Fright Night (3D, which we shall just ignore) is a remake of the 1985 vampire movie of the same name and, while it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, it’s not the least either.
Fright Night (3D, which we shall just ignore) is a remake of the 1985 vampire movie of the same name and, while it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, it’s not the least either. I’ve just come back from a week in a Welsh holiday cottage with an octogenarian, a toddler, a teenager, a dog and lumpy polyester duvets, which isn’t something you ever read about in Condé Nast Traveller, for example. Anyhow, I’m not sure this Fright Night ever makes a proper case for its own existence. As comic-horror it’s not funny enough or scary enough plus it always felt tiredly familiar, even though I never saw the original, don’t go in for films like this generally, and have not seen many of them. I just don’t get this cultural fascination with the undead — be dead or not dead!; make your mind up!; no one likes a ditherer! — and blood-sucking vampires (although they also quite like lasagne, I hear, and steamed puddings). True enough, your average teenage boy would probably like this but as your average teenage boy also likes Lynx, it’s not as if it’s an opinion that can be trusted.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), this is set in Las Vegas, city of the night, and an eerie housing estate surrounded by desert which is good for atmosphere, I suppose, but less good if you need a pint of milk. Our hero is Charley (Anton Yelchin), a high school student who lives with his mum, as played by Toni Collette, and although I was about to say anything with Toni Collette in it can’t be all bad, I remembered In Her Shoes, and realised it could. (I’m not saying this is all bad, only that Ms Collette has forfeited her right to Kite mark status.) Now, Charley used to hang out with his geeky friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) but he’s dropped him for a hipper crowd and a girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots). Amy is popular and beautiful and while popular and beautiful is quite a thing — I would settle for one or the other, never mind both — it would have been nice if someone had also written her a personality. Amy is The Hot Girlfriend, finito. Meanwhile, Ms Collette is given very little to do. This has a script by a woman — Marti Noxon, who wrote a good chunk of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, apparently. So I can’t really say why the female characters are all so pathetically weak and meh, only that they are.
OK, that’s the set-up, and then along comes Jerry, Charley’s new neighbour. Ed suspects Jerry is a vampire. Ed and Charley used to be very interested in vampires when they were friends. Charley now thinks Ed is just being nerdy and childish. Charley is silly because Jerry is Colin Farrell at his most Colin Farrellish, which has to be creepy: flaring nostrils, slyly narrowing eyes, plus a widow’s peak, which is always a giveaway. So Charley and Amy and Ms Collette find they are on the run, and must enlist the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a tacky, dissolute Vegas illusionist continually chafed by his leather trousers. Vincent lives in a Vegas apartment with his girlfriend, who is always slinking around in a half-open dressing-gown exposing lacy bra and panties. It’s said there is always psychosexual tension nibbling at the edges of vampire films, but this seems like pure sexism to me. Ms Noxon, what is your problem?
Still, like I said, it’s not the least fun I’ve ever had. Farrell and Tennant are obviously having a ball. And the gory bits are wondrously gory. I did jump a couple of times, although this may only be because I’m such a scaredy cat — I jump out of my skin when my own doorbell goes — and more hardened horror fans will find this stagy and tame. But it drags, particularly during the first half, has plot discrepancies that would drive you mad if you thought about them, and characters that fail to engage. Even Charley is rather bland. You can’t make someone interesting just by spelling their name funny, you know. In short, what I think I want to say is this: if Fright Night is meant to be a send-up of the genre it takes itself too seriously — I can’t remember a single decent joke, now I think about it — and if it isn’t a send-up then it doesn’t take itself seriously enough. And that’s it. End of story. Or ‘end of’ as today’s Lynx-doused young people would say.