Can a 3-D horror movie be a thing of beauty? In the case of the remake of Fright Night, the answer is "Yes."
This violent and violently funny vampire tale covers no new ground, sporting the same jokey tone as the original. But there's a quirky sensibility that we might attribute to director Craig Gillespie, who gave us the gently twisted Lars and the Real Girl. Fright Night also can boast of having the best vampire-villain in ages: The bushy-browed Colin Farrell was born to wear fangs.
But hiring Javier Aguirresarobe, who shot Goya's Ghosts, New Moon, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, also was a coup. His 3-D camera sweeps into smoky, shadowy rooms, lit only by candles or a flickering TV screen, through the empty streets of a Vegas suburb and into the garish neon of Las Vegas itself.
Yeah, the screen hurls blood, guts, shattered glass, arrows, and crucifixes right in our face. It is a 3-D horror movie, after all. But the look here is as striking as any film to use 3-D.
The story? Kids and adults are disappearing. But the economy's bad and foreclosed houses are everywhere. And besides, as Charley (Anton Yelchin) says, "Nobody lives in Vegas, they just pass through."
That makes this the perfect spot for a vampire killing spree. Charley pays no attention to the warnings of his nerdy friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The kid reads "too much Twilight," just one of the reasons Charley abandoned him as a pal. He can't impress the stunning Amy (Imogen Poots) if his geek past is right there in front of her.
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But Charley soon has reason to become just as suspicious of their new neighbor as Ed. Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a hunk who seems to do a lot of home repairs on his tract house -- at night. Charley can't tell the cops or tell his mom (Toni Collette), or even Amy. Who would believe him, even as the truancy list at his high school grows by the day?
The bulk of the movie is Charley trying to outrun and outsmart a very clever, ruthless vampire, a bloodsucker who deals with the suspicious the same way he deals with everybody else -- with a bite.
We know all the "rules" for fighting vampires, thanks to pop culture. Fright Night adds smart phones to the vampire hunter's tool kit, right next to stakes of holly, holy water, and crucifixes.
Former Doctor Who David Tennant is the drunken, oversexed Peter Vincent, star of a Vegas stage show about fighting and killing vampires, a show called Fright Night. Roddy McDowell played this campy role in the original film -- a fraud who passes himself off as an expert, but is given a put-up-or-shut-up choice when the kid comes to him for help fighting real vampires.
The vamp-transformation effects are quite good, the gimmicky uses of 3-D lots of fun. But perhaps the most special effect of all is Farrell. Pardon the pun, but he chews this movie up.
As we've seen in films from Captain America to The Help, spending the money on landing a very good, very menacing actor to be your villain makes the difference, especially in a movie that otherwise is entirely too familiar to keep us awake all the way through one long night of fright.
Directed by Craig Gillespie. Written by Marti Noxon, based on original ‘Fright Night,’ written and directed by Tom Holland.
A DreamWorks release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references. Running time 105 minutes.
Critic’s rating: • • •½
Charley ............ Anton Yelchin
Jerry ................... Colin Farrell
••••• Outstanding; •••• Very Good;
••• Good; •• Fair; • Poor.