Review: “Fright Night”
Vampires used to be scary. No seriously, hear me out. Oh sure nowadays vampires are emotionally tortured softies who long for true love and half-off sales of hair product. But there was a time, not so long ago when vampires were much more interested in eating your face than talking about their feelings.
The 1980s cult classic “Fright Night” featured such a vampire, one who landed in suburbia and had to square off against a horror-movie-obsessed teen and a washed up actor in a battle to the death that featured as many laughs as it did scares. Now in 2011 “Fright Night” has returned and managed the rare feat of being a worthy remake that honors the spirit of the original while giving fans something new to sink their teeth into.
Cunningly set in the soulless track housing of the Las Vegas suburbs (Vegas has suburbs? Who knew?) we find our teenaged vampire slayer Charlie Brewster now played by Anton Yelchin. Charlie’s life is a fairly content one. In spite of an absent father, he has a good relationship with his mom (the ever-engaging Toni Collette) a respectable level of popularity and an exceptionally cute girlfriend named Amy (Imogen Poots).
All is well until Charley’s nerdy buddy Ed (Mclovin himself Christopher Mintz-Plasse), becomes convinced that Charley’s new next-door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell, who seems to be having the time of his life with this role) is an undead killing machine.
Charley is naturally skeptical until Ed disappears and he finally witnesses Jerry in all his vampire glory. With no one to turn to for help Charley tracks down the one person he thinks will believe him, Vegas magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant) who boasts of powers of the occult and numerous vampire conquests.
Naturally Peter is a drunken fraud, but he does unwittingly possess a lot of helpful information. “Fright Night” then punches the accelerator as Charley leads Amy, his mom and a reluctant Peter through some thrilling action set pieces as they face off against the seemingly unstoppable Jerry.
“Fright Night” boasts all the fun and depth of an amusement park haunted house. Plus it knows its audience as its got nerd-cred for days. Yelchin starred as Chekov in the “Star Trek” reboot, Tennant spent several seasons as Doctor Who and the script was penned by Marti Noxon who was a writer/producer on the beloved television version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” By rounding out the cast with Farrell and Collette we get some decent actors in pivotal roles, giving the movie just enough weight so as not to spin off into pure camp silliness.
Director Craig Gillespie carries a limited resume with his only previous features being the sweet and quirky “Lars and the Real Girl” and the completely forgettable comedy “Mr. Woodcock.” Here Gillespie wisely leans on Noxon’s lively script, but also does an admirable job of balancing tension, action, horror and comedy by pushing all the right buttons at all the right times.
“Fright Night” is being shown in totally unnecessary 3D, so you would be wise to save your dollars as the movie is entirely enjoyable in regular ol’ two dimensions. With school back in session and Labor Day not far off, this is the perfect film for the end of summer as movie fans look to squeeze one last drop of popcorn-fueled fun out of what has been a bit of an underwhelming summer at the box office.
And hey, simply seeing a vampire on screen who would rather be ripping out throats than moping around is worth the price of admission for me.
“Fright Night” is rated R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references.