Colin Farrell makes for a creepy, sleazy vampire in Fright Night, a darkly funny remake of the 1985 cult classic that made William Ragsdale a household name. Whatever happened to that guy, anyway?
Farrell is as much fun in the role of Jerry the vampire as Chris Sarandon was in the original. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and declare Farrell a Top 5 movie vampire of all time. He is both fierce and hilarious as the apple-chomping bloodsucker next door with little patience for high-school boys nosing around his murderous business.
Farrell's atomically good performance makes up for some of the film's shortcomings, including visually dull atmospherics resulting from the completely unnecessary usage of 3-D special effects. Much of this film is people standing around talking, and that simply doesn't require the feeling that they are coming at you out of the screen. A big chunk of the film's running time is at night, and the 3-D process naturally darkens things, so I found myself often squinting to see what was going on. Big waste of filmmaking time and money.
Back to the good stuff. Anton Yelchin makes for a solid Charley Brewster (eat your heart out, William Ragsdale!), Imogen Poots is adorable as Charley's gal pal Amy, and Toni Collette is super hot and cool as his mom. Christopher Mintz-Plasse does a mighty respectable job as Ed (replacing the kooky Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed in the original).
In the pivotal role of Peter Vincent, played so awesomely by Roddy McDowall in the original, David Tennant (Dr. Who) does a funny spin on the character. Instead of the cheesy vampire-movie hero from the original, Tennant is an alcoholic Criss Angel-type illusionist doing a crap vampire show in Las Vegas. He and Farrell both provide the film with a lot of laughs.
Another powerful aspect of the movie is choosing an isolated Vegas suburb as the setting. Charley lives in a neighborhood planted in the middle of the desert, where people don't necessarily pay close attention to what is going on with the neighbors. If a vampire starts sucking on your girlfriend on this particular city block, you are miles away from any kind of help, which lends an eerie feeling.
It's also quite believable that a lot of the houses on the block would be empty, due to the city's transient nature, and remaining neighbors, despondent over gambling losses, would be oblivious to bad things. In the end, it's quite the good setting for a vampire flick.
Much of the plot is similar to the '80s incarnation. Jerry the vampire moves in next door, although he doesn't have a creepy man-guard providing protection this time out. He's just by himself, doing yard work and massive reconstruction of his house's interior. What he does to the place reminds you a little of what the serial killer played by David Morse did to his abode in Disturbia.
When one of Charley's former friends goes missing, estranged pal Ed urges him to help investigate. Watchers of the original might recall what happens to Ed. As in Kick-Ass, Mintz-Plasse does a good job playing an evil, killer nerd. And he's great with the comic comebacks, including his reaction to the notion that he reads Twilight books.
Further nods to the original include Jerry's constant apple consumption, the re-imagining of some of the film's classic lines, and one of the better cameos you will see in a movie this year. I won't give it away; I will just tell you that it is a good one.
The film earns its R rating with some stomach-churning, blood-spurting gore. It's been a while since a vampire biting somebody gave me psychosomatic neck pains, but I got them when Farrell sunk his teeth into victims. And Farrell really plays up Jerry's sheer desire to drink blood when he's feeding. This is a vampire who gets off on what he is doing.
The film's best sequence involves a car chase in the middle of nowhere, with Jerry violently pursuing Charley, his girlfriend and mom. One way director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock) ups the ante on the original is that Jerry spends a lot less time trying to hide his vampire identity and more time simply trying to drain his neighbors. A sight gag during the big chase involving a real-estate sign is a nastily funny riff on the recent housing crisis.
The finale is routine, but it's peppered with excellent Farrell line readings, so he keeps things at least entertainingly routine.
See the new Fright Night for Farrell's entertaining bloodsucker spin. He puts the Twilight vampires, and even the now-boring vampires on the deteriorating True Blood, to shame. Just skip the whole 3-D thing. It is truly a rip-off this time out, unless the sight of somebody eating an apple in 3-D appeals to your sense of adventure.