Dave White
Fright Night Review

Dave's Rating:

3.0

Big mouth strikes again.

I'll be a happier horror fan when vampires stop "trending." Along with 3D and the never-ending stampede of animated talking animal movies, the unintended consequence of the vampire glut is a numbing familiarity, making them all about as scary as a counting-obsessed Muppet. If one of the recent batch of New Romantic vampires came to your door, you'd not only let it in, you'd expect it to be full of witty, self-aware banter. This is not what founding fathers Bram Stoker and Nosferatu intended.

I'm not bashing Twilight or True Blood or The Vampire Diaries or Let The Right One In. They all have their place. But was it necessary for a vampire turf battle to break out over the exact same place at the exact same moment in history?

That’s why I wasn’t in the mood for a Fright Night remake and I still don’t know anybody who is. I saw the original back in the '80s. It was funny, cheesy, gory entertainment, but even if I had a particular fondness for the cool, practical, giant-fang-mouth makeup effects on all the characters turned bloodsucker by Chris Sarandon’s vampire next door, I wasn't eager for anyone to serve it up again 2011-style. The thought of Hollywood not leaving well enough alone and rebranding it all as a digitally-slick 3D waste of time wasn't making me feel very much in love with my job.

But, you know, a vampire movie knocks on a film critic's door and that film critic is obligated to let it in, whether it's right or not. For example, I had to watch Vampires Suck. I know what I'm talking about here.

Anyway, now there are two. This time around Colin Farrell is the Dracula and he's got the inherently evil caterpillarish eyebrows to back it up. He's moved into a dead-souled suburban Las Vegas neighborhood next to single mom Toni Collette and her son Anton Yelchin. And one by one, everybody Yelchin knows starts to disappear. His former-best-nerd-friend Christopher Mintz-Plasse tries to warn him about Farrell’s true nature, but Yelchin doesn’t want to know about it. He’s way too busy trying to get lucky with the pretty blonde girl at school (the excellently named Imogen Poots).

In other words, the vampire next door is more than just a predatory bloodsucker out to kill, he's also a stand-in for Yelchin’s adolescent rites of passage. When a handsome, sexually (and mortally) threatening monster magnet is flirting with your mother and trying to pull your girlfriend away, when your former best pal from a less desirable social caste is disrupting your new version of reality and when everything you say out loud is met with disbelieving stares, you're actually just dealing with boring old teenagerness; a vampire in the mix is just hot sauce.

The smartest move, then, was to hand it over to Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Marti Noxon, who wrote a script wittier than it had to be (pay attention and catch the sly Buffy shout-out), to Lars and the Real Girl director Craig Gillespie, who knows how to ride the line between absurd and tragic, and to a cast that understands how to have a good time with goofy material and subtext you can either explore or ignore. It doesn't demand much but it doesn't insult the memory of the long-dead '80s either.

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