The opening moments of Fright Night set the film’s tone. Like the original 1985 film, Fright Night features a vampire as its protagonist and puts him front and center. Since the first film premiered, vampires — courtesy of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries — are more drawn to love voraciously than they are vicious. Not so in the world of Fright Night, and as embodied by Colin Farrell, the fanged foes to mankind possess an utter disdain for humans that manifests itself in an almost perpetual people-killing modus operandi.
In Fright Night 2011, Anton Yelchin is Charley Brewster. Charley lives in the suddenly vacant suburbs of Las Vegas. In reality, the housing market crash hurt few communities as it decimated Sin City. Charley lives in a Steven Spielberg-esque neighborhood with more realty company signs than citizens. Fright Night brings that fact home immediately as Brewster’s real estate selling mother (Toni Collette) has a trunk full of her own “for sale” signage.
Charley is suddenly cool, successfully abandoning his geek past. The ever-presence of his enormously popular girlfriend leaves his former best friend Ed (Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse) filled with rage. When Ed first approaches Charley about friends who have been missing for days, Charley discounts it.
Enter Colin Farrell at his fangtastic best as Jerry. The actor lets loose and relishes his moments on screen while creating a character that is equally sexy and sinister.
Jerry is spooky enough to raise Charley’s concern when his single mother shows obvious attraction, he has an instant ire towards his new neighbor. Clues abound that the man next door is not what he seems and in fact may be a cold-blooded killer known to the rest of the world as a vampire.
Tackling a beloved classic is always a difficult endeavor for any creative team behind a remake. When that film is also considered to lie in the upper echelons of a specific genre, the hill to climb mounts. What Fright Night director Craig Gillespie has done has created a film that stands on its own as one of its genre’s greats. Gillespie’s film is funny, fierce and fathoms itself in the most astute of ways.
The pace is intense. It doesn’t waste any time in both giving the audience its horror movie gasp moments while still firmly establishing characters so the audience can be enamored or electrified by the cast.
Evidence of that fact in the most powerful of ways is the work of David Tennant as Peter Vincent. In the original film, Vincent was a late night horror movie TV host who purports to be an expert on all things that go bump in the night. Roddy McDowall landed himself in horror movie hall of fame status with his work as Vincent. In the Fright Night update, Tennant is Vincent, a man who is a Criss Angel type magician whose show utilizes his supposed experience in mastering the supernatural to entertain.
The scenes between Tennant and Yelchin are electric. The movie lies on Yelchin’s shoulders. The young actor excels in channeling the spectrum of performance emotion. Within the film’s first hour, Yelchin exhibits teenaged oppression, euphoria over acceptance, killer curiosity, terror and triumph. Meanwhile, Tennant channels all of the aforementioned qualities — even teenaged oppression as his character is less than mature — yet in a manic meets melodic manner.
Fright Night is great fun. Even the fact that it is in 3D, a format that some audiences may be growing a little tired of, is brought into the story as an almost character. There’s a car chase scene where Farrell’s vampire is driving his macho truck into Yelchin’s family van where the audience feels every collision. That is indicative of how Fright Night is sinister in its scariness as well. The film uses every possible means to take a story that has been told before, and builds on its successes while crafting their own cinematic legacy.