Fright Night: Craig Gillespie’s Feature, Starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin

This new version of “Fright Night,” originally made in 1985, probably got greenlit thanks to vampires being a hot commodity these days, following the “Twilight” franchise and the popular “True Blood” TV series.

An unscary and unfunny screenplay by Marti Noxon (of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame) spoils whatever fun could have been generated. Vampires taking over suburbia—how do you make a potentially promising premise into a a dull and bland movie like “Fright Night”?

Inevitable comparisons will be made with Herb Jaffe’s superior 1985 production, which was well received by critics and popular at the box-office.  According to Rotten Tomatoes scale, that film has a 93 percent approval rate.  Who knows? Back in the 1980s, there were not many vampire on our big or small screens. As directed by Tom Holland, a former actor who had penned the screenplays for “Class of 1984,” Cloak and Dagger,” and “Psycho II,”, “Fright Night” was fresh, scary, and well acted by th entire ensemble: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bears, and Roddy McDowall.

This “Fright Night” has too many boring regular folks . A lot of the screen time goes to a pack of charmless teens whom we’d rather see turning into vampires and turning on one another than rattling on about their relationship problems and difficult childhoods.

The lead teen (played by Anton Yelchin, who was recently seen in Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver”), who looks to be well into his twenties, is unfortunately the most uninteresting of the bunch by far.

From its super-slow opening minutes, we know that this film is going to be juiceless unless Colin Farrell, as a vampire chieftain, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as a geek turned vampire, are going to be able to squeeze something out of this empty script. But both of their performances are total misfires—in Farrell’s case, an embarrassing career low that he can hopefully erase with some good new parts soon.

Farrell, who looks slightly bloated in addition to being unattractively pasty, hams it up big-time. He often takes what are supposed to be menacing bites out of apples and sniffs the air for fresh blood. “You smell that?” he asks. “It’s your fear.”

Is Farrell trying to be funny? No doubt the intent was to build some humor into the part, but the problem is that he comes off ridiculous when he is supposed to be creepy and conversely unfunny whenever he tries to get laughs.

And this is the curse of the entire film. The new “Fright Night” comes off silly when it wants to be scary and insufferable every time it lunges for the fun factor.

After a fairly early scene in which Farrell threateningly, ponderously, and hilariously warns Yelchin to watch out for his mom (Toni Collette) and his “ripe” girlfriend (Imogen Poots), this movie gets lost.  The script, the acting, and the direction by Craig Gillespie, who formerly helmed the charming Ryan Gosling comedy “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007)—are all disappointing.

“Fright Night” wastes the talents of Toni Collette, an accomplished actor who has had memorable roles in “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “About a Boy” (2002), “The Hours” (2002), and “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006). It is a shame to see an actor who could be contributing so much more reduced to delivering idiotic lines like “I’m you mom, not some ridiculous woman!” and “I hate the fucking desert now—I have a psycho next door!”

David Tennant is unbearable as a preening vampire expert, who reluctantly gets involved in Yelchin’s little war against Farrell and his growing tribe of bloodsuckers. It is the same kind of over-the-top, never-connecting performance that Russell Brand gave us in this year’s awful “Arthur” remake.

Other problems: there is something quite distasteful about Farrell’s erotic antics with the teenagers here. In the film’s first big kill, Farrell saunters after Mintz-Plasse into a swimming pool and gives him a big homoerotic bite. Later, Farrell dramatically seduces Poots, who has had trouble getting her boyfriend into bed.

The film feels overlong because it is mostly consumed with Yelchin’s tedious attempts to stop Farrell. A major frustration is that Yelchin, for some unexplained reason, continually refuses to explain what he knows about Farrell to his mother and girlfriend. They naturally become increasingly agitated, mirroring the audience’s agitation at having to sit through this movie.

The 3D in “Fright Night” is almost entirely pointless. If you ever wanted to know what 3D can do for a Las Vegas suburb—not much, as it turns out—here you go.


Charley Brewster – Anton Yelchin

Jerry Dandridge – Colin Farrell

Peter Vincent – David Tennant

Jane Brewster – Toni Collette

“Evil” Ed Thompson – Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Amy Peterson – Imogen Poots


A Touchstone Pictures release.

Directed by Craig Gillespie.

Written by Marti Noxon.

Produced by Michael De Luca, Michael J. Gaeta, and Alison R. Rosenzweig.

Cinematography, Javier Aguirresarobe.

Editing, Tatiana S. Riegel.

Original Music, Ramin Djawadi.

Running time: 106 minutes.