Fright Night is fantastic, frightful fun

Fright Night is a remake of the 1985 movie by the same name, but does not fall into the predictable trap of boring, by-the-book movie remakes that permeate the modern theater. This version has timely commentary on American real estate, the way a teenager’s reputation can be ruined with the public release of a YouTube video and the popularity (and absurdity) of Las Vegas magicians like Criss Angel. Plus, a handsome bloodthirsty vampire!

Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov from the Star Trek reboot; Chekov has definitely grown up) stars as Charley, who lives in Las Vegas with his mom, a Century 21 real estate agent played by Toni Collette. Charley’s mom is annoyed by the dumpster in their next-door neighbor’s driveway, but Charley’s estranged friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, still kind of playing the McLovin role that brought him into the public eye in Superbad) is convinced that the broodingly handsome Jerry (Colin Farrell, perfectly cast) is a vampire.

When Ed goes missing, just as many other kids in their high school have done (Charley brushes off Ed’s concern at first with an immensely well-placed “People don’t live in Las Vegas, they just pass through”—as one of the epicenters of the foreclosure crisis, this is accurate), Charley decides maybe he should go investigate and then he is drawn into a dark world beyond belief.

The movie goes over a few rules of vampirism and takes a few well-deserved potshots at the Twilight saga. Jerry cannot go out in the daytime, nor does he sparkle, although he does enjoy eating apples and drinking beer. Ed compares him to the shark from Jaws. He requires a verbal invitation to enter someone’s house. He doesn’t get spooked by crosses, but holy water hurts, as does fire and a well-placed (but hard to place) stake to his heart.

As for his house, it’s sparsely-decorated with blacked-out windows and a creepy addition (hence the dumpster), the living room containing a single chair in front of his TV so he can watch Real Housewives of New Jersey. Yes, he does actually do this during a nerve-wracking scene and it is hilarious to hear the housewives talk about their breast sizes and such while scary things are simultaneously occurring.

Charley’s investigations of Ed’s disappearance take him to Peter Vincent, a Criss Angel lookalike played by Scottish actor David Tennant. Perhaps I reveal a slight bias in saying this because I am a huge David Tennant fan (he did a wonderful modernized Hamlet recently, he’s doing Much Ado About Nothing right now, but he may be most well-known for his turn as the titular character in Doctor Who from 2005 to 2009), but he is the true jewel of this movie and yet so many reviews gloss over or do not mention his pivotal role, which is a shame. By the way, he uses a “standard” British accent in this role, much like the one he used as The Doctor, not his natural Glasgow brogue.

Peter is a male diva of the highest order. When he’s not performing his show at the Hard Rock hotel, he lives in a wild goth-themed penthouse with tons of old treasures he buys off eBay and a Latina girlfriend/performer named Ginger (Sandra Vergara) who openly hates his guts. He swigs Midori in pretty much every scene, is shirtless often (David is, uh, well-built, though he sports a noticeable appendectomy scar) and the scene where he peels off all his stage makeup as he talks to Charley is masterful. Peter doesn’t want to help Charley at first, but he has his reasons, which I won’t reveal.

Soon, Charley, his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots, who looks gorgeous and refuses to be a damsel in distress) and his mom have to go on the run from Jerry, who mercilessly chases them through the desert. Thankfully, both women are clever, resourceful and not above using unusual weaponry. They do not fulfill the tired old role of helpless women who can’t even blink without male assistance. Amy does get imperiled, but that’s because Jerry wants to lure Charley into a trap and knows to use her for that.

The plot thickens, as it does, and I won’t get specific, but the big climax is a sight to behold. Watch out for Chris Sarandon, who played Jerry in the original: he has a cameo role.

My word of advice: pay that extra money for 3-D. The people behind Fright Night use 3-D properly. There are no cheap “oh, look, it’s a ball for no reason, touch it” gags like in some movies that were either shot in 3-D or upscaled in post-production with the hopes of earning more box office. Every use of 3-D is for a good, integral reason. Fright Night also doesn’t fall into the common trap of 3-D movies looking too dark and murky. It’s Las Vegas! There’s fantastically bright neon, the desert, burning flames and a big multimillion-dollar magic show.

Do be aware, though, that this movie is rated R for a reason. There is a lot of swearing—Peter especially swears like a sailor—and graphic violence including the amputation of an arm, a nearly headless vampire and gallons of spilt blood. Do not bring children to this movie. I can’t believe I have to say that, but since I heard a small child babbling throughout the movie, I guess I have to state the obvious. (The problems of movie audiences behaving impolitely are a subject best left for a different post.)

For a night of bloody, scary fun, Fright Night is perfect. I give it an A.

(Note that there is no surprise waiting at the end of the credits. I sat through the entire credits with hopes of something, maybe involving Peter, but there was nothing. Since it’s common to offer after-credits scenes, I figured I’d try!)

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