Reporting Eric Henderson
What’s scarier than a vampire next door? How about no one living next door at all?
That’s the hook of the new remake of the 1985 horror-comedy cult favorite Fright Night, in which vampires and teens share a co-existence somewhat less harmonious than the one exhibited in the Twilight universe.
Just as the original seemed to have one foot planted in John Hughes’ suburbia and the other in the musty rulebook of ancient vampire lore, the remake feels like a welcome return to a bloodsucking legacy of crucifixes and garlic cloves even as it pays fang service to our current moment. Namely, this is a horror movie that earns laughs off our nation’s fears about foreclosures sucking the lifeblood out of our homes’ estimated market values.
Anton Yelchin (one of the photogenic geeks who beamed up in the Star Trek reboot) stars as Charlie, a reformed geek who tries to keep his former best geek bud Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, forever known to the world as McLovin) at bay as he navigates the brave new world of, gulp, popularity and prom dates. He can’t even bring himself to listen to Ed when he points out that the man who just moved in next door — the silent, sexy bachelor Jerry (Colin Ferrell) — is a vampire.
In the original, Stephen Geoffreys was like a bug-eating miscreant who forgot to grow up. Mintz-Plasse seems like the inversion: a book-smart little man whose body hasn’t even bothered to keep up with his intellect. Yelchin, however, navigates basically the same path as did William Ragsdale in the ’85 version — he’s at the crossroads between boyhood and masculinity and (as a fatherless child) has no real role model against which to feel himself out.
Which is why it’s a minor miracle that Yelchin gets to play opposite Ferrell’s winning masculinity. Wresting away the mantle away from the likes of Team Edward, Ferrell’s Jerry operates as though his superhuman vampirism is less about bloody transmissions and more a reflection of his excess reserve of testosterone. He’s the sort of bro who unwinds after a hard night’s day of feeding on jugulars by cracking open a brewski and settling in for some quality time with the 52-inch flat screen.
Jerry’s insistent male principle seems to fill Charlie’s house even when, being he hasn’t actually been invited and can’t step foot inside, he merely hovers in the kitchen doorframe. Swag is the buzzword of the year, and Ferrell swings it. So much so that the movie seems to deflate a bit once Charlie attempts to fight back.
Probably the biggest alteration between the original and the new version is that Peter Vincent — who was previously played as a campy, Vincent Price-ish late horror show host by Roddy McDowall — has been turned into a glitter-grimy, gender-incoherent Chris Angel-esque stage illusionist in Vegas who, more often than fighting vampires, does daily battle with his constrictive leather pants. But he’s got bank.
Again, it all fits in with the new version’s fixation on the twin crises of masculinity and real estate. Which may be enough to keep Fright Night resonating surprisingly long after the 3-D splashes of blood have been wiped away from your eyes.