No matter what other people may tell you about me, I walk into every film with an approach similar to everyone else’s in the theater. I want the movie to please me; to entertain me in some way, shape or form. And while I try to keep my expectations in check, I like to think my hopes for horror movies are reasonable: I want big scares, uneasy laughs and a ton of fun involved. “Fright Night” is indeed good for a few scares and a few laughs, but I am not quite sure if there is enough of either to really push it into great midnight movie territory. Still, I am glad I saw it.
The film begins with a high-schooler named Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) who is desperately trying to uphold his new reputation with the popular crowd. He is dating one of the cute popular girls (Imogen Poots) and hangs out with some of those arrogant tools that somehow pass the “cool test” between grades nine and twelve. Charley has essentially abandoned his old life as a socially shunned, science-fiction loving dweeb that he led with Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whose mental development seems to have ended before his adolescent years.
Ed is suspicious as to why the number of absentees in school is rising drastically and he convinces the reluctant Charley to come along with him and investigate the unexplained disappearance of their geeky friend from the old days. Charley sees nothing wrong here, but Ed surprisingly knows what he is talking about. There is a ravenous vampire prowling the streets and upsetting the tranquil suburban area by offing its targets one by one. And the bad news is that it just so happens to be living right next door to the Brewster family.
And when I say vampire, I am talking about legitimate, down to the core, old-school vampires back when they weren’t busy fighting against werewolves or being idealized as teen romance novel archetypes. “Fright Night” has vampires returning to their truest and most effectively nefarious forms: human blood is an important part of their diet, their reflections do not appear in mirrors or on camera, and they will burst into flames when sunlight hits their blanched white skin. The film even brings back the old mythology that the creatures of the night cannot enter somebody’s abode unless they are invited inside, something that is often forgotten by the age groups of the film’s protagonists. But Ed didn’t forget about it. My guess is that he saw “Let The Right One In,” too.
The vampire next door is named Jerry (seriously) and is played by Colin Farrell in what is a pretty fun role for what it is. With an Eddie Munster haircut and skin the color of slate rock, Jerry is a charmingly predatory individual who uses his soft words to lure his victims in like bait to fish. I liked Farrell’s performance in this, as he may be the most passive and mellow bloodsucker I remember in the movies in quite some time. I especially enjoyed an exchange where Jerry tries to carry on a small conversation with Charley while having to tolerantly stand behind the doorsill, as he has not been invited into the home.
So as you may expect, Charley ends up finding out the unbelievable truth somehow. And when he does, that is when the movie switches gears and becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse chase between the vampire and the family (and girlfriend) for the last half. In hopes of bettering his chances in the fight against Jerry, Charley asks for help from a sleazy Vegas casino showman named Peter Vincent (David Tennant) who is famous for incorporating vampire imagery into his shows and claiming to be an expert in his show’s television ads.
Yes, the film is almost a horror comedy at times due to the absurdity of the violence, including the single best makeshift stake I have seen, or the self-referential jabs at the horror genre itself. It has the courtesy to warn the audience of the obvious oncoming horror movie trap by having one of the characters state indifferently, “You know this’ll probably end up being a trap, right?” But having said that, I was surprised at how serious the execution was for the most part. Especially during the final third, most of the dialogue is pretty straight, without a shred of irony.
“Fright Night” is a remake of a 1985 horror film directed by Tom Holland, and if what I hear is true, horror enthusiasts regard that one as a campy cult classic. I regret to mention that I have not yet seen the original, but I highly doubt that most of the teenagers who are lining up to watch this will be all that aware of the original either. I could be wrong. As this remake stands, it is one or two steps down from the better modern vampire tales such as “Daybreakers” and “Let Me In,” but pretty good when compared to the “Twilight” movies. And it is a masterpiece compared to “Final Destination 5.”