Movie Review: Fright Night

Vampires are played out.  The enormous popularity of series like Twilight and True Blood has inspired countless imitators, adaptations and remakes, and it’s left these creatures of the night feeling a bit tired.  With Breaking Dawn and a Buffy reboot on the horizon, it’s tempting to skip some of the lesser-known properties out of sheer vampire fatigue.  But please, please, don’t skip Fright Night.

Fright Night is the rare example of a vampire movie that does everything right.  A remake of Tom Holland’s 80s vamp flick, it follows Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a nerd-cum-cool kid who faces off against his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell), a vampire who preys on the locals.  To help protect his mother (Toni Collette) and girlfriend (Imogen Poots), Charley seeks out the aid of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Criss Angel-style Vegas stage magician who’s also an expert on the occult.

This movie is SO MUCH FUN.  It’s hilarious, it’s scary, it’s cool.  Everyone in the cast is great, but Colin Farrell nails every scene he’s in.  His Jerry is both a terrifying animal and just a complete douchebag guy.  He mixes menace and condescension perfectly, and is enjoyable to watch even as you root for him to die.  Yelchin shows real character development throughout the film, and brings emotion to some of the film’s more over-the-top moments. Tennant is great, as is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Charley’s best friend from back in his nerd days.

The screenplay is written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer veteran Marti Noxon, and it shows, especially in some of the banter and dialogue.  Still, Fright Night is it’s own movie, and while it roughly follows the plot of the original, it punches it up with more slick action and style.  The score is phenomenal, as are the effects.  The vampires of Fright Night are predatory animals, like sharks or snakes, and they totally look the part.  While I enjoy the original, this version really kicks everything up a notch.

One thing I really enjoyed about Fright Night is its criticism, both subtly and explicitly, of the Twilight series and other current depictions of vampires.  I don’t have any problem with the Twilight books or movies.  I don’t enjoy them myself, but anything that gets people interested in reading is fine by me.  But the vampires in Twilight really have nothing in common with classical vampires a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  They’re more like classical fantasy elves or something, devoid of evil and the sex which makes them so compelling.  Fright Night  doesn’t play like that.  Jerry is an animal who uses his sex appeal to prey on humans, but he’s not one of them.  The repeated shots of him eating an apple are particularly great, illustrating that Fright Night hijacks the “sexy vampire” boom to debunk it.

Fright Night also follows a lot of the classical rules regarding vampires, which is clever and fun.  The ideas that they can’t enter without an invitation, that they sleep underground in dirt, that it’s not a cross, but the faith behind it which threatens them, it’s all here.  At the same time, characters come up with new ways to play with them, so it doesn’t feel dated or rehashy.

Fright Night is a remake which surpasses the original.  It’s a great vampire story, and a fun scary movie you can laugh about later.  The first act is a bit slow, but it’s still totally worth your money.  (NOTE: I didn’t see it in 3D, and I kind of wish I had.  There’s some obligatory “blood splatters at the screen” moments, but there’s an action sequence in the second act that I’m sure looks fantastic in 3D.  Your call.)

RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

As a bonus treat, here’s the opening theme music.  The first couple bars pretty much sold me on the movie.

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