$8.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.50
“Fright Night,” the recent sequel to the two eponymous films of the 1980s, makes absolutely no sense from a business standpoint. Neither of the 1980s flicks made much money at the box office, and the sequel has a tough act to follow.
Roddy McDowall was the vampire hunter Peter Vincent in the original, and Chris Sarandon was Jerry, the vampire. Sarandon has a cameo in the new “Fright Night.”
However, the current iteration joins a slew of R-rated comedies, most of which have been making decent coin this summer. That does not appear to be the case with “Fright Night,” but it is likely to find its revenue in pay-per-view.
In case anyone hasn’t yet figured it out, this 106 minute epic is a comedy-horror flick. It runs only two minutes longer than the original, and the cast do a creditable job playing hilariously funny stuff without mugging for the camera.
Colin Farrell plays Jerry the vampire like a Marlon Brando knockoff from “A Streetcar Named Desire” complete with tight T-shirt. Jerry moves into the house next door to real estate broker Jane Brewster (Toni Collette of “Little Miss Sunshine” fame) in a Las Vegas suburb. Across the street lives pole dancer Doris (Emily Montague), whose righteousness attracts both Jerry and Jane’s teenage son, Charley Brewster, played by Anton Yelchin. Enter Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed, Charley’s high school friend and the school geek. Ed is also obsessed with the occult. High-school kids have been vanishing from the town at an alarming rate. Jerry is seen only at night. The windows of his house are blacked out. He is strangely menacing in a double-entendre sort of way. He must be a vampire.
After much prodding and a little blackmail, Ed enlists Charley to his cause. They’re going to nail the vampire. The result is a disaster. Jerry attacks Ed and turns him into a vampire. Charley then adorns his house with garlic and crosses in what must be one of pic’s funniest moments. His anxiety over the vampire next door even causes a rift with his girlfriend, the righteous Amy (British-born 22-year-old Imogen Poots), who shows increasing desire for Charley and way too much patience for a chick as hot as she is.
Mother Jane takes a shine to Jerry, much to Charley’s alarm. Picture functions on about three levels, one of them Freudian. It’s also a spoof of everything vampire. For example, we learn that vampires cannot enter an occupied house unless invited in. (That factoid and the disastrous state of today’s Las Vegas housing market may be partly why Vegas was selected as the setting — there are plenty of vacant houses.) That is a new one on your critic. The Strip being open all night doesn’t hurt a vampire who wants to earn an honest living while the sun doesn’t shine. All vampires seem to have superhuman strength in all vampire movies, so that one is nothing new. Also vampires have a problem with sunlight, even with number 300 sunscreen. As in the Brad Pitt vehicle, “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,” they turn to dust when exposed to sunlight. What we didn’t know, and this comes in a confrontation between newly minted vampire Ed on the dark side and Charley and Amy on the light, is that vampires can live and fight with all of their superhuman strength while partially dismembered. What we didn’t know is that when a vampire is killed by a stake blessed by Saint Michael, all his victims are restored to health. Also, forget about silver bullets. Amy fires four of them into Jerry’s chest, which he pulls out saying, “for werewolves.” Holy water, however, is quite another matter. A splash will slow a vampire for a while as whatever part of his body begins to melt. “For vampires,” says Amy as Jerry’s face begins to melt.
That’s just one of pic’s many cliffhangers and climaxes, one of which takes place after Jerry forces Jane, Charley, and Amy to flee their house and then takes off after them in a high speed automobile chase. Evidently running over a vampire with a car does not necessarily kill him.
As in all good vampire flicks, blood spatters everywhere, especially in the climactic fight scenes. Said scenes happen mostly in the penthouse of TV vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who also hosts a vampire stage show on the strip with his wife, Ginger, played by the attractive Sandra Vergara, sister of TV star Sofía Vergara. Vincent, who lives life in as drunken a haze as he can muster, turns out to be the orphan child of parents who were killed by vampires — hence his obsession with things vampire. His penthouse is practically a museum of anti-vampire weapons. Reluctantly he is sucked into Charley’s fight against Jerry.
A goofy vampire sendup would not be worth its celluloid if the vampire did not score with the hero’s girl, and Jerry does, turning Amy into a vampire. He also nails Vincent. The ending is pure Hollywood, dreamed up, no doubt, by a stuntman with literary ambition. It involves Charley donning a fireproof suit and setting himself on fire with Vincent, who has not completely turned, as his partner in crime. It’s a gutsy move: Charley has to live up to the cojones displayed by his girlfriend, Amy.
Director Craig Gillespie has a firm hand at the throttle. Pic benefits from just one screenwriter, Marti Noxon, whose credits are an arm long. Tom Holland, who wrote the original “Fright Night,” gets story credit. Reports have it that his original will be re-released soon on Blu-Ray taking advantage of the promotion for the sequel.
Lensing by Javier Aguirresarobe is up to par. Cutting by Tatiana S. Riegel is economical. Special effects — including an explosion of Charley’s house courtesy of Jerry after the former has learned too much — are just cheesy enough to work in a spoof and not so cheesy that auds will laugh at their cheapness. And the production design by Richard Bridgland is a good fit. Sound recording leaves a little on the table, but not much. Forget the R rating. Take the kids. They’ll laugh out loud.