Next-door neighbors, as everyone knows, are capable of unspeakable horrors. There's no use in going into the nosy or noisy, nagging or nasty ways someone a stone's throw from your front door can day by day drive a nail through your coffin. In Fright Night, a remake of the 1985 film of the same name, Colin Farrell plays the kind of neighbor who stays awake all night (bad), asks for your last six pack of beer (worse), and sends your mother and your girlfriend into spasms of lust with just one, dead-eyed stare (c'mon!). To top it off, he sucks. Blood. A lot of it — and he wants yours.
However, as a vampire staking out territory on an increasingly overcrowded continent of popular mythology (see Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries), Farrell's monstrous bloodsucker — named, simply and ironically, "Jerry" — succeeds, rather, at eliminating the glitter-faced sentimentality working against his blockbuster rivals. Borrowing from Chris Sarandon of the '80s version, this Jerry might wear an attractive human disguise but underneath it he is savagely and purely a hungry animal. By casting Farrell and making use of both his bad boy swagger and his potential for pansexual upheaval, director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) has returned the vampire to his most interesting and culturally significant state — as the id made flesh. (Insight into human depravity, bloodlust and repressed sexual desire during the Victorian era was, after all, the common spring from which Freudian psychoanalysis and Bram Stoker's Dracula both flowed.)
This new Fright Night, as its predecessor appears still capable of doing, reminds us not of the Glee-sanctioned truism that vampires (read: freaks and geeks) are misunderstood outcasts, but of the more disturbing fact that what appears neighborly, confident and sexy — because of the advantage of surprise — has the upper-hand in a fight to the death. Our weapons against these enemies, the film thankfully goes further in suggesting, are few and dwindling. In a pivotal scene in the film, actors Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), flee their burning home into the reception-less Nevada desert, where modernity's closest friend, the cell phone, will do nothing against Jerry, who is in hot pursuit. A hastily reached-for crucifix fails, too, because its wielder lacks "faith."
The search for weapons leads the characters, fittingly, to the house of British actor David Tennant, whose Peter Vincent the Vampire Killer is a pistol of a performer but hardly a spit ball of a protector. As both a revision of Roddy McDowall's original, quaky Vincent and as a creation all his own, Tennant's Vegas-style Vampire Killer provides Fright Night with its most solidly entertaining moments. His brand of hero (baring resemblance to a certain Russell Brand) is reluctant but charming, helpless but redeemable. And without his obsession-driven collection of occult artifacts and trivia, the fight against evil would be a fright, indeed.