So, is the new Fright Night yet another terminal case of a charmless remake that nobody asked for, with the ever-abundant 3D tacked-on to boot? Thankfully not - well, the 3D thing isn't too far wrong - for this retelling of the 1985 cult classic is a smart, effervescent take on the original film with plenty of wit, charm a viral sense of fun to offer off its own back. The plot lifts the expected beats from the original; bored teenager Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is living a quiet life with his single mother (Toni Collette) in a suburb of Las Vegas, though things have begun to look up recently as he somehow has managed to get with the girl of his dreams, Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots). However, the happiness doesn't last for long, as his old friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), informs him of the families going missing in the local area, and how he thinks it might be related to Charlie's hunky new neighbour, Jerry (Colin Farrell). Charlie laughs off Ed's claims that Jerry might be a vampire, but once Ed goes missing, and Jerry takes an interest in both Charlie's mother and girlfriend, he is forced to consult Vegas magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant) with the hope that he can help vanquish the bloodthirsty Jerry once and for all. While steeped in the same business of being a vampire film that knows it's a vampire film, this Fright Night cleverly updates the postmodern twist that made the original so fun. Director Craig Gillespie notes how drastically the landscape of the vampire film and indeed the horror genre has changed in the interim decades, getting some hilarious early digs in at Twilight before branching off to send-up the mythic conventions of the genre. For example, late in the day, Amy empties a gun filled with silver bullets into Jerry, only for him to promptly correct her, with great relish, "werewolves". So much of why the film works is the infectious sense of fun conveyed by the entire cast; we can tell they're having an absolute blast and it pays off in spades. From Mintz-Plasse to Collette, the majority of the actors play up to the artchetypal roles they have carved out for themselves throughout their respective careers, but the screen is well and truly dominated by the more against-type work from the electric Colin Farrell and David Tennant, as vampire and pseudo vampire-slayer respectively. Farrell's delicious turn fits him like a glove and the camera absolutely loves him, while Tennant isn't in the film for very long at all, but makes the best of his screen time and demonstrates a previously unseen edge and excellent sense of comic timing. It's not just content with being funny, though; the action is completely exhilarating, with several satisfying set-pieces, but most surprisingly of all, Gillespie manages to generate more than enough genuine moments of suspense, a major box-ticker for the original film and the one aspect I suspected this remake would fall short on. Ramin Djawadi deserves plenty of credit for a pulsing, old-school horror score which ramps up the intensity no-end. In fact, the only real reservation by film's end is the worthiness of the third dimension; it works well whenever a vampire dies, but typically, during the longer portions without action, it is utterly wasted on the visual motifs of suburban homes mostly shrouded in darkness. An unnecessary remake perhaps, but also a knowingly updated one, with strong work from Colin Farrell and David Tennant. This film is great fun. Fright Night 3D is out now in the U.S. and in the U.K.
Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.