by Ryan Hill
Released in 1985, the original “Fright Night” may not have been the best horror film to come out of the ’80s, but it’s certainly among the best.
Combining all that was great about horror films from that decade, the film perfectly toed the line between serious and cheesy, all while having some fun with vampire mythology and rubber makeup in the process. In short, remaking this little gem of a horror movie is no small feat.
The remake retains the original plot structure: Charley, a teenager (Anton Yelchin), living with his single mother (Toni Collette), begins to suspect his new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a vampire. The setting has been moved from Iowa to Las Vegas, which is a brilliant move. In a city of freaks, who’s going to believe a vampire has just come to town?
Not even Charley believes at first, as he’s too busy canoodling with his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), to listen to his nerdy friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), even though Ed has video evidence to prove Jerry is most likely a vampire. It’s only after Jerry attacks Ed that Charley starts to think something may be amiss in his neighborhood, and that’s when the fun begins.
“Fright Night” does everything a good remake should do. It remains faithful and pays homage to the original while improving and modernizing certain aspects of the film, all while having the confidence to take certain ideas even further, in this case the vampire mythology. Some of the most fun in the film is when Charley tries to test out the rules – especially that vampires have to be invited into one’s home to be able to enter – with Jerry.
Director Craig Gillespie, who last directed the touching “Lars and the Real Girl,” lends a deft touch to the film, allowing for a throwback horror film that lets talented actors do the heavy lifting instead of trying to be overly stylish (unlike so many remakes have been lately, namely any of the trash produced by Michael Bay).
This throwback style allows for “Fright Night” to actually be scary at points, which is basically whenever Farrell is on screen. He turns in probably the most menacing performance of his career – playing Jerry equal parts cool and dangerous, he’s like a wild animal that lets you pet it at one moment and the next it’s ripping your throat out.
On the other end of the spectrum is David Tenant as Peter Vincent, a Criss Angel-like Vegas performer whom Charley enlists to help dispatch Jerry. Tenant eats up the screen as Vincent, chewing up as much scenery as he can, providing “Fright Night” with the comic touch it needs to keep it from becoming too brooding.
Unfortunately the other co-stars, mainly Collette and Mintz-Plasse, don’t have quite as much to do as they could, but Farrell and Tenant both have enough screen presence that it’s hard to notice that Evil Ed, one of the iconic characters from the original, is missing for most of the film.
“Fright Night” is one hell of a good time, but like so many movies that are released nowadays the 3-D quality is poor, which makes some scenes almost too dark to understand. The 3-D blood squirts look a little too cheesy as well, but seeing the film in 2-D would surely correct these problems.
Many critics out there have praised “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” as the surprise movie of the summer. They may have been a week early in bestowing that title. “Fright Night” is a fun, scary thrill ride that is arguably not only the best remake of an ’80s horror film, but also a satisfying horror film that stands on its own two legs and, unlike the scary-but-little-else “Insidious,” one people would want to see more than once.
Grade: 3.5/4 stars