Anton Yelchin has arrived. The young actor, who had memorable roles in 2009’s “Star Trek” and this year’s “The Beaver,” has had featured roles in films like “Charlie Bartlett” and “Alpha Dog” but he’s never really had a star vehicle that helped make him a household name. However, his new role as a teenager who suspects that his neighbor is a vampire in the fun horror-comedy “Fright Night” could change that.
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In this remake of the 1985 film, Yelchin plays a teenager named Charley Brewster who lives with his single mother in the Las Vegas suburbs. After he starts dating a beautiful girl in school, he’s become extremely popular and spends much of his time avoiding his former friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Ed is considered a dork by his classmates so Charley doesn’t want to be seen even talking to him. However, after threatening to tell others about Charley’s embarrassing youth, Ed gets a chance to talk to Charley and warn him that his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire who has been hunting down some of their classmates.
After Ed goes missing himself, Charley starts to investigate the theory. He watches Jerry out the window, trying to figure out what his new neighbor is up to. When Jerry wants to borrow some alcohol from Charley, Charley tries to find out if Jerry can enter his home without being invited first, a test to see if Jerry is a real vampire. That scene arrives with a quiet tension that underlies the relationship between the two neighbors. Unfortunately, scenes like that are few and far between as the mystery is soon solved and Charley discovers the truth rather quickly about his neighbor’s true intentions.
Like Shia LaBeouf in 2007’s “Disturbia,” Yelchin proves to be a likeable and empathetic leading man. His relationship with Ed is one of the film’s strongest elements. Both of these young actors have strong dialogue and seem to be having fun acting together onscreen. It’s unfortunate, though, that many of the other supporting characters are underwritten. Toni Collette, as Charley’s mother, isn’t given a lot to do here and I was even disappointed in Farrell’s underwhelming performance. Pardon the pun, but Farrell is given a juicy role to bite into but fails to take advantage of it. In “Disturbia,” David Morse brought a quiet intensity to his role as a mysterious neighbor but Farrell fails to do much here.
Despite its flaws, “Fright Night” is still genuinely creepy and has a few funny moments. Casting Mintz-Plasse was an inspired choice and his scenes are some of the film’s best. The screenplay, which is based on the original, was written by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” producer Marti Noxon. Noxon brings the same style of “Buffy” to “Night,” mixing strong thrills with a few great laughs.
Overall, “Fright Night” is worth seeing for horror fans. The thrills work and so do the impressive 3D effects. I just wish that some of the supporting characters had more of a chance to shine in it.