When it comes to remakes you never quite know what you’re going to get in the end. This is especially true when the movie being remade is 80’s horror cult classic Fright Night. How do you re-imagine a film already known for campy goodness for the audience of today? Simple! Give us a believable setting and top-notch actors. Throw in a fun story line, 3D effects and you might just have something.
Last night I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-screening of the new Fright Night starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Ferrell, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. I’m of course familiar with the original starring Chris Sarandon as Jerry the Vampire and Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, Vampire Hunter. I have seen it several times through the years and still enjoy its campy goodness. However, this new version has a much bigger bite and the cast is… well let’s just say this isn’t your 80’s Fright Night.
This new Fright Night is set on the outskirts of the Las Vegas desert, outside and away from the glitz and lights of the well known Strip. Here we see a community full of empty homes just begging for a vampire to take up residence. It’s really a great concept when you think about it. Las Vegas is a 24hr city. People work all hours and unfortunately it’s the type of place where you can believe someone could just disappear inexplicably. The main character of Charlie Brewster, played by Anton Chelchin (Star Trek - 2009; Charlie Bartlett - 2007) is just your average teen trying to make it through the day to day of high school. His single mother, played by Toni Collette (United States of Tara - 2009; Little Miss Sunshine – 2006), a local realtor has just sold the house next door to a very attractive looking Jerry, Colin Farrell (In Bruges - 2008; Miami Vice - 2006). The only problem is that Jerry is a vampire and not the sparkly, friendly kind.
Other than the fact that Charlie’s mom is drooling over Jerry’s biceps, he doesn’t give this new resident much thought. That is until his former geeky BFF; Ed, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass – 2010; Superbad - 2007) points out that people are disappearing and, oh yeah, Jerry? He’s a vampire. Charlie doesn’t want to believe, but it’s not too long before Ed himself is nowhere to be found and Charlie quickly has his own proof.
The only one who Charlie can turn to for guidance is Las Vegas illusionist and reported vampire expert Peter Vincent, played by the delicious Scottish actor David Tennant. Tennant is probably best known as the former 10th Doctor in the very popular sci-fi program Doctor Who. Now I have to make a small disclaimer. I’m a huge David Tennant fan. I think he is brilliant! He is the main reason I wanted to see Fright Night. I’ve never been disappointed by his characters, which is why I always look forward to his work. He’s also very easy on the eyes. So forgive me for proceeding to enlighten those who may not be as familiar with his body of work. Unfortunately, in the States unless you are a “Whovian” or an avid fan of British film and television most Americans only know Tennant for playing Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (2005). This is a travesty since Tennant is a very accomplished award winning stage and film actor. He was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet in 2009 causing the entire run to sell out within hours. If you weren’t lucky enough to see it, check out the DVD available online. He is considered to be the most popular Doctor Who ever, which is saying something for a TV show of almost 50 yrs and I doubt you would find a child alive in the UK who didn’t recognize him as The Doctor. He’s practically a national treasure. It’s that talent and magnetism that makes his portrayal as Peter Vincent a stand out performance.
In this updated version Vincent is a British, Chriss Angel/Russell Brand-esque illusionist and self proclaimed vampire expert. He drinks too much, swears, wears black eyeliner, has a penchant for late night internet shopping and wears extremely tight leather pants. Knowing my audience as I do, I just want to say DT fans will not be disappointed and yes you do get shirtless Tennant, a lot of shirtless Tennant I can promise you that. No one rocks “rock star” quite like Tennant. No one! Seriously though, Tennant is fantastic and plays Vincent with great skill making what could be a very campy role into one of unpredictable fun. I’ve never yet been disappointed with Tennant’s work. His comic timing is spot on when needed and he gives great depth to what can easily be a two dimensional character. He effectively becomes the much needed mentor to Yelton’s Charlie. I was glued to the screen not quite knowing what he would do next.
Most enjoyable for me were the scenes between Yelchin, Farrell and Tennant. All three actors were a joy to watch on screen. Colin Ferrall was quite threatening and foreboding as Jerry, but to be fair I expected that. His vampire is mean and vindictive without a doubt. The vampires in Fright Night aren’t easily disposed of which makes them quite intimidating so there are some very exciting chase and escape scenes. I’d have to say the one character that I didn’t care for as much as I’d hoped for was Ed. He’s not the most likeable character at times and while he does provide some comic moments he seemed more a whiny teen that I didn’t miss when gone.
For those concerned about the horror aspect, know that there is definitely some blood and gore going on in the film, but not too much. I think the majority of movie goers, even those who are squeamish will be able to handle it.
In the end the true hero is Charlie. The plot stays very close to the original changing a few things here and there, but I don’t think fans will be disappointed. The pacing in the beginning of the film seemed a little slow, but it eventually speeds up. The 3D effects while not finished (this was just a screening) were interesting in parts, but honestly I don’t think they were needed. Perhaps the final cut will justify the need for 3D, but I feel seeing this in 2D would be just as enjoyable. There are some fun action sequences and I really loved what they did with Jerry’s house. (No I’m not going to tell you). The ending wrapped up a little too quickly, but as I said before this is a screening and a lot can change between now and August 19th, the reported release date per IMDB.
All in all I had a lot of fun viewing this film. The audience at the screening all seemed to love it. Everyone cheered and applauded at the end and there were smiles aplenty. No one seemed dissatisfied and I know I sure wasn’t disappointed. I recommend this to movie goers and fans alike. This was a fun movie! One more thing DT fans, just go. Leather trousers are NOT to be missed! =)