Lars and the Real Girl director Craig Gillespie revisits the blood and garlic splattered territory of Fright Night, a fun mid-80′s vampire flick about a teenage boy whose life is turned upside down when a blood sucker moves in next door and nobody believes him.

The story has been shifted to Las Vegas, a perfect, if obvious, contemporary setting for a vampire movie, and the head pair of fangs now belong to Colin Farrell. His character, Jerry, may be 400 years old but still fits snugly into tight t-shirts and singlets. He’s a devil — almost literally — with the ladies.

Jerry’s neck piercing dining habits are discovered by protagonist Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), his new neighbour. Instead of merely killing Charley, Jerry decides to mess with his mind and upend his existence. Thus he flirts with Charley’s mum (Toni Collette), makes moves on his girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) and murders his pals.

In a delicious twist Charley seeks help from an alcoholic TV celebrity illusionist who specialises in vampire-themed shows. A point is being made, similar to a point made in the original, about where young people turn to for advice.

Also, like the original, this observation is part of a wider context concerned with canvassing the pangs of adolescence. The Fright Night flicks are coming of age stories that use vampire hijinx as triggers for metaphor. They are about the loneliness and desperation of adolescence, a period in which young people are surrounded but feel deserted, like lonely extollers of the truth. The focus of Fright Night is more about growing up than about putting a stake through the heart of the undead, though we get more than a small quota of pulpy thrills and spills.

Gillespie’s Fright Night has better special effects, more intense action scenes and roughly the same level of character development (not much, but something). Farrell’s frosty charisma is the human highlight, his casting the freshest face in a long history of vampire sexualisation.

There’s nothing Fright Night achieves that isn’t bettered by countless others — many of them forgettable throwaway ventures — but as a modest allegorical horror piece it works well enough, and as a pulpy action flick it’s fun and quick to its feet.

Fright Night’s Australian theatrical release date: September 16, 2011.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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