With one or two exceptions, I’m not usually one for vampire stories. Sure I have some fondness to cheesy flicks from my childhood such as Love at First Bite and Once Bitten, but for the most part vampire movies leave me cold. So when I find one I enjoy I’m pleasantly surprised.
An exception to my disinterest to the genre is Joss Whedon‘s TV-series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel. It’s probably not a coincidence that I enjoyed Buffy writer Marti Noxon‘s fresh take on 1985’s Fright Night. I’ll also freely admit it doesn’t hurt that the movie co-stars Doctor Who‘s David Tennant.
The remake streamlines the plot of the original film and kicks into high gear much earlier as high school student Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) discovers his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is not only a vampire but responsible for the death of several of his classmates in the Las Vegas suburb including his missing friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). (A fact that is revealed to the audience, Charlie, and his friends, much earlier than in the original).
In an attempt to flee the vampire’s gleeful bloodlust Charile, his girlfriend (Imogen Poots), and his mother (Toni Collette) escape the sleepy suburb to the Las Vegas strip where Charlie attempts to enlist the help of Las Vegas magician and vampire expert Peter Vincent (Tennant) to take down the vampire and save his loved ones.
Once Farrell makes his first appearance the film is non-stop fun. Yelchin does well as the young kid in over his head, but it’s really Tennant and Ferrell, both hamming it up (and chewing scenery freely from all sides) that will keep you laughing.
I have no real attachment to the original (and barely even a memory of it), but this version certainly stands on its own. Thankfully, the film re-imagine the story for today’s audiences rather than attempt to tell the same story in the same manner as the original film (although fans of the original should watch out for an amusing cameo). For a remake of a vampire flick Fright Night is better, and far more entertaining, than it has any right to be.
Much like in her best Buffy episodes, Noxon delievers a scritpt which is a great mix of comedy, horror, love story, teen angst, and action. Aside from the opening, which is mainly focused on setting up the world, there’s really not a dull moment to be found. The high school life of Charlie is probably the weakest part of the story, but the script realizes this and quickly introduces the character of Jerry into the equation, letting the fun get started in earnest.
Ferrell is terrific as the sleazeball who charms the ladies but can’t hide his true nature from Charlie. The glee with which he takes playing with Charlie and his other victims is a great touch. Throw in David Tennant as a charming sleazy bastard in his own right, and you’ve got all you need to hold my attention for an hour and forty-five minutes.
A couple weeks ago I bemoaned 30 Minutes or Less for sleepwalking its way through a story that wanted only to be fun, and only partially succeeding. Fright Night doesn’t set the bar that much higher, but at least it meets (and even slightly exceeds) those limited expectations. No, it’s not a great movie by any means, but it manages to be entertaining throughout. It also works better since the cast looks like they are actually having fun making the movie rather than picking up a paycheck by playing the same versions of characters they’re known for.
One final note. I viewed the movie in 3D, which worked well, but it’s not necessary to view the film this way. Depending on your personal tastes the film should work just as well in 2D as it did in 3D. The actors and story make the film work, so it should entertain in whichever dimension you prefer.