Title: Fright Night
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Toni Collette
As we’re drowning in a flood of big screen remakes, we ask ourselves time and time again; is it worth it? In Fright Night‘s case, yes. As we’re drowning in a flood of 3D features, we ask ourselves time and time again; is it worth it? In Fright Night‘s case, no, but, luckily for director Craig Gillespie, he’s working with some solid source material and an absolutely stellar cast, both with the power to stake that extra dimension right in the heart. If only it’d burn up and evaporate for good.
For anyone familiar with the Tom Holland original, this synopsis is a bit redundant as Gillespie’s Fright Night is quite similar. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is your average teen living with his loving mother (Toni Collette) in a quaint little neighborhood – that is until Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell) moves in next door and rips out the locals’ throats as he pleases. Why? Because Charley’s new neighbor is a vampire.
Peter Vincent (David Tennant) is still present and accounted for, but now he hosts “Fright Night” the live stage production, chugs Midori and dons skintight leather pants. When Jerry snatches up a couple of Charley’s friends, Charley’s got no choice but to head to the Vegas Strip to get some advice from the showman. Too bad the act is primarily a façade and Vincent lacks the nerve to put his extensive weaponry collection to use. With no one to turn to, Charley’s mother and girlfriend, Amy’s (Imogen Poots), lives are in his hands.
Fright Night’s opening sequence provides an excellent taste of what you’re in for; a vampire film that isn’t particularly scary. Sure, the 1985 movie is a horror comedy and offers a nice amalgamation of the genres, but this updated version definitely highlights its funny bone. While the favoritism makes for a weak opening, Fright Night is amusing enough to carry on as a comedy with a little grit and gore to it.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is one of the funnier of the bunch as Charley’s ex-best friend, Ed. Ed holds a grudge after Charley ditches their geeky past for cooler friends, but when another buddy, Adam (Will Denton), goes missing, Ed turns to Charley for help in hopes he’ll believe his vampire theory. Sure enough, he doesn’t. Think about that for a moment; Mintz-Plasse as the school nerd attempting to convince someone that vampires are real; the role is made for him and Mintz-Plasse seizes the opportunity. He works wonders with the friendly, but testy banter between Ed and Charley and, later on, has no trouble switching gears to show off his darker side. Tennant also earns some laughs embellishing Vincent’s idiosyncrasies, but he’s held back by his character’s cliché rock star woes – a drinking problem, hard exterior but soft core and childhood troubles.
As for our leading ladies, only one matters, Poots. Collette does a fine job as Charley’s mother, Jane, but the role is particularly menial. Poots, on the other hand, is right by Charley’s side from beginning to end, and thrives on some rather original traits and solid chemistry with Yelchin. Amy isn’t your average teen movie girlfriend; she’s got sass and a mind of her own. Rather than care for the couple because they seem to fit together in idealistic movie land, Charley and Amy work on an impressively authentic and charming level.
Plus, her main man is quite endearing. Yelchin is an ideal Charley Brewster. He’s sweet and loving, yet it’s entirely believable when watching him lock and load to defend the women he loves. Yelchin has an exceptional amount of range when it comes to working with his co-stars. He establishes a solid mother-son relationship with Collette, lets the sparks fly with Poots and turns on the wit when bickering with Mintz-Plasse. But, best of all, he’s got quite the opponent in Farrell. Farrell has an absolute blast as Jerry. It shows and it’s also very appropriate. Part of the reason the new Fright Night works so well with its more comedic twist is because of its unintentionally funny Jerry. Jerry enjoys tormenting his victims in the most outlandish ways. Farrell is a thrill when showing off his supernatural vampire skills and is surprisingly just as compelling when exercising his intellect in a one-on-one conversation.
The acting is top notch and the writing solid enough to earn your interest; the problems are in the visuals. There is absolutely no reason for this movie to be in 3D. As many scenes take place during the night, quite a few are frustratingly dark. Plus, the only time the 3D is even noticeable is when it’s too noticeable, like when Gillespie makes a conscious decision to throw a paint can or cross in your face. But, even if the film lost the extra dimension, it’d still have technical problems. Sure, Fright Night establishes itself as more of a comedy than horror film, but some of the effects are a bit too cartoonish. There’s a car chase scene that feels more like one of those virtual reality rides in an amusement park than multi-million dollar special effects work.
Still, these are only minor distractions in a primarily enjoyable piece. It’s labeled a modern take on the 1985 original and that’s exactly what we’ve got – a hot new location, better makeup design, subpar yet more realistic effects, pop culture references, Twilight namedropping and a contemporary soundtrack. As fantastical as the piece is, it’s oddly relatable and just too much fun to dismiss.