‘Fright Night’ stylishly modernizes cult classic
UPDATED – Yes, “Fright Night” is a remake. And yes, the word “remake” is wont to leave an awful taste in your mouth and your soul wounded. But, in a refreshing break from the lazy norm, this version of “Fright Night” deftly pays homage to the original without succumbing to the malaise of campy spoof-ism or rigid adherence.
Leaping into the 21st century (there’s even a reference to “Twilight”), “Fright Night” prefers to utilize gory digital effects to the original’s more nuanced spook factor. Even so, with its actually violent vampires and witty humor, the film manages to keep audiences laughing and jumping. (The latter may be better attributed to the 3-D effects.)
Hewing closely to the 1985 tongue-in-cheek classic, our lead, nerd-gone-cool kid Charley (Anton Yelchin, “Star Trek”), has misgivings regarding his seductive and mysterious new neighbor, Jerry, played by a feline, snarling Colin Farrell.
But Charley, after being prodded by a scorned nerdy friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, “Superbad”), soon stumbles upon a dangerous discovery: Jerry is a vampire. With his darting eyes and natural charm, Farrell (again reveling in a comedic role, e.g. “Horrible Bosses”) emphasizes Jerry’s menace enough to remind us this is satire, but not enough to ruin the underlying creepiness. Even with a name like Jerry.
And if you’re thinking, “As if a vampire would live next door to me,” well, you haven’t watched enough “True Blood.” But even ignoring that, the setting — an overly developed suburban housing complex outside Las Vegas — serves as a fantastic locale. Vegas is a transient hub, with people coming and going nonstop, with those who do reside there often working night jobs and sleeping all day. The swath of abandoned houses (which may be a nod to the current housing market) is an ideal hideout for a blood-sucking denizen of the night.
With The Strip illuminating the backdrop, Charley frantically tries to protect him and his against the forces of the undead. But, not surprisingly, no one believes him about Jerry subsisting on a liquid diet. Instead, everyone is instantly charmed by the handsome neighbor. That includes the beautiful Amy (Imogen Poots), Charlie’s popular girlfriend, and his smitten mother, Jane (Toni Collette).
Coalescing well with the humor, director Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”) and writer Marti Noxon (“Mad Men,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) create a palpable tension, using vampire lore readily but waiting until the last possible second to reveal what ancient protections actually work against vampires.
Seeking the aid of someone who supposedly has experience in slaying the undead, Charley turns to a scene-stealing David Tennant. Channeling Russell Brand, Tennant adds his own touch of sleaze to the jaded, leather-clad, Midori-laden superstar. And what a wonderful, raucous touch it is.
All in all, “Fright Night” was surprisingly good. That’s not to say the cult classic needed to be remade. But if you’re going to do it, at least do it right. (And yes, that involves having a vampire who drinks human blood and kills without batting an eyelash. “Twilight,” I’m looking at you … ) For fans of the original, you won’t be disappointed. To newcomers, bring a stake and some holy water: It’s gonna be a long night.
Four bloody stars out of five.
Four bloody stars out of five.