Review | Fright Night

I hated director Craig Gillespie’s Fright Night, out today, but not for the reasons you might think. The remake is pure entertainment, a fun and funny vampire story that is as faithful to its source as it is something entirely new and great. And so I hate it, because kick-ass remakes like this will only encourage Hollywood to remake more. Would that they could all be like Fright Night.

They’re not, though, and Fright Night is all the more special as a result. The story centers on a sleepy, sun-baked Las Vegas suburb that’s become the latest nesting ground for a vampire named Jerry, played by Colin Farrell. Jerry’s home neighbors that of a single mom and her son Charley (Anton Yelchin), a recovering nerd who’s now hanging with the cool kids in high school. Charley doesn’t initially believe his old nerd-friend Ed’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) tales of a local bloodsucker, but it’s not long before he’s forced to confront the reality of the situation.

The story fits very well into its newly modern setting, a fact that can be credited just as much to the strength of Marti Noxon’s script as it can to the timelessness of this kind of “monster next door” story. The writing is just straight clever, with pointed comments about things like crappy cellphone reception in the desert and situations that fit just as well into the 21st century as they did into the 20th, giving everything a fresh, modern feel.

The stars do their work well, too, although Farrell is a standout. He’s an actor who hasn’t always been in the best movies, but he himself always brings his A-game. His “Jerry the vampire” almost comes off as a sympathetic character early, like someone who isn’t necessarily bad, just misunderstood. That isn’t the case, of course; it’s all just part of his vampiric charm. You could say that Farrell-as-Jerry is actually somewhat … bewitching.

He very much overshadows Yelchin, who gets just as much (if not more) screen time, in their scenes together, but the young Star Trek actor rises to the challenge of playing a leading man. He’s still young, and he lacks the charisma of older and more accomplished stars, but Yelchin eases naturally into his role all the same. Compliments as well to Imogen Poots, who plays Charley’s girlfriend Amy. She doesn’t get to really stretch herself until later in the movie, but her “girl next door” charm is immediately appealing.

Let’s also not forget David Tennant, who embraces his inner Russell Brand for the role of vampire enthusiast and Vegas sideshow star Peter Vincent. The Doctor Who veteran is the beating heart of this movie’s funniest moments, and it’s no surprise that the pace picks up considerably when his character becomes more of a focus in the latter half of the film.

Also, to the Whovians out there: Tennant goes shirtless more than once in the DreamWorks film. That seemed to delight quite a few people at my screening.

The strangest piece of the Fright Night remake puzzle is also the one responsible for bringing everything together. Director Craig Gillespie was an odd choice to helm the movie, a relative newcomer who made his directorial debut in 2007 with the one-two punch of Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock. He’s also done some TV work, notably for The United States of Tara, but this is his first crack at horror.

In fairness, Fright Night is more horror-comedy than anything, and Gillespie has already proved himself to be adept at mixing and matching genres. The comedy bits of course work, as anyone familiar with his resume might guess they would. The scarier scenes, however, are the real surprise.

Gillespie demonstrates a talent for building tension, starting from the very first moment we see characters on the screen. The prologue sequence that appears before the title card is quick and brutal, with Jerry (who we don’t get to see) doing his vampy thing to a family of three. You’ve seen moments like it in other movies, and yet you’ll still find yourself inching forward in your seat as the scene’s climax draws nearer.

Count Fright Night as a big win for going to the movies this weekend. Part of me doesn’t want it to do well, in the hopes that we might see fewer remakes moving forward. It’s a very small part though. When you’re talking about a movie as entertaining as this one is, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a remake, reboot, rehash, sequel, prequel, side-quel or completely original work — a good time is still a good time no matter what label is assigned to it.

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Comments

  • Jakk

    It was exactly as reviewed, a good remake without being the same story. Fresh and fun, but yet with touches and nods to the original yet with some new ideas thrown in. I would NOT mind this becoming a franchise.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    “Also, to the female Whovians out there: Tennant goes shirtless more than
    once in the DreamWorks film. That seemed to delight quite a few people
    at my screening.”

    I can guarantee that more than a few males are going to enjoy that as well.

  • Toneloak

    Well here’s hoping for at least a sequel like the original had and if done right maybe even trilogy.

  • http://twitter.com/geminibros Adam Rosenberg

    True enough.

  • http://twitter.com/Dawnell_do Dawnell_do

    This movie was better than i expected and the 3D worked pretty well.

  • James207

    “Also, to the female Whovians out there”…Ummm, sweetiekins…not all “females” are straight, and some male “whovians” might actually like the shirtless scenes too. But thanks for playing  the”homophobic invisibility” game with your stupid remark!

  • Goat

    I agree with James207 and Jacob’s comments – You should really correct your heterosexist comment about “female whovians”, Adam.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Woah now, it was a harmless remark. Offhand comments like that take time
    to change. For quite a long time, the world has thought one way about
    sexuality. It’s going to take at least a full generation for that to go
    away. It’s not stupid, it’s habit. And I fail to see how it even comes close to being homophobic.

  • Goat

    Oh I don’t at all blame Adam, but it would be mature of him to correct it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    He acknowledged his mistake. That should be more than enough.

  • Anonymous

    When you get your way and the entire world is so politically correct that they’re afraid to say anything, what will you complain about?

  • Ger

    Way to completely over-react about a simple little comment.  I’m gay and I’m embarassed by people that fly off and over-react like you did just there -but thanks for playing the “over-reactive str8hater” game and making us all look like idiots.

  • Ger

    I don’t like it when people throw around “political correctness” as if it is a bad thing -I prefer to think of it as just being nice.  But I have to agree with you that some people will find any little thing to have a gripe-fest.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not being nice, it’s coddling people who want/expect everything to cater to their every whim. And every pointless apology makes it worse, emboldens people like this.  What ever happened to having a normal well-rounded view of things, in which you knew you weren’t the center of everyone else’s universe? There was absolutely nothing offensive about the remark, but god forbid a single word be uttered that doesn’t sound like it was written by a robot lol.

  • Helacaster

    absolutly not, he doesnt need to fix anything. it was a harmless comment and that is final. be gay all you want. noone is oppressing you anymore. it is you who are oppressing the heterosexuals flying off the handle at harmless comments like “female whovians”. get a life moron.

  • http://twitter.com/geminibros Adam Rosenberg

    Thanks for defending me, Jacob. I did indeed acknowledge the myopic viewpoint expressed by what I wrote in the comments section. I don’t think there’s any need to edit the review. It’s absurd that I have to actually spell this out, but was an offhand, jokey comment that was not in any way intended reflect some hidden (and, I should add, non-existent) homophobic agenda. To those who choose to be offended, that is absolutely your right. I’m not going to address this any further though.

  • Aramchek

    James207 and Jacob, you prove that gay or not, a moron is still a moron. Seriously, if you see a hidden homophobic agenda in this review, you have a real problem my friends…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Gas prices.

  • rose

    This was a great review. I agree that it was an awesome
    remake with a different story then the original. That is what made this movie
    awesome. I never like remakes for the fact that they do the exact same story
    and don’t change anything up. I like to watch the original before watching the
    new version of any movie, so I rented it through my service provider
    Blockbuster. I have Blockbuster free for 3 months right now with my
    provider/employer DISH Network, so it’s easy for me to get a movie that I
    really want to see. I can get movies in the mail, and if I really want to see a
    movie I can bring it to the store to exchange it. What’s really cool about Blockbuster
    is that you get new releases 28 days before Netflix. Check out this link for
    the promotion through DISH http://bit.ly/iH7nwg.
    After watching both I definitely like the new version better.