Fright Night October 12, 2016
To childishly believe your neighbor is actually a baleful fiend with a dark secret is something I figure almost every child experiences in their lifetime, so it’s a shame that the brooding muscleman that moves in next door (a terrific Colin Farrell) to teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is not just a baleful fiend but also a lusty, bloodthirsty vampire. It takes only a few days for Charley to come to that conclusion, and it takes only a few days for Charley to decide that somehow defeating the evil he calls neighbor now is a must, not a maybe.
No one, of course, believes him until it’s far too late, but in this remake of the 1985 classic of the same name, enough innovation is in place to ensure that what we’re seeing is not necessarily a rehash of the ‘80s Fright Night nor vampire movies in general. Always on the cusp of becoming a full-blown horror comedy film, it’s a flirtatiously dangerous feature with, yes, a bite.
Its characters remain the same — Charley is still a wide-eyed square in over his head, Amy (Imogen Poots), his gorgeous girl, is still out of league, and Jerry Dandridge is still a vampire to rival Count Dracula — but different this time is the incarnation of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), arguably the greatest personality of the original. Before, he was a flailing TV show host and supposed vampire hunter enlisted by Charley for some much needed assistance. But in the 2011 movie is he portrayed by David Tennant as a Las Vegas magician with a likeness of Criss Angel caliber who just so happens to know a lot about bloodsuckers.
In both Fright Nights, Peter Vincent is the greatest asset, and the lining up of charm is nothing to circle around. The overall retaining of the 1985’s counterpart is an extraordinarily difficult thing to pull off, especially considering the impact it made on the overarching horror comedy subgenre. So good for 2011 Fright Night's ability to stand on its own and manage to pay respects in the process — it has big shoes to fill.
Written with a finely tuned brand of humor by Marti Noxon and directed by Craig Gillespie with one eye on style and another on a carefully crafted ambience of macabre superiority, Fright Night is a spunky chiller to admire. We don’t feel like we’re watching a remake as much as we feel like we’re watching a smartly designed homage. And for what it’s worth, there’s not a thing wrong with that. B