Unlike new-aged depictions of television vampires who sweep women off their feet and fight their natural urges, “Fright Night” tries to put the blood back in blood lust.
Based on the 1985 film of the same name, “Fright Night” is an average addition to the horror/action genre with only a few standout performances and less-than-satisfactory supernatural special effects.
After investigating the disappearances of fellow high school students, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) fails to convince his best friend Charley (Anton Yelchin) that his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. When Ed disappears, Charley seeks out vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant) for help. Charley’s investigation turns into a man vs. vampire conflict that brings fed up girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) and mother Jane (Toni Collette) into the dangerous crossfire.
Director Craig Gillespie does a fair job of invoking the gore and fun of classic ’80s vampire flicks like the original “Fright Night” and “The Lost Boys.” Gillespie also shows he’s not afraid to poke fun at the popular pre-teen vampire juggernaut “Twilight” as Ed denies ever reading the books, and Jerry is obsessed with apples — a reference to the cover of the first book of the series.
Fans of “Doctor Who,” the popular British science fiction television series, will be happy to hear Tennant, one of the show’s superstars, gives a standout performance in the film. He takes his role in “Fright Night” further than the other actors by making his lines pop with comic relief.
He’s also thoroughly convincing as an occult expert and jaded magician with a rock star lifestyle. In the final battle of the movie he shows backbone while dropping one-liners and pulling out a flask of liquor in the face of inevitable death.
The rest of the cast looks like zombies compared to Tennant’s lively acting. Farrell takes a dark tone when he makes a speech to Charley about the “bad people” he must protect his family from, but he wouldn’t be nearly as intimidating without the special effects that contribute to his menacing evil character. Yelchin’s performance is bland even when he confesses how badly he let Ed down.
The beginning of the film is dull and predictable, but the second act of “Fright Night” is slightly more engaging. In his first action film, director Craig Gillespie creates some amusing but not over-the-top fights and chase sequences. A few details are worth savoring — such as the variety of weapons used by the protagonists and Charley’s desperate plan to fight Jerry man-to-vampire — but the special effects only provide something memorable a handful of times, like when Jerry crawls across the road with a “For Sale” sign that ends up impaling him.
3-D effects work sparingly throughout “Fright Night.” Flakes of ash from a vampire’s incinerated corpse falling like snow across the screen is one of the most impactful effects. The rest of the time, the 3-D fails to enhance the audience’s experience.
While “Fright Night” is not a total flop, the attempt to revolutionize the genre never gets invited through the front door.
“Fright Night” was written by Marti Noxon and Tom Hollan and directed by Craig Gillespie.
3 out of 4 stars