The original 1980s Fright Night took several liberties with the established vampire mythology. Instead of a mysterious, cape-wearing drifter with piercing eyes and a Transylvanian accent, we were given Jerry, an unassuming thirty-something who wore turtleneck sweaters while eating apples and getting to know the neighbors. Jerry's pseudo-serial killer persona was only revealed at night when he would feed on unsuspecting victims and then get rid of their bodies.
The remake of Fright Night isn't a shot-for-shot remake, and switches the story up considerably while still maintaining the core elements. Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a high schooler living with his single mother Jane (Toni Collette) in a Las Vegas suburb. Charlie has managed to ingratiate himself into the popular crowd while scoring a beautiful girlfriend named Amy (Imogen Poots) and living a good life, but at the cost of abandoning his nerdy best friend "Evil" Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Amidst this social change is the arrival of next door neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell), a sleek and fit ladies man who seems to come out only at night. When local high school students start going missing, "Evil" confronts Charlie with the theory that Jerry is responsible, and a vampire to boot. Charlie dismisses the notion, but soon he too begins to notice Jerry's strange behavior and inability to enter a house unless invited. When Charlie breaks into Jerry's house to investigate, he learns that vampires truly do exist. Charlie soon confronts television magician/occultist Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a walking fraud who drinks too much and doesn't believe a word of Charlie's tale. After narrowly escaping a vicious attack by Jerry, Peter Vincent decides to help him after all, and the two set out to rid the neighborhood of a near-indestructible menace.
In many ways, Fright Night is as unique a horror movie as the original, with subtle differences. It's still a movie heavy on humor which relaxes the terror-filled plot and allows the viewer to peek over the fourth wall a little bit and into the silliness of it all. It's also a lot of fun, just like the original. That being said, the original is slightly superior to the remake, and it shows on side-by-side comparison. Colin Ferrell plays an excellent vampire, but he's clearly no match for Chris Sarandon's smug, cocky and altogether disarming delivery of the character. Ferrell's vampire is much more feral (no pun intended), aggressive and easily provoked than Sarandon's cool, calculating beast. During a scene where Jerry breaks through the gas line to Charlie's house to blow it up left me wondering why he'd go to such extreme and reckless acts whilst trying to stay undercover as a seemingly normal human. Whatever the case, the only similarity between Ferrell and Sarandon's vampires is their penchant for munching on apples in between jugular veins. By contrast, Anton Yelchin once again proves to be a delightful and instantly likeable character actor. His take on Charlie Brewster is much more natural and fitting than William Ragsdale's overacted delivery, and his turmoil and regret at past choices is presented very well. Imogen Poots is gorgeous and sexy as Amy, who far outshines Amanda Bearse's fill for the role, and she's a character that the viewer can truly care about. Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer however, is David Tennant in an uproariously funny take on Peter Vincent's character. I must admit that I was shocked to see Tennant take on such a foul-mouthed, hedonistic and greasy character, especially after 4 years of watching him save the galaxy and cry over lost companions as Doctor Who. Here, Tennant is just having fun and that's obvious in his side-splittingly hilarious banter with semi-girlfriend Ginger (Sandra Vergara).
Fright Night changes up enough of the formula to act as its own stand alone film. Sure, you can compare it to the original, but you'll probably prefer it if you do. As it stands, this is a clever and witty comedy frightfest with some pretty good scares, a lot of good timing, characters you can actually care about, and some decent special effects. It hasn't broken any molds, however.