Director Craig Gillespie does a terrific job of balancing serious storytelling with the fact that a vampire hiding out in Las Vegas is absolutely absurd.
We go to the movies for all sorts of reasons. One of them is just to escape for two hours and have fun. Fright Night is the perfect movie for that purpose because, though it is over-the-top and ridiculous, it is never mindless or dumb. Like so many movies released in 2011, Fright Night is a remake. Although based on the campy ‘80s horror flick of the same name, the new Fright Night stands on its own merit because the movie never takes itself too seriously. It’s quite entertaining, in fact, with numerous references to its B-movie roots and dry, caustic humor.
The movie is set in a suburb of Las Vegas, in a quiet, cookie-cutter neighborhood that is arranged in a perfect grid. At the center of this little island of domiciles is Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a high school kid who is on the cusp of popularity after years of geekiness. His goddess of a girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), likes his awkwardness, but he is forever worrying that his new popular friends will eventually realize his true past as a nerd.
Charley’s troubles start when a friend from his previous life, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), begins to suspect that Charley’s new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a vampire. Ed is the epitome of nerd-dom and so, in an effort to placate him and avoid any embarrassing stories being unveiled, Charley agrees to investigate. At first Charley doesn’t believe any of Ed’s ranting (who’s ever heard of Jerry the Vampire?), but when Ed goes missing, Charley realizes that he may have been on to something.
Jerry is handsome, mysterious and quite reluctant to enter a house without being invited. These are not good signs, as far as Charley is concerned. As much as Charley is studying Jerry, Jerry is getting to know Charley and his mother, Jane (Toni Collette). With no other choices for help, Charley goes to meet the preeminent expert on vampires, magician/entertainer Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who ends up being less than helpful, leaving Charley in a bad position.
Director Craig Gillespie, who directed the wonderful Lars and the Real Girl, does a terrific job of balancing serious storytelling with the fact that a vampire hiding out in Las Vegas is absolutely absurd. Filmed in 3D, Fright Night uses the new and improved technology just like they did in the good old days of the red-and-blue paper glasses. Instead of trying to subtly using 3D, Gillespie draws full attention to it, making it seem like we’re watching a late night horror marathon.
The film isn’t just one big nod to the corny scary movies of the ‘80s, though. Screenwriter Marti Noxon, who has mainly worked on television projects thus far (including Buffy the Vampire Slayer), has created a compelling and interesting story with a hero the audience will actually root for. Yelchin is one of the finest young actors working today and his role in this movie just solidifies the fact that he is going to be around for a long time. He has been wisely balancing his work between big and small budget, comedies and dramas, but no matter what type of role he’s playing he is always the most charismatic person on screen (even opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Charlie Bartlett).
Farrell, who is having a major career revival, is perfectly cast as Jerry. Since exploding into Hollywood in the early part of the 2000s, he has always matched his good looks with solid performances. From the first time we see him, Farrell plays Jerry as constantly humored by humans and how we behave. He hunts Charley like a cat would a mouse, batting him back and forth just for fun. Gillespie lets the tension build all the way up to the surprisingly satisfying final act, a huge improvement on the original film. | Matthew Newlin