Craig Gillespie’s remake of Tom Holland’s 1985 emerging cult classic Fright Night is in theaters this weekend. I briefly talk about the original here, praising the surprisingly sincere performances in the genre film and in this review it’s inevitable that I’ll compare the two versions. But the remake thankfully has a lot of good ideas going for it.
Instead of being a story about an individual, protagonist Charlie Brewster’s (Anton Yelchin) problems are equally felt by his off-Vegas neighborhood. He is aware of but doesn’t take too close notice of his neighbors ‘moving out’ as well as kids in his class skipping school. Seeing these things, the audience’s minds might think about major, zeitgeist-y issues such as foreclosures and antisocial adolescent behavior, but his distant friend Ed’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) better idea is to blame Charlie’s new next door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) who is, to Ed, undoubtedly a vampire killing off the families. This isn’t the first time a vampire is blamed for a community’s downfall, with Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” arguably warning its readers of the evils of capitalism for example.
Charlie responds adequately to his situation and we can say more about his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) in that respect. In both versions, Charlie has a problem consummating his relationship with Amy because of external sexual threats. He seems as if he can’t handle Jerry, looking like he’s enduring exam week, but eventually he fights like a man, learning something from the vampire’s hyper-masculinity. There’s also a stability in Amy, noticing Jerry’s good looks but instantly returning to her ‘man.’ She insists on being a ‘partner’ instead of being just a ‘girlfriend,’ effectively telling Charlie that he has to tell her the truth or that these events are not his fault. She also schools him, for example, when he condescendingly explaining some vampire terms like ‘turning.’ She tries to fight Jerry away, and we believe, when she ‘turns,’ that this is not the ‘real’ Amy that Charlie knows.
A duel-like situation ensues between Yelchin and Farrell, the latter using his puppy eyes and transforming himself into an animal, yet he’s horrendous when opening his mouth. And unlike the original, where most of the actors get to play off each other, the minor characters are only given segments of the film to shine. It would have been nice if it doesn’t take an hour into the film before we get to see Charlie consult vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant), the latter looking like a cross between Criss Angel and Russell brand, having a hilariously palatable love-hate rapport with his girlfriend Ginger (Sandra Vergara). Mintz-Plasse’s is tolerable as Ed until he disappears for forty minutes and returns in the film’s last scenes as a terrible actor. And the talented Toni Collette, playing Charlie’s mother, is as casual with her son as the original mom but still underused.
This darkly-lit movie is also in 3D and at first it looks like the objects on the screen’s foreground have weight and volume unlike the diorama-like aesthetics of other 3D films this year. But as usual the vampiric dust and smoke and garish CG effects make the film look blurry, like someone’s really cloudy soup.