Care to play a game? Name a mainstream movie this summer with an original source, in other words a film that is NOT a prequel, sequel or remake or based on a novel, comic book or TV show. Eliminate raunchy comedies and cartoons and you’re left with what? The latest retread is “Fright Night,” a remake of a very good 1985 vampire film.
Let’s put on the broken record. “I hate prequels, sequels and remakes.” Skip. “I hate prequels, sequels and remakes.” Skip.
OK, take off the record. Hollywood isn’t listening. All it hears is the ka-ching from moviegoers who prefer seeing the same movie over and over again rather than a film that dares to be different.
Care to play a game? Name a mainstream movie this summer with an original source, in other words a film that is NOT a prequel, sequel or remake or based on a novel, comic book or TV show. Eliminate raunchy comedies and cartoons and you’re left with what? The latest retread is “Fright Night,” a remake of a very good 1985 vampire film. It’s a safe bet that the young adult target audience for the remake hasn’t seen the original or is even aware of it. At least they won’t mind the redundancy. But as far as remakes go, this one isn’t bad. It alters the original just enough so that viewers of the original won’t want to drive a stake through their hearts.
The original tweaked the vampire film genre by adding some humor to the horror as a vampire moves to American suburbia where no one would suspect any self-respecting bloodsucker would live. He’s even called Jerry. Not a very good vampire name, as a character points out.
One of the neighborhood teens, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), has noticed that entire families have disappeared and he blames Jerry, whom he believes is a vampire. No one believes Ed, however, not even his best friend, Charley (Anton Yelchin). Make that “former best friend” as Charley is trying to shed his geek skin and hang with the in crowd. This includes the beautiful Amy (Imogen Poots).
Eventually, Charley discovers Ed was right and becomes particularly distraught when Jerry starts making the moves on his mother, Jane (Toni Collette).
The film has fun playing with “vampire rules” such as a vampire can’t entire a home unless he’s invited in. The scene where Jerry asks Charley for a beer offers some cheeky tension as the vampire stands by the kitchen door waiting for an invitation.
When it becomes clear that he can’t defeat Jerry by himself, Charley seeks help from Peter Vincent (David Tennant), an actor who plays a vampire killer in a garish Las Vegas show called “Fright Night.” Peter thinks the boy is crazy and refuses.
The remainder of the film finds Charley and Amy trying to dispatch Jerry before he gives them a nasty hickey.
The original featured some pretty freaky special effects for 1985 and the remake follows suit. When Jerry really wants to bear his fangs, he doesn’t exactly look “Twilight” handsome. While the film really isn’t about scaring its audience, it does deliver one excellent jolt. It doesn’t mind getting gory, either, even though a good deal of the mayhem gets played for laughs. That is if you dig watching an arm get lopped off and a neck axed. Fans of the original will also appreciate a cameo by a certain actor.
Director Craig Gillespie, whose resume includes the edgy “Lars and the Real Girl,” goes mainstream here and shows an aptitude for balancing this mixture of comedy and horror. Not too funny, not too scary. The screenplay by Marti Noxon (“I Am Number Four”) adds some topical touches as it follows in the footsteps of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” by dissing “Twilight.” The cast helps immensely with Colin Farrell providing a dangerous combination of sex appeal and menace as Jerry. He won’t be confused with Bela Lugosi anytime soon.
Tennant, meanwhile, plays Peter Vincent as an alcoholic sleazebag from the Russell Brand School of Sleazebags. It’s quite a change from the Peter Vincent that Roddy McDowall played in the original. Tennant does have a lark with the part. One could almost say he nails it.
Yelchin and Poots make a nice, terrorized couple who get to freak out while falling in love. Collette doesn’t get much to do, however. The film, by the way, looks like it was cast by the United Nations. Yelchin was born in Russia, Poots in England, Tennant in Scotland, Collette in Australia and Farrell in Ireland. At least Mintz-Plasse is American-born, and if you’re going to cast a geek of any nationality, who better than “Superbad’s” Mintz-Plasse?
Now are you sitting down? Here’s another shock – “Fright Night” can be seen in 3-D. I’m sick of 3-D films, too. This one takes advantage of the technology in a few scenes, yet once again, it’s not worth the higher ticket price. See it in 2-D, or better yet rent the original and stop encouraging Hollywood’s carbon-copying ways. It’s this lack of imagination at the megaplex these days that’s truly frightening.
FRIGHT NIGHT (R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references). Cast includes Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. 2 stars out of 4.