Vampire Slaying 101: So That Fright Night Remake? Not Terrible!
The original Fright Night hit theaters in 1985, telling the tale of a suburban high school geek squaring off against a bloodsucker next door. It was a moderate financial and critical success, but more importantly, it signaled a change in the way vampires would be portrayed in pop culture forever.
That might seem a bit hyperbolic, but it's true: Fright Night was the first remotely successful horror flick to feature characters that lived in a world where vampires previously existed in fiction. Much like those in Scream a decade later, Fright Night's characters acknowledged and adhered to a preexisting set of rules they had learned from the movies. It was a precursor to The Lost Boys, Buffy, and Robert Pattinson's stupid weepy face. It wasn't perfect, but it made up for its flaws with solid pacing, a good number of scary-for-their-time thrills, and inspired performances from Chris Sarandon as Jerry the Vampire (yes... Jerry) and Roddy f'ing McDowall as a vampire slayer. As you can probably guess, I dug the hell out of it.
So imagine my surprise when a remake from the director of Mr. Woodcock ended up being pretty goddamned fun. Credit largely goes to a lean script from Marti Noxon (Buffy, Angel, Mad Men), who takes the bones of the original plot and decorates them with enough new twists that this film stands on its own. Noxon and director Craig Gillespie have spackled up the old plot holes (though they missed a few new ones), replaced the goofy old practical effects with goofy new digital ones, and, recognizing that no one is afraid of vamps anymore, jettisoned most of the horror and replaced it with action. (Car chase? Check. 'Splosions? Yup.)
If there's any real complaint, it's that lead character Charley (Anton Yelchin) is introduced as a pretty massive douchebag, an unneeded twist on the original character. Otherwise, the cast boasts some stand-out performances from Christopher Mintz-Plasse as "Evil" Ed, Charley's discarded childhood partner-in-geekery, and a very charming and funny Colin Farrell as Jerry. Former Doctor Who David Tennant gets some laughs, too, but is ultimately pretty one-note as he takes on McDowall's heavily reimagined vampire-killin' role, instead playing him as a combination of Russell Brand and Criss Angel.
In an era when vampires are once again becoming a sad, mopey punch line, it's nice to see Jerry the Suburban Vampire rise from the grave, again, and kick the genre in the balls.