Fright Night: The Vampire Genre That Won’t Die

August 13, 2011

Fright Night is a remake of the popular 1985 comedy-horror film of the same name in which a Las Vegas, Nevada, high school senior Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and his nerdy, fantasy-prone best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) come to suspect that their mysterious new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire who is preying on their classmates and friends. Charlie, not knowing how exactly to deal with vampires, ends up contacting a local Vegas-area showman and apparent vampire expert (a character likely inspired in part by magician Criss Angel) who happens to have a collection of antique vampire slaying gear on display in his apartment. This, as you might imagine, comes in handy later in the film when Charlie confronts Jerry the Vampire to save the world-or at least the Las Vegas suburbs.

The film is funnier than it is scary, mining a similar postmodern, self-referential humor that made the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and the Scream movies so successful. It’s about vampires, after all, and there are only so many recycled vampire themes that some genre-mocking is expected. While not nearly the same caliber as films such as George Romero’s 1977 classic Martin, Near Dark, or The Lost Boys (both 1987), Fright Night is a decent vampire flick. I’d have liked to see the mystery of whether or not Jerry is really a vampire better explored in the film; after all, it’s set in the modern day when almost no one believes in real vampires. There are a few tantalizing pieces of evidence that could be read either way (was a woman at Jerry’s house screaming out of fear, laughter, or pleasure?), but most of the main characters pretty quickly accept the reality of vampires (and Jerry as one of them). It would have been more interesting, and somewhat more realistic, to have them gradually accept that the friendly neighbor is an undead blood-drinker.

The film is well-acted; Colin Farrell does a good job of blending arrogance, sexiness, and menace in his performance. It would be easy to do a one-note, over the top performance in a role like this, but Farrell plays it more or less straight. The rest of the cast (including the ever-interesting Toni Collette as Charlie’s mother and David Tennant as the burned-out vampire expert) are very good as well.

The special effects are fun, and the film is in 3-D, for no discernable reason other than it was one of a deluge of films that were greenlit when improved RealD technology was in vogue. Sure, the extra D helps give scenes a little more depth, but overall the effects are probably not worth the extra $5 charge (or mild eye strain). Fright Night has a few limp spots (and more than a few plot holes big enough to drive a stake through), but moves along nicely with a mix of laughs, action, and a few scares.