For those of you who just can’t abide the thought of yet another 80s movie remake (after the fair-to-miserable The Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) fear not. We finally have a good one.
Fright Night is a rehash of the campy horror/comedy from 1985, but it winds up doing something almost miraculous in this day and age– improving on the original. It actually ends up being a lot closer to a fun, scary(ish) mix of Zombieland and Scream (with, you know, vampires), and that’s a pretty good mix.
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a teenager living in the suburbs outside Las Vegas who discovers that his new next door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a full-on vampire. Aware that no one would believe him if he shared that information, Charley decides to battle Jerry himself, stockpiling crosses, garlic, and wooden stakes like they’re going out of style. When things finally get out of hand, Charley enlists the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Vegas showman and professed vampire expert.
Pretty soon everyone is in mortal danger, including Charley’s single mom Jane (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), and it all culminates with a big ol’ battle, during which you half-expect to see a few of Zombieland‘s trademark ‘Rules’ pop up onscreen.
Director Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock) obviously has a sense of reverence for the source material, but it didn’t cloud his ability to see where some obvious improvements could be made. The camp and silliness from the 1985 version are gone, replaced with some great tension, quite a few ‘gotcha’ moments, and A-list performances all around. There’s a bit of a fun, comedic undertone that permeates, but there’s nothing that even remotely could be called goofy or flat-out stupid.
The star of the show is Farrell, who is now on a bit of a (mini) roll after this and his hilarious turn in last month’s Horrible Bosses; I doubt he’s had more fun in his career than with these two parts. In Fright Night, he hits a home run as Jerry (and, yes, appropriate amounts of ridicule are hurled at that name throughout). He almost comes off as a guy who’s been forced to watch one too many Twilight movies and just wants to show how to enjoy playing a vampire.
Yelchin is also solid, along with Collette and Poots, and Tennant channels Russell Brand and Criss Angel equally to great effect. Even McLovin’ himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, gets in on the fun as Charley’s geeky friend.
And then there’s the brilliant cameo (for fans of the original) that comes about half-way in, during the mini-van chase scene.
The biggest issue here (as is often the case these days) is with the 3D. There are more than a handful of gimmicky bits that work (blood spurting at the camera, etc.) but those moments are so sporadic that they don’t even begin to justify it. Coupled with the head-scratching fact that you’re wearing sunglasses in a movie that takes places mostly in the dark of night, you’ll start to wonder what the producers were thinking. (Oh yeah… money.)
I’m not ready to say we’ve begun a trend of good 80s remakes (Lord knows I’m not yet entirely on board with the Step Up-ified Footloose remake coming in October), but all in all, there’s very little to complain about with Fright Night.