that when he was planting the garden the first time he showed up that it was still daylight out. Maybe it was dark enough where the sun wasn’t potent or something. Just something that I noticed, but at least it can be explained away so that helps it a lot.
If there is one good thing about the film, it’s that the soundtrack is actually pretty decent at times. The rock music that played when Charley went to get his gear was pretty good. His montage may not have been as epic as the music would have you believe, but it was a slight silver lining at the very least. The special effects weren’t half bad either. The classic Vampire blowing up to sunlight and weapons was handled decently well. The super agility was handled pretty badly though as the Vampires moved in impossible angles with very obvious Photoshop kind of effects. It definitely didn’t seem like something you’d expect from 2011, but maybe I was holding it to too high of a standard.
Overall, Fright Night is your average horror film. It’s not very fun to watch and the characters are all poorly written. Everyone is so bad that you have to wonder at some points whether horror writers can read their scripts with a straight face. Lets put this into perspective. The kid who got bullied and ostracized by the school along with being betrayed by his friend was murdered by the main character. The bully who went around objectifying people and making the friend miserable got to live in the end. That’s just the kind of film that this is and I’d recommend sticking away from it. It’s a pretty mean spirited film and Jerry ends up being a pretty bad villain by the end. He’s even willing to use fake romance to get a reaction out of Charley, but that’s not very effective since Charley was more interested in finally getting to use his hastily prepared plan at that point. I should mention that the plan should never have worked and involved quite a lot of plot hax. Lets just say that Jerry conveniently decided to stand still and have absolutely no reaction times in order for it to work. The film stacked the deck against itself too well (As expected) by giving Jerry a great amount of regenerative abilities and speed. The writers couldn’t think their way out of that one. If you want a good horror film, check out Poltergeist 3. It’s actually a lot better than you would expect.