Stake & aches

‘Fright Night’ remake preserves original’s orgasmic bloodlust — and homoeroticism

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FOR REAL | Jerry (Colin Farrell) defies the power of the cross in the smart update of the ‘80s cult hit.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The original Fright Night was one of the most subversively gay films of the mid 1980s: The suburban vampire Jerry had a suspiciously familiar relationship with his Renfield-like companion and more rayon disco shirts than any straight man should own. He also was more than slightly obsessed with his teen-aged neighbor Charley, although you could attribute that less to pedophilia than survival instinct.

But the original was also of its age, like lots of ‘80s pabulum — can you imagine a remake of Lost Boys? — a cult horror-comedy that didn’t really scream to be revisited. But since they have done so, this question is: Worth it? Yes. Pretty much.

Unlike many remakes, this new Fright Night — arriving in the August discount bin, just like its progenitor — sticks surprisingly close to the basic plot, with some sensible updates. Gone is Renfield, but Charley (Anton Yelchin) remains the virginal Everykid; Jerry (Colin Farrell) is no longer the suave metrosexual but a brutish laborer in a wifebeater, exuding bad-boy appeal with a lizard-like stealth; vampire chaser Peter Vincent (David Tennant) isn’t a washed-up horror actor but a Criss Angel wannabe on the Vegas Strip, where Jerry culls his victims.

Like Scream, the Fright Nights exist in a post-modern world where the characters are aware of the mythology surrounding the supernatural, gleaned mostly from movies. They joke about the Twilight books

Not all of the updates are improvements. Changing Peter Vincent from a film actor to a magician undercuts the subtle tribute to B-film icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, though Tennant’s Russell Brand-like whack-a-doodle performance almost rescues it. And director Craig Gillespie dispatches some peripheral characters without much sense, and the humor is not as prevalent as it was in the original.

But Gillespie keeps key (the seduction of Charley’s girlfriend, the unnerving “Welcome to Fright Night … for real” line), and the splatter effects — especially the unexpected moment where a “turned” human bursts into flame when struck by sunlight, enhanced by the cheesy ‘50s-style fascination with 3D “moments” — give the film a campy sensibility. And there are worse ways to spend a scary two hours than imaging the hunky Colin Farrell orgiastically sucking on your … neck. Hey, it doesn’t take a cape and an accent to woo everyone.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas