Fright Night: Film Review
A steady supply of spiky humor and a game cast keep director Craig Gillespie’s film cooking most of the way, says THR film critic Todd McCarthy.
The second release in two weeks (after Glee: The 3D Concert Movie) to do next to nothing with its 3D format, Fright Night is nonetheless a moderately amusing remake of the well-liked 1985 original about a teenager who discovers a vampire has moved in next door. A steady supply of spiky humor and a game cast keep this cooking most of the way, though the pacing could have been tighter and the film seems as if it’s about to end two or three times before it actually does. The Disney release from DreamWorks looks to scare up some tasty box office through the waning days of summer.
Largely faithful to Tom Holland’s original film, right down to the names of the main characters, director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) and screenwriter Marti Noxon set the action in a godforsaken tract housing development outside Las Vegas, an effectively isolated location that also accommodates the change of the vampire-slayer character from an old Hollywood actor (played by Roddy McDowall 26 years ago) to the goth-garbed star of a gaudy Vegas act (a wonderfully vulgar David Tennant).
This time around, Anton Yelchin plays Charley Brewster, a good-looking high-schooler who has graduated from geekdom to date comely Amy (Imogen Poots) and warn his horny single mom (Toni Collette) to stay away from Jerry (Colin Farrell), their dramatically handsome new neighbor.
“That’s a terrible vampire name, Jerry!” Charley objects to the ultra-dweeby Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but much as Charley wants to distance himself from his uncool old pal, he finally admits that Ed is correct in assigning blame for the disappearance of several students to the dietary preferences of the mysterious newcomer.
Fright Night repays its presumed debt to the Twilight franchise for getting remade by cracking jokes about it, and it even shares the same cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe, with The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Far removed from the strict dress code and sense of decorum associated with Bela Lugosi and his Old Europe brethren, Jerry is unquestionably a member of the new breed of vampires; he shows he’s buff in a tight T-shirt, consumes things other than blood (beer and apples, at least), doesn’t turn into a bat, keeps victims in torture rooms in his house and puts little effort into hiding his identity. After 300 years on Earth, he’s undoubtedly subdued greater foes than the teenage population of this forlorn outpost of humanity.
Desperately seeking a way to kill off the increasingly threatening Jerry, Charley approaches the renowned Peter Vincent (Tennant), a behavioral cousin of Russell Brand’s character in Get Him to the Greek, whose Vegas Strip vampire-hunter act has seen better days. Vincent waves off the youngster’s claims of having found a real vampire, but the dissipated Brit does have the tools needed to turn Jerry to dust. None is quite as arresting as one makeshift weapon with which Charley’s mother at one point runs through Jerry — a Century 21 sign on a post. Talk about creative product placement.
All along, it seems that the film will contrive to have the vampire finally killed as part of Peter’s stage show; alas, this is not the case. Still, lots of good-looking teen characters (as well as a few others) receive punctured necks, some are happily resurrected from the purgatory of vampiredom and enough cheeky humor is dispensed to placate the horror-inclined.
Yelchin and Poots make for an attractive lead couple who are keen to lose their virginity but find constant distractions getting in their way. Farrell doesn’t have to work hard at it but is both charismatic and quite humorous as the irresistible and ever-resourceful bloodsucker. Seven or eight minutes could have been profitably trimmed from the second half, and the score didn’t need to pound home every shock.
Three-dimensional effects are limited to such silliness as blood and other fluids hurling toward the viewer and stakes and other pointy objects threatening to poke your eyes out.