Colin Farrell as a blood-sucking vampire? I can dig it. The Irish rogue slaps on a pair of sharp teeth and cranks up the sleazy charm in Craig Gillespie’s remake of the ’80s classic “Fright Night”, which transplants the story to the arid deserts of Las Vegas, Nevada, but otherwise retains much of the original’s storyline. But does it also replicate the elements that made the original such a cult hit? That’s up to you to decide when the 2011 incarnation of “Fright Night” swoops onto DVD and Blu-ray this December 13, 2011 from Dreamworks Pictures.
Senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) finally has it all. He’s running with the cool kids and dating the hottest girl in high school (Imogen Poots). But all hell breaks loose when charming Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. Charley thinks there’s something odd about him, although no one – including his mom (Toni Collette) – seems to notice. But after too many of his classmates vanish under bizarre circumstances, Charley comes to an unmistakable conclusion: Jerry is a vampire preying on his neighborhood!
He’s mysterious, he’s handsome, and he just moved into the house next door. And oh yeah, when night falls, there are odd sounds coming from his residence. It could just be that sunlight-adverse neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) just likes to party harder than some, or it could be that he’s a — gasp! — vampire. I’m gonna go with the former myself, but I could be wrong.
The hero of our tale is Charley (“Terminator Salvation’s” Anton Yelchin), who lives next door to such a person. A former geek who has managed to dump his geeky side (and buddy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in the process) and moved on with his new, cooler high school life, complete with a hot new girlfriend (an all-grown up Imogen Poots of “28 Weeks Later”), Charley has it all. After Ed goes missing, a remorseful Charley starts to take Ed’s stories of vampires among their little corner of the universe more seriously. His investigation leads him to his next door neighbor Jerry, who is so obviously a vamp. Now Charley must stop the bloodsucker lest he and his single mom (Toni Collette) fall under the vampire’s bite. To help in his quest, Charley recruits boozing Vegas magician Peter Vincent (former “Doctor Who” timelord David Tennant), who is not exactly enthusiastic about joining the fight.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, taking a rare turn into genre fare (he previously directed “Lars and the Real Girl” and “Mr. Woodcock”), the rebooted “Fright Night” certainly doesn’t waste a whole lot of time getting to the nitty gritty. The filmmakers assume that you already know the premise, or has seen the ads, so the set-up is minimal, which, let me say, is a good thing. Without having seen the original, I can’t say if the remake is anything like it, though from plot descriptions I’ve read, it seems to generally follow the same story. Though I wonder if the 1985 film is just as goofy as the remake, which, at times, is borderline absurd. In the world of “Fright Night” 2011, no one really bats an eye if a house on their block blows up, some kid is driving around in a dead man’s car (which also happens to be royally trashed), teenagers go missing in clumps, and a vampire pretty much goes around the city biting people willy nilly. Honestly, the care ol Jerry takes to hide his true self is hilariously pitiful.
But hey, it’s a genre film about vampires, so real-world problems need not factor in here. As a horror entry, though, “Fright Night” won’t have you waking up at nights. It’s not frightening in the least, with the vast majority of the vampire attacks played for laughs, though there are one or two moments when the film decides it wants to be taken seriously. Aside from Tennant, who is easily the best thing about the film, the cast doesn’t really stand out much. Anton Yelchin is decent but not outstanding, likewise Imogen Poots and even Colin Farrell as the ridiculously aggressive vampire. Honestly, how this guy managed to survive for so long is beyond me. And while Christopher Mintz-Plasse, in what amounts to an extended cameo, is amusing, I still would have liked to see more of Tennant’s Vincent Price, though giving his character some silly backstory was, well, silly. Why couldn’t he just be an obnoxious showman who happens to be handy at slaying vampires?
“Fright Night” has its moments, but I don’t think anyone will be calling it a genre favorite anytime soon. On the plus side, it’s a very nicely paced action/comedy, with emphasis on the action and comedy, and rarely has a dull moment. If nothing else, watching former Doctor Who David Tennant scratching his crotch and complaining about leather itch is pretty damn priceless.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes the film in Blu-ray and standard DVD, with both discs containing bonus features. The Blu-ray disc contains about 5 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including:
A 2-minute “Peter Vincent: Come Swim in my Mind”, which is a brief “sit-down interview” with Peter Vincent (Tennant in character) talking about his fake Vegas stage show; the “Official ‘How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie'” Guide is an 8-minute, not-all-that-funny doc on the making of the film; the full, hilarious 3-minute “Squid Man” backyard homemade movie Charley made with Evil Ed; plus about 3 minutes of blooper footage and a music video. No audio commentary, which is disappointing, since in my experience the commentary tracks on action-comedies are always a hoot.
The video was crisp and clear, which really brings out the rushed nature of some of the CGI segments (not a good thing in case you were wondering). There’s a sequence about halfway into the film where the main characters are making their escape in a car, that just screams bad green screen work, something that you can’t hide with the clarity of Blu-ray.