Vampire movies have sucked all the fun out of being a vampire.
These days, Dracula's progeny are always moping around, sparkling, refusing to drink blood or have sex, or mindlessly devouring anything that moves. They are far too busy acting as stand-ins for important societal ills and bedroom mores to be properly camp or evil.
But Craig Gillespie's new remake of the 1985 horror-comedy Fright Night—the short, bloody story of Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and Jerry, the vampire who moves in next door to his Vegas suburb tract house and promptly ruins his life—really doesn't try all that hard. And that makes it a gory good time, packed with as many giggles as it is wooden stakes and exploding bodies.
Much of the credit for this guilty pleasure goes to Colin Farrell, who plays Jerry ("That is a terrible vampire name," Charlie says incredulously, early in the film) as a hunky romance-novel cad who quickly devolves into a menacing addict with personal-space issues. You'd be attracted to him if he didn't seem so, well…rapey. Farrell, sporting an inky black widow's peak and white wife-beater, has concocted an entire arsenal of tweaker twitches and undead affectations. Confronted by a stray beam of sunlight, he even gives a little hiss; like a cat startled by a spray bottle full of water.
Obviously, he's not taking any of this too seriously. And neither is the rest of the cast. Curly-headed Yelchin imbues teen geek-turned-slayer Charlie with a sort of ineffable sweetness—he even tears up as Jerry eats his stripper neighbor. There are a few sharp lines for his obligatory cool mom, Toni Collette, and Charlie's far-too-attractive girlfriend (the incredibly named Imogen Poots). And the flick even gooses the audience a fair number of times—mostly due to the ferocity with which this vampire drains his victims.
"He's not brooding or noble. He's the shark from Jaws," mutters Christopher Mintz-Plasse, pouring his McLovin dorkdom into the form of Charlie's occult-obsessed friend Ed.
Now, I defy anybody to argue that the original Fright Night was a truly great movie. But it was kinda dark and kinda sexy and to an impressionable gradeschooler (like me, circa 1985), terribly fun. The oddball notion that vampires could live next door, remodeling their house by day and eating prostitutes by night, was irresistible—the ultimate second reel for a Lost Boys double feature.
Wisely, screenwriter Marti Noxon and director Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) have simply updated the cult classic for 2011, complete with geysers of 3-D blood that spurt toward the audience and a Foster the People song on the soundtrack. They've even kept the unsettling look of the original production's fully transformed vampires—which look a bit like surprised carnival clowns that have had their teeth replaced with oversized razor blades. The biggest change may be the new version's reimagining of late-night TV host Peter Vincent as a Criss Angel knockoff with a yen for supernatural artifacts and testicle-torturing leather pants (played with Midori-guzzling swagger by Brit David Tennant).
But at heart, it's still the same creepy, campy flick: all fangs and one-liners. And I suspect that's something fans of the undead tend to crave. The devil you know is the one you really want.
76 GO: Fright Night is rated R. It opens Friday at Clackamas, Cornelius, Cinetopia Mill Plain, Living Room Theaters, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville and Sandy.