FRIGHT NIGHT. Starring Colin Farrel, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Passe and Toni Collette. Directed by Craig Gillespie. 120 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong horror violence).
Back in 1985, Tom Holland wrote and directed a vampire film (not so prolific then as they are these days on the big screen and on the television screen) which some consider a classic of sorts, Fright Night. William Ragsdale was the schoolboy who discovered his next door neighbour, Jerry (Chris Sarandon) was a vampire. He enlisted the aid of an eccentric showman, played with relish by Roddy McDowell. There was a sequel, less successful, a couple of years later.
Powers that be have decided that it is time for another version, and in 3D.
As vampires movies go, it is not bad (except for an excess of tiresome crass language which usually indicates quick and lazy writing). This time the setting is suburban Las Vegas, homes and schools, the desert roads, with a visit to a casino and one of those extravagant show theatres.
The question is: how seriously should it be taken? It is a B movie plot with an A cast.
This time Anton Yelchin is the boy. He is a good actor (Star Trek, The Beaver). His vampirised friend is played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Of all people, Jerry is played by Colin Farrell (who also tried his hand at black comedy as one of the Horrible Bosses). Toni Collette is the boy’s mother and Imogen Poots his girlfriend, Amy.
The plot is much the same as before. Boy is alarmed at vampire next door, tries to protect his mother and Amy, sees what Jerry is up to and is hounded and pursued by Jerry. (And, stopped on the road, they are crashed into by Chris Sarandon with Colin Farrell doing to him what Sarandon did to others in the original: joke appreciated by horror buffs).
While Roddy McDowell tended to steal the show in the past, how will this one do it: as well or better? In fact, they have hired TV’s recent Dr Who and the West End’s Hamlet, David Tennant, to send up the wilful, spiteful, egotistical and alcoholic Las Vegas magician who is an expert on vampires. He is made up to look like a gaunt Russell Brand (perhaps Brand was going to do the part but could not) and proceeds to channel Brand’s eccentric, in your face, style of comedy. He does it very well.
The plot is really a bit thin and familiar, so the interest and entertainment come from seeing this kind of cast, fangs and all.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 22nd September 2011.