Redone right

Against all expectations, Fright Night sequel doesn’t suck

Colin Farrell is on fire.

Colin Farrell is on fire.

Fright Night
Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Imogeen Poots. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

One of the great bugaboos of genre aficionados is the glut of 3-D remakes of cult films that don’t need a remake in the first place. They very rarely have anything new to offer, and the 3-D makes the experience all the more aggravating. We’re moving on into the 21st century, and we’ve hit the point where filmmaking technology offers the potential for unprecedented image clarity, and then we degrade it with a gimmick that may make the image pop, but at the price of a dimmer and muddier experience. (Yeah, I’m banging the drum solo that everyone already knows by heart.)

So how’s this particular 3-D remake?

Well, I’ll cop I was never a big fan of the original Fright Night. I have a vague recollection that it spawned a sequel, but other than that all it really had to offer was one of the last notable performances from Roddy McDowall (also in the original of the recently remade Planet of the Apes, coincidentally) as horror host of the eponymous late-night TV show that gets dragged quivering into a real horror show. But McDowall wasn’t the real focus, as the flick was more about some suburban teen who discovers that his new neighbor is actually a vampire out to dine on his mom and girlfriend. The original was fun, but hardly anything to get outraged about when the remake was announced.

As it turns out, the remake is in the hands of folks who actually seem to respect the source material, including former Buffy the Vampire Slayer scribe Marti Noxon, who delivers a clever script that relocates the suburban action to the transitional environs of a dying Las Vegas (Vegas being the ideal location for a monster to add to the missing-person roster without anyone really noticing that the victims have gone missing).

And since no one younger than 40 recalls horror hosts (a once-ubiquitous character who introduced cheesy horror films on late-night TV, back before video was introduced), McDowall’s Peter Vincent is contemporized as a Las Vegas magician (David Tennant) who specializes in faux-vampire spectacle. Tennant is a hoot here. The former Dr. Who manages to evoke the quirks of McDowall’s performance, while still making the character his own.

But he’s just one among a great cast. Everyone seems to be having a terrific time, pulling back just short of chewing the scenery. Colin Farrell makes for a wonderful vampire (more emphasis on the feral side), and Imogen Poots is one of very few young actors these days who gives off the vibe that there’s actually something going on in her head.

Plus, there’s a neat cameo.

I’d say it’s better than the original, and a great antidote against sparkly vampires.