sat 25/01/2020

Fright Night | reviews, news & interviews

Fright Night

Fright Night

Once bitten twice shy? Remake of Eighties teen vamp com

'Fright Night': David Tennant has fun as a foul-mouthed lounge magic act and TV vampire-slayer

After 10 minutes in the company of Fright Night’s vacuous US teens I was thinking, like Colonel Kurtz, “Kill them all!” One of the several virtues of this remake of the 1985 vampire horror-comedy is that its writer, Marti Noxon, feels the same way. Partnering this Buffy veteran with Craig Gillespie, the director of sensitive man-and-sex-doll romance Lars and the Real Girl, makes this deeply unpromising entry in the current cycle of Eighties horror reboots surprisingly engaging. A keen cast including Colin Farrell as king vampire Jerry and David Tennant as a burnt-out Vegas magic act add to the sprightly, if limited, fun.

My memory of seeing the original as one of its teen target audience is of a messy, minor horror movie overly impressed with new special effects that let Chris Sarandon’s Jerry transform into a truly bestial monster. The greater innovation was how easily he blended into the modern American suburbia that was now his home, this vampire no longer an Old Europe outsider.

The tract housing on Vegas’s edge where Farrell’s Jerry moves in is at its eeriest in the daylight, the desert its characterless streets border giving a sense of emptiness around the lives of teenage couple Charley (Anton Yelchin) and Amy (Imogen Poots). This town of transient night workers with blacked-out windows is perfect vampire territory, but even bores centuries-old Jerry, who fills his time drinking Bud and hurr-hurring like Butthead to The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Here, Charley abandons uncool best friend Ed (Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse) for a school in-crowd Noxon paints as worse than vampires. When Jerry corners Ed - the one local geeky enough to notice and believe what he is - he promises the boy’ll be better off among the Undead; he’s hardly happy alive. “How can you be,” he tempts, “in a place like this?” His assault is clouded by the backyard swimming-pool water they sink into together, a lone moment of poetry.

FN-005An attractively bulked-out Farrell (pictured right), first seen stripped to a vest digging out the basement where he’ll hide his coffin, is a Desperate Housewives fantasy to Charley’s turned-on Mum (Toni Collette), and Amy’s primed for Christopher Lee-style Gothic vamping by reading Wuthering Heights. But Noxon explicitly rebuffs the anaemic Twilight blood-suckers that Noughties teens have made do with. “He’s not brooding or tragic or noble,” the exasperated Ed says of Jerry. “He’s the fucking shark from Jaws!” The basement cells where Jerry stashes his victims as well as his coffin have the bland practicality of the serial killer he is. Farrell’s sensible under-playing completes this latest revisionist turn, to vampires as banally nasty, dangerous bastards.

David Tennant has fun as foul-mouthed lounge magic act and TV vampire-slayer Peter Vincent, necking absinthe and shagging groupies in his hotel penthouse (replacing 1985’s Roddy McDowell). But Noxon isn’t interested in the original’s Charley as the boy who cried vampire, disbelieved by his neighbours, preferring more Buffy-esque riffs on vampire and teen genres: like Jerry’s attempts at nonchalance as he tries to get invited across Charley’s kitchen threshold, blowing the house up like the Big Bad Wolf when he fails; and his quick little grunts like a man about to come before his fangs grow erect, and the way even nice girl Amy grows curves and charisma once bitten. “He’s inside me,” she murmurs. Being a vampire is a teenage rite of passage. Poots and Yelchin (both excellent) bloom by meeting Jerry.

Fright Night is finally the wholesome fairground ride its title promises, never letting itself get too scary, radical or sexy. Sluggishly directed at times, it’s no classic. But most scenes have a bit of extra business, or something to think about. It’s a mainstream film made with intelligence and care, and better than it needs to be.

Watch the trailer to Fright Night

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