The 1985 “Fright Night” was a make-up artist’s dream, less a nightmare horror than a bloody comedy. Its sequel was excessively serious and silly in all the wrong places. The 2011 reboot gets back to the good stuff.
Anton Yelchin stars as Charley, a former geek whose budding relationship with high school hottie Amy (Imogen Poots) has transformed his social life. That all changes when Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door and students start disappearing. Not long after, Charley realizes that Jerry isn’t a night-owl working in Vegas, he’s a vampire drinking his way through the neighborhood. At the same time, Jerry realizes Charley’s on to him. So begins the chase. With the help of Vegas showman and vampire scholar Peter Vincent (David Tennant), Charley sets out to kill Jerry, before those he loves become the vampire’s next victims.
Remakes generally fail to match the original. This one succeeds. It keeps its inspiration’s premise and major plot points, while taking liberties with the connecting story arcs. Screenwriter Marti Noxon‘s story emphasizes the personal histories of Jerry and Charley, where Tom Holland‘s originals were more interested in helping their horny teen lead get laid. A few of the details though – Jerry still eats apples for no reason – remain to satisfy fans of the first film.
Director Craig Gillespie‘s film is a bloody mess, as vampire movies are want to be. But the gore and effects are only slightly gross, and are mostly just a gimmick. Gillespie avoids sudden scares, sticking with the classic tension of the hunter and the hunted. One scene, where Jerry stands just outside of Charley’s house, talking to him, trying to get Charley to invite him in, is particularly gripping. Vampires can’t enter a house uninvited. It’s just one of the rules that Gillespie toys with nicely.
Yelchin’s Charley is much geekier than William Ragsdale‘s, and much more genuine. He’s just coming into his cool, and he’s still uncomfortable around Amy’s preppy friends, while his interactions with childhood buddy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) are natural and funny. As the reality of his predicament sets in, the fake personality is washed away and he becomes a vampire hunter we can root for.
Firth’s vampire is manly, unrefined and fights dirty. He’s a good-looking hunk, with a nasty appetite, and Firth seems to relish the role. Tennant’s Peter Vincent is the most unlike his 80s inspiration. A mix of Russell Brand and Chris Angel, Tennant’s showman Vincent is a fun recasting of the academic TV show host of the 80s film.
The ending’s a bit drawn out as Vincent toys with his prey, but Tennant’s Brit wit keeps things light. Complete with a lot of blood and a fun soundtrack, this remake should leave you satisfied, if not thirsty for more.