Bloodier but not full-bore gore
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Despite being overshadowed by the similarly themed The Lost Boys in the memories of those growing up in the 1980s, 1985's original Fright Night was a vampy, campy comedy-horror that lit up the US box office and later became a video night staple amongst teens around the world.
A mix of An American Werewolf in London and Rear Window, its self-awareness and obsession with rules presaged the Scream trilogy while also providing welcome respite from a genre seemingly obsessed with demented madmen in ski masks.
Watching it recently it's clear that most of the budget was spent on the special effects, with the film blighted by two well over-age teens, a cheesy synth and electric guitar-heavy soundtrack, the strange involvement of werewolves, an over-reliance on gloop and Chris Sarandon's bouffanted bad guy, but buoyed by a charming turn from veteran Roddy McDowell and its sheer dogged and dog-eared likeability.
So in this year of resurrecting all things 80s, perhaps this is the most ripe and worthy of a redo. Despite an opening shot that pays homage to the original, it isn't long before this bloodier but not full-bore gore Fright Night for the Superbad rather than the Spielberg generation makes its differences apparent.
"The hours you keep, it's like living with a vampire," teen Charlie Brewster's (Anton Yelchin) mom Jane (Toni Collette) bemoans. But that was before one moved in next door.
The mysterious Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell) may claim to work a construction night shift, but the increasing numbers of disappearing residents and ongoing "foundation problems" with his house have Charlie's former best friend "Evil" Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) convinced that he's part of the neck-biting undead. "Not a lovey dovey Twilight one, he's the shark from Jaws," Ed warns Charlie.
However, it's only when Ed vanishes that Charlie begins to get uneasy, which instantly puts him on Jerry's radar.
Then it isn't long before all hell breaks loose. Going to the police isn't an option ("What will I tell them? A vampire moved in next door, borrowed a Bud, ate a stripper and blew up my house?), so there's only one person he can turn to - magician and vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant).
Vamped and ramped up by director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), 2011's Fright Night smoulders in more ways than one.
Pyrotechnics abound, with good use made of camera-angles, point-of-view shots and the extra-dimension (raining ash is particularly effective), while the casting is spot on with Farrell (In Bruges) oozing cool charisma and sexual magnetism as The Real Desperate Housewives-obsessed, apple-loving blood-sucker, Poots (Jane Eyre) and the laryngitis-tinged Yelchin (Terminator Salvation) an eye-catching couple and the slinky Scot Tennant (Doctor Who) stealing virtually every scene as a Midori-swigging cross between Russell Brand and David Blaine (whose somewhat suspect vampire advice includes "making him a big garlicky omelette").
Most importantly, Gillespie manages to wring every ounce of tension out of situations (a scene involving Jerry trying to invite himself in is a highlight), while throwing in the occasional shock.
A perfect antidote to Twilight, while Fright Night is no Let the Right One In in terms of vampire-defining stakes, it's up there with Let Me In, 2004's Dawn of the Dead and Scorsese's Cape Fear as one of the best remakes. Bloody good fun.
- © Fairfax NZ News