Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a teen who lives in a tiny town on the outskirts of Las Vegas, but something has been bothering him lately. Not his mother Jane (Toni Collette), a single parent who laments the loss of their last neighbours seeing as how this new one behaves anti-socially to her mind, not his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) who he feels is out of his league even though she always acts happy to be with him, but his old friend Evil Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who he is embarrassed by now he has a more socially acceptable circle to move in, especially as Ed has odd ideas...
Remake fever moved on apace with the inevitable in hindsight reimagining of Fright Night, the lightly spoofy cult item which had set box office tills a-ringing back in the mid-eighties. Unfortunately for the production, it turned out that the kind of bloodthirsty vampires who were the villains were not the kind of vampires people wanted to see in the twenty-first century, not in this context anyway. Early on Evil Ed makes disparaging comments about the Twilight franchise as viewed as the wrong type of bloodsucker horror, implying strongly that this was the right sort, but such confidence was evidently misplaced.
That said, for horror fans wanting some good, old fashioned blood and guts this Fright Night had a chance to capitalise on those who yearned for less of the romantic swoon and more of the visceral jumps and effects, although for that you might as well have stuck with the original. If you really had to update the plot, then what former Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV scribe Marti Noxon conjured up here was better than it had any right to be, not that it was going to eclipse its source judging by the muted reaction it received but there was enough here to prove it had its heart in the right place - or its stake through that heart in the right place, as it took its chills pleasingly seriously.
There were still hints of the comedy it hailed from, but there was only really one character who fitted the bill as the comic relief, and he wasn't Evil Ed who is captured by the bad guy early on. No, as before it was the Peter Vincent character supplying the laughs, though they were less secured in goofy quips and more in his abrasive personality, as essayed by David Tennant in his first major screen role after finishing his stint as Doctor Who, and doing a pretty decent job of it to boot. Vincent started as an arrogant stage magician who billed himself as vampire hunter rather than the horror host of the first movie, which began to make sense once his initial cowardice and disbelief opened out into something more conducive to battling the supernatural.
He could do with headlining his own movie, as Yelchin was saddled with a rather bland role with little to get his teeth into, mostly called on to react to the encroaching menace of his next door neighbour, who you will have worked out, as Evil Ed did, is a monster. Colin Farrell could easily have phoned in his performance given the reliance on special effects and makeup here, but he worked up a fine air of vicious aggression so that you could see the shark the script kept alluding to beneath the cool, patient exterior. For a while this looks to be drawing parallels between the traditional vampire yarn and the behaviour of the abusive older male who relies on his victim not being believed by those around him, which is interesting but jettisoned as unsustainable when modern horrors demand they get to the spectacle as soon as possible. If you didn't mind computer game-esque graphics in the setpieces then this Fright Night delivered amusingly, if nothing pioneering. Music by Ramin Djawadi.