“Evil” Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is concerned. Roll call at his Las Vegas high school has shown an increase in absences and Ed believes that best friend Charlie’s new neighbor might be behind all the disappearances. In fact, in a leap of assumption not really played out on the believability scale, Ed has deduced that the neighbor Jerry (played by Colin Farrell) is actually a vampire.
If this sounds all too familiar, well, it should. The story was originally penned by Tom Holland and made into a 1980’s comedy/horror titled Fright Night. Now, three decades later, Fright Night is getting the reboot treatment alongside the attempts of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Conan the Barbarian.
The story stays pretty close to the original with a good dose of updates to make it more topical. Charlie (Anton Yelchin) lives with his mom (Toni Collette) in a suburb of Las Vegas. When his new neighbor Jerry moves in, his mom is smitten with the good looking night-walker. But after friend Ed explains his theory and then disappears himself, Charlie begins to recognize traits in Jerry that might lend some truth to his friend’s suspicions. All of this doubt and suspicion puts a strain on Charlie’s relationship with girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) and soon, Charlie’s search for the truth will confirm his worst fears and put him and his family in serious peril.
That’s when Charlie turns to Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Magician/Performer at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino who dabbles in the dark arts. After an attack on his mother and girlfriend, Charlie attempts to convince Vincent to assist in the destruction of the evil force that his invaded his block and hopes that Vincent can provide hands-on knowledge on appropriate action.
Outside of the shell of the original story, there isn’t much to reference between the two films. The Peter Vincent character played by an elder and white haired and broke Roddy McDowall in the original has been updated to a hip, alcoholic superstar who looks to be a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and Chris Angel. Evil Ed who stayed around for a good portion of the original film gets converted earlier in the update. And Jerry has been updated to a vampire that likes to keep his victims alive and feed off them for a while before eventually using up all their blood supply.
All the above updates (and more) add depth to the reboot – a reboot that was a helluva lot of fun and shows that franchises all but forgotten can be revived if given the proper treatment (see Planet of the Apes). Much of the new Fright Night’s success can be attributed to the acting performance of Colin Farrell. I will argue that Farrell has never been better. He seems to relish the role as vampire Jerry and his presence on screen is of dominant to a point of sheer frightening. The supporting cast is good too, especially Tennant, who offers just the right amount of freshness when the story begins to fall a big into the routine. There is also a fun cameo that was a wink and a nod to the 1984 edition that should delight fans even if the cameo itself is unnecessary.
Fright Night was shot in 3D and this might just be the best use of 3D in a horror film ever. The wow-factor of any 3D effect has long been gone, but scenes such as the vampires bursting into ambers when exposed to sunlight or a vampire hand coming through the bottom of a speeding vehicle prove to us again that 3D can be used effectively if put in the right hands.
Having been released in August would suggest the studio does not hold out too much box office hope for the horror film which is targeted directly for the young teen/adult base. But Fright Night (2011) does deliver and can stand proud amongst some of the better titles released this summer.