Let’s just say I didn’t get Tom Holland’s 1985 Fright Night. Cult enthusiasts may decry the notion of remaking the picture, but I never saw what harm could be done – there’s simply a lot to improve upon from the original. From its overt homophobia to its 80s trappings, Holland’s film faltered formally and allegorically. Thankfully, director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon have a fantastic handle on the material, molding it into something with a more focused trajectory and sense of place. Set in a suburban community outside of Las Vegas, Fright Night utilizes its locale as both a source and escape from sin.
Fright Night works quite effectively all across the board. With strong ensemble performances and impressive design elements, the film is a surprisingly sharp piece of work. Marti Noxon’s writing is the film’s most crucial contribution though, as she cleverly modernizes Holland’s original work while maintaining its tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Moreover, the picture astutely addresses the concept of sexual frustration with an incredibly focused eye. The lead character, Charley (Anton Yelchin), is a high school student who lacks any sense of sexual experience. He has only just recently abandoned his nerdy exploits and is now embraced by the school’s population as being part of the “in-crowd”. With a sexually frustrated mother, a hot girlfriend, and the promise of sin a drive away, the film converges in its sexuality upon the arrival of Jerry (Colin Farrell). What follows is a pulpy game of one-upsmanship, where Jerry’s intrusion demands Charley to man-up.
As Noxon addresses issues of masculinity and male-posturing (as seen in David Tennant’s hilarious performance as Peter Vincent), she critiques the nature of contemporary vampire lore today. Most clearly seen in a brief discussion on the validity of Stephanie Meyer’s novels, Noxon may be dating the film a bit, but at the same time, she’s attempting to address the ever-growing divergence in what constitutes a vampire. The audience overtly gets a discussion as to what is a real vampire and what isn’t; Colin Farell’s oversexed and dangerous vampire is indeed a real vampire. As a counterpoint, Noxon utilizes this discussion as a framework for her central protagonist to go on a journey of masculine self-discovery. Having reluctantly shed his childish behavior, Charley embraces faux-masculinity as a means of becoming a man. It’s only until he confronts Jerry for masculine dominance does Charley grow up. While hardly a bold concept, addressing it in the manner that Noxon does is quite impressive. So all-in-all, the screenplay is pretty remarkable, and everything else about it is pretty damn good too.