“Fright Night,” a remake from the 1985 film of the same name, doesn’t boast an original plot, but does take a fresh spin on what the original film had to offer.
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, “The Smurfs”), a high school student struggling to fit in with the cool kids while keeping the interest of a girlfriend seemingly out of his league, thinks his former childhood friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, “How to Train Your Dragon”) is going insane when he confides in Charley that he believes Charley’s new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell, “Horrible Bosses”) to be a vampire picking off the kids in their class and their families. After a series of events causes Charley to reconsider Ed’s ramblings (including Ed’s own disappearance), Charley decides to head into Las Vegas to enlist the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant, “Doctor Who”), a stage actor who slays vampires on his occult stage show, to learn the tricks to taking down a vampire.
Both this remake and the original “Fright Night” make an effort to combine horror and comedy into their plots, and while the result is often less witty and more ridiculous, the remake does a good job of living up to the original’s standards. There is a little slapstick, but most of the movie’s humor is found in the scripted dialogue and the obvious horror movie character stereotypes.
Despite the enjoyable reboot in plot (in the original, Charley’s character was the one to suspect Jerry from the very beginning, and Ed thought Charley was nuts – among other differences), the movie tries to pack in too much. The plot feels like it is set on fast forward for the entire first half of the movie, and it isn’t until after the halfway point, when Charley and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots, “Centurion”) return to see Peter Vincent in Las Vegas that the movie slows to a more moderate pace and is truly enjoyable.
The acting seems to balance itself out in “Fright Night.” Yelchin was bearable as Charley, neither giving an exceptionally strong or weak performance. His overall portrayal as Charley is easy to identify with, and he nails the whole “insecure teenager” bit very well.
Amy, as a character, serves mostly as motivation for Charley’s character, giving him purpose, and Poots does a lovely job of making the audience see why Amy is special. She requires no character arc, since Amy starts the movie right where she needs to end it personality-wise. Despite the stagnant nature of the character, Poots makes the viewer believe through honest smiles, unapologetic bluntness and eye contact that Amy truly adores Charley for the nerd he tries to pretend he isn’t, and that she wouldn’t want him any other way.
Jerry, the vampire neighbor, is less entertaining. Farrell must have studied cheesy vampire movies a bit too religiously for his role, because he tries to exude every single vampire character trait ever portrayed, and poorly. His version of tall dark and handsome lothario is forced, like he is purposely trying to make the “sexy” vampire trait humorous. In most cases, the dialogue itself, or the entire scene for that matter, is what is funny; extra effort on the part of Farrell makes it downright grating. And when Farrell isn’t purposely hamming up the role, he is so stone faced and emotionless that he’s a bore. Either he forces the humor, or he’s a complete dud.
A crowning jewel of the movie, however, was the Peter Vincent character arc, and Tennant’s portrayal of him. Despite being a side character, Peter Vincent has the best, and possibly most honest character development, from something the viewer wouldn’t expect slowly morphing into the bad boy vampire slayer the trailers and movie posters make him out to be. And Tennant himself is fun to watch, and unlike Farrell, allowed the script to be funny when needed and allowed himself to be funny when the script could tolerate it, but stepped back entirely when the need for a serious atmosphere and scene arose. He worked the screen, but not to death.
“Fright Night” makes no apologies. It isn’t horror,, and nor is it completely a comedy, but instead an attempted hybrid to honor the original. Despite a few great moments and a few genuinely talented actors, the end result is only so-so, but still worth a chance.