When I read that “Fright Night” was a remake of a 1985 film of the same name, I groaned inwardly because I am so damn tired of remakes that I want to break something. But then when I learned that the film (I did not see the original.) was about vampires, I groaned audibly because the last few movies of this genre have really sucked and not in a good way.
Well, it turns out that I was pleasantly surprised because (Watch out for the negatives here.) not only does “Fright Night” not suck, but it also is one of the classiest vampire movies I’ve seen in a long time. Unfortunately, the film did have one major drawback for me, but we’ll get to that shortly.
High school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) lives with his divorced mother (Toni Collette) in a small development surrounded by the desert on the outskirts of Las Vegas. While he was growing up, his best friend was Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but now that Charley is dating Amy (Imogen Poots), the hottest girl in school, he is running with a different crowd and doesn’t want much to do with Ed. In fact, Ed keeps calling and texting Charley, who refuses to return his former friend’s attempts at communication.
Finally Ed corners Charley at school and manages to tell him that he thinks that one their mutual friends has disappeared and may be the victim of foul play at the hands of vampires. At first Charley scoffs at the idea, but Ed persists, and finally Charley agrees to help Ed look for him.
In the meantime, Charley’s mom is irresistibly attracted to Jerry (Colin Farrell), the hunky new guy who has just moved in next door. Jerry is a bit strange because he has a huge dumpster in his front yard, and his windows are blacked out, but he is so good looking that Charley’s mom is willing to overlook his idiosyncrasies.
Charley finally becomes convinced that there are vampires roaming around in his neighborhood, and he suspects that Jerry just might be one of them. Of course, his mother thinks that this is preposterous and dismisses Charley’s theory as the product of her son’s overly active imagination. But then Charley notices some things about Jerry that make him positive Jerry is a bloodsucker, and then the fun begins because Charley sets out to get rid of his fanged neighbor.
So in lieu of calling 1-800-Vampsgo, how do you get rid of a vampire? Well, Charley decides to enlist the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a popular Las Vegas illusionist and the star of a show titled “Fright Night.” Peter is a bit of an eccentric, but he does know a lot about vampire lore, and so it’s game on for Charley and his new ally.
The main thing that sets “Fright Night” apart from the run-of-the-blood vampire films is that it is able to establish and maintain suspense without relying mostly on gallons of fake blood and an overabundance of tasteless gore. This is not to say that the film is devoid of these two elements, but they aren’t excessive the way they are in so many movies of the genre.
The film also achieves a nice blend of creepiness and humor. For example, Peter is a really bizarre character, and Tennant certainly makes the most of his opportunity to portray him.
And there is some very good banter throughout the movie. Charley lives across the street from a voluptuous blonde stripper named Doris (Emily Montague), and one day when he arrives home, she is putting out her trashcans. Doris is dressed in a low-cut top that reveals a generous amount of cleavage and hot pink, hip-hugging sweatpants. After she says hello to Charley, she turns around and sashays up her driveway, and Charley cannot take his eyes off her shapely derriere with “Lucky” written across the back of the sweats.
When Charley’s mom catches him gaping at Doris, she says, “Hey kid, don’t leer at the neighbors.”
And Charley fires back, “Hey, she’s the one who put the word on her butt. I’m just reading it.”
The acting is consistently good throughout the film, and Farrell is excellent in the dual role of the handsome guy next door and an insatiable bloodsucker. His transitions between the two parts are extremely smooth, and in the production notes he explained that he was a bit apprehensive about the role of Jerry at first because he loved the original film so much.
“I was eleven or twelve years old the first time I saw ‘Fright Night.’ I don’t want to say it’s sacrosanct, but in a way it is, and it’s kind of perfect in its own form. So I was frustrated when I read Marti’s Noxon’s script because it was so good I really wanted to do it! Just like the original, it seemed to straddle the line between horror and a kind of sweet tongue-in-cheek comedy.”
Along with Farrell, it is up to Yelchin to carry the film, and he does so beautifully. In the production notes, he explained what he liked about the film.
“I liked the relationships in the story. Charley versus Jerry, Charley and his girlfriend, whom he must protect, Charley and the friend who he has shunned, are all interesting elements. With Craig Gillespie at the helm, we got to develop the nuances of all the relationships.”
“Fright Night” should please fans of vampire movies everywhere, and although I liked it well enough, there was one thing about it that really bothered me. Many of the action scenes were shot in such subdued lighting that it often was difficult to see what is going on. Now I know it’s a vampire movie and that those critters come out at night, but at least give the scenes enough lighting that we can see what is happening without having to guess about it. For this reason, the film earns a final score of six and one-half.
Of course the next big vampire film on the horizon is another installment of the seemingly endless “Twilight” saga, but I think “Fright Night” offers moviegoers a much better suckfest than “Twilight.