As far as “Exactly What It Says On The Tin” Week goes, this one might be clutching at straws a little but hey, it happens mostly at night and it contains a few frights. Plus it has that whole rhyming thing going for it, which I’m always a sucker for.
More knitwear woulda been nice.
Charley Brewster is living quietly in Las Vegas with his single mother, when Jerry moves in next door. Charley’s former best friend Ed is convinced that Jerry is not what he seems, and Charley soon finds himself in a fight for his life and that of his girlfriend Amy.
The idea of remaking old horror movies from the seventies and eighties has become almost a tired joke by now. Most of the big names have already been hit, and most without much success. Fright Night is a welcome exception. The original is best known mostly for Chris Sarandon’s urbane vampire Jerry Dandridge – he of the frankly wonderful knitwear collection – and for Stephen Geoffreys’ whacked out performance as “Evil” Ed (as well as his subsequent, ahem, genre specialisation in the nineties*). It was also blessed with Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the aging horror icon and host of a local cable “midnight movie” show recruited by young Charley for his specialist knowledge of fighting the undead. It was a success in the notoriously difficult horror/comedy genre, in that it made you laugh and it made you scream – an achievement shared by the new version.
Happily, this is not a slavish re-shoot of the original script. The story has been changed in a few key areas which mostly improve things. Probably the biggest switcheroo is the recasting of Peter from an aging (but still pretty spry) actor and soon-to-be-sacked TV host into a successful Las Vegas magician in the Criss Angel mould, played by the Tenth Doctor himself, David Tennant, clearly having a blast as the swear-happy Vincent.
Director Craig Gillespie has assembled a cracking cast. Colin Farrell is great as the seductive but increasingly animalistic Jerry. He is more rugged than Sarandon’s version and invests the vamp with every ounce of his trademarked Irish charm, only without the accent, showing a vampire most of whose victims go to quite willingly. Anton Yelchin has grown up a bit since his 2009 double-whammy of Terminator Salvation and Star Trek. The 22 year old is still believable as high-schooler Charley, but he has more of a worldliness to him, as well as an increased physicality. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Christopher Mintz-Plasse, although he is much less annoying than he was in Kick-Ass and he gives Ed more depth than Geoffreys managed. Imogen Poots and Toni Collette round things out as Charley’s girlfriend Amy and mother Jane respectively. Both are gorgeous, yet are more than just one-note characters. Collette for one gets much more to do than in Fright Night ‘85, even though she does spend the entire third act unconscious in a hospital bed. Interestingly (to me at least; you probably couldn’t care less), despite five of the six main characters being American, only one of the six actors is American-born. No, you don’t win a prize for guessing.
The vampire effects are a well done mix of practical prosthetics and CG enhancement, and it is refreshing to see Farrell himself on screen through most of the climactic fight instead of being needlessly replaced with a big cartoon of a beastie as is so often the way these days. The transformation moments actually look painful to go through, something that is played by both Farrell and Poots as well as being helped by some lovely bone-shifting noises on the soundtrack. The scares as a whole work just as well as the comedy elements. One scene that stands out is done without any effects whatsoever: Charley trying to get his neighbour Doris out of Jerry’s house right under the vamp’s nose. The tension is built up beautifully by all concerned, and the pay-off is a neat switch when you see that Jerry has known what was going on the whole time, but let it play out for his own amusement.
The flick was shot in 3D but I only saw the 2D version. There are a few shots of things flying towards the camera as well as a humdinger of a close-up at the climax that could have come out quite well in the 3rd dimension, but it didn’t seem to be overpowering.
Fright Night is out on DVD in the UK this week. It’s worth picking up.
*For those not in the know, or too lazy to ask Wiki, he started doing gay porn. While most porn actors dream of cracking the mainstream, Stephen went the exact opposite direction. Each to their own, I suppose.