The Austin Chronicle

Fright Night

Rated R, 106 min. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 19, 2011

Fans of the irritatingly limp and relatively toothless Twilight series may actually find their tormented inner selves fondled to exquisite, precoital perfection with this slick and gleeful adaptation of the classic Eighties vampire-next-door flick. Sex and death go head-to-head here, both temporarily sidelined by every teenager's least favorite societal villain: that damned chastity. But, as in Tom Holland's original 1985 film, virtue and purity are lousy guarantees against the forces of hunky bloodsuckers. Discounting the across-the-pond charms of Hammer Films stalwart Christopher Lee, it was John Badham's 1979 Dracula that kick-started the ongoing cinematic love-and-death affair with the sexy undead. In that film, über suave Frank Langella, resplendent in the traditional cape and blow-dried coif combo, made dying at the lips of a hellbound predator seem the absolute height of kinky, Disco-era nightlife. The original Fright Night then upped the stakes, so to speak, by adding explosive (literally) and inventive gore effects to the sleek suburban urbanity of Chris Sarandon's vampire Jerry Dandridge. Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) goes everyone one better by casting Colin Farrell as Jerry. It's a coup of sorts, because Farrell's impish, actorly insouciance is tailor-made for predatory roles such as this. He's only upstaged here, very briefly, by Sarandon, who appears in a cameo nod to the original. Also as in the original, lovesick teen Charley Brewster (Yelchin, the Star Trek reboot's Chekov) and his potential paramour Amy (Poots) find themselves, geek pal Ed (Mintz-Plasse), and Charley's mom Jane (Collette) threatened with deathlessness when the short, dark stranger moves in next door to their heretofore normal suburban tract home. Alas, as Joe Jackson has previously noted, "In every dream home, a nightmare," and bloody chaos soon ensues. Gillespie's Fright Night isn't a prick on the neck of the original – who could forget Evil Ed's goofy hair or Amy's yawning maw? – but what it does, it does well. It's too slick by half and the vampiric effects work is somewhat less than heart-stopping, but it unfolds, snakelike, with a certain desert charm and doesn't break any of the cardinal rules of the genre (or, frankly, add anything to them). Farrell's toothsome demon is a post-millennial version of sexy, which is intriguing, but not nearly as fun to watch as Frank Langella's hair.

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