As a teenager I saw 1985’s Fright Night — about a boy who is convinced his next-door neighbor is a vampire — and didn’t think much of it. And that was before vampires had become ubiquitous. The new remake, written by Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), has its moments: I like the ingenious way imperious bloodsucker Jerry (Colin Farrell) forces his neighbors out of their home so he can confront them. But in the era of Twilight and Let the Right One In and The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, we’re dangerously close to vampire overkill. There’s an irrelevance to the movie that the filmmakers, hard as they try, can’t quite shake – something awfully square about the picture: It would have played a lot better a decade ago.
Farrell’s performance as a vicious killer is entertaining — the actor is great at portraying arrogance and swagger — but the movie renders his character into something of a blow-hard. If he can’t dispatch a nosey adolescent (Anton Yelchin), how much of a threat can he be?
Fright Night seems an odd choice for a remake: The movie strikes a fine balance between the comical and the serious, but what’s the point? The plot is predictable — you know which characters are expendable and which ones will never meet their doom — and even though Christopher Mintz-Plasse, taking over for Stephen Geoffreys (who went on to become a porn star) as “Evil Ed,” earns some smiles, the feeling of a missed opportunity lingers.Most unbearable of all is David Tennant (in the Roddy McDowall role) as Peter Vincent, doing a poor-man’s imitation of the odious Russell Brand.
Fright Night was shot in 3D, which Gillespie uses as a way of making you feel like you’re walking around dark rooms and turning corners alongside the characters. The effect is fine, but it doesn’t add much to a movie that has trouble raising even the slightest of scares. The cast keeps the movie from sinking into true boredom — Toni Collette plays Yelchin’s mother — but there a been-there-done-that aura that no actor could overcome. I liked the ruthlessness of Farrell’s Jerry — he’s a mean bastard. that one — but little else in the picture captures the imagination. Vampires have become the domain of long-form television series, where writers have time to explore complex scenarios. Movies like Fright Night feel like more of the same-old. Even if you’ve not seen the original, this one will still have the feel of a remake.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots.
Director: Craig Gillespie.
Screenwriter: Marti Noxon.
Producers: Michael De Luca, Michael J. Gaeta, Alison R. Rosenzweig.
A DreamWorks Pictures release. Running time: 105 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, a pervading sense of irrelevancy. Opens Friday Aug. 19 at area theaters.