With Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots; Running Time: 106 minutes; Rated R (for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references); Written by Marti Noxon; Directed by Craig Gillespie.
FRIGHT NIGHT is one of many modern remakes of 1970s and 1980s hits, with such upcoming entries as “Footloose” and “Straw Dogs” in the pipeline, and “Conan The Barbarian” also opening today. This one gets it right, bringing it up to date, tweaking the special effects, and yet tipping the hat to fans of the original. Viewers looking for a vampire movie that provides both laughs and chills should have a great time.
As in the original, we have Charley (Anton Yelchin), a typical teenage boy who lives in a suburb of Las Vegas making the discovery that his new next door neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a vampire. He doesn’t want to believe it at first, especially since his nerdy childhood friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has been insisting it must be so. Then Ed disappears, Charley starts investigating, and Jerry turns out to be bad news indeed. He tells his mother, Jane (Toni Collette of “The United States Of Tara”), not to invite Jerry into the house, and rather than try to trick his way in, Jerry figures out a way to get them out.
In the original, Charley seeks out the help of a horror show host played by Roddy McDowell, but that was 26 years ago, and there aren’t any such “creature feature” type movie hosts on anymore. So Peter Vincent is now a Las Vegas magician whose act consists of hunting for vampires. When Jerry targets Charley and his girlfriend (Imogen Poots), they discover that this Peter Vincent is as unlikely savior as the one in the original.
The film has a number of surprises, not the least of which is that someone finally figured out if they’re going to make it a 3D movie they should do something with the effect. There are several moments where even the diehard anti-3D types – like this reviewer – will be impressed. There’s also an appearance by Chris Sarandon, the original film’s Jerry, popping up when he’s least expected. Credit the smart script to Marti Noxon, a veteran of the TV series “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”
Yelchin is a young actor with an impressive list of credits, but probably best known right now as Chekov in the “Star Trek” reboot. He makes Charley believable as the hero but still a regular guy. Charley is playing out of his league against the monstrous Jerry, and he knows it. As the vampire, Colin Farrell hits the right dark notes so we see how people might be charmed by him even as he is the personification of evil.
In the supporting cast Christopher Mintz-Plasse will appeal to his fan base from “Superbad” where he was “McLovin,” getting to play an interesting variation of his nerdy character late in the film, while David Tennant acts the jaded Vegas star until his whole story unfolds. The always welcome Toni Collette is underused as Charley’s mom, but Imogen Poots (“Jane Eyre”) has fun with the various changes the film puts her through as Charley’s girlfriend.
“Fright Night” provides the requisite late summer chills and thrills and doesn’t make you feel like the memory of the original is being trashed. If only the other upcoming remakes can do as well.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.