Not since his infamous sex tape a few years back has Colin Farrell had so much fun on screen as he does in Fright Night, which opens this Friday nationwide. As Jerry, the sadistic night crawling vampire who moves in next door to a typical all-American family, Farrell is in his element as the so bad he’s hilarious neighbor from hell (literally).
Fright Night is a very loose remake of the original 1980s comedy-horror shocker of the same name, and for once it’s 10 times better than the original.
For a start there’s a lovely, snarky Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style script written by Tom Holland and Marti Noxon that drives a big stake through the heart of the Twilight franchise (Farrell knocks spots off emo-king Robert Pattinson in the bad boy stakes and he’s much funnier too) while reminding us that how much fun a scary movie can be.
When vampire Farrell moves in next door to Charlie (Anton Yelchin) and his family on the outskirts of Las Vegas no one believes him -- not his mom (played by Toni Collette) or his gorgeous girlfriend (Imogen Poots). That means it’s up to Charlie himself to rid the neighborhood of this unlikely menace.
For Farrell it’s a set up that allows him to burn up the screen with the talent that has made him a star. Fright Night plays to every one of Farrell’s strengths as he’s alternately scary, funny and ridiculously sexy. This is one smart vampire, you might not actually mind bighting you and the filmmakers have a lot of fun with that obvious contradiction.
Last week Farrell told the press at the film’s LA premiere why he chose the part. “I felt like I had come off the back of three or four years of kind of dramatic roles and dramatic films and I felt like it was time for me to just have a little bit of fun,” he said.
“I said as much to my agents. I said I’d love for us to find something that was possibly more comedic or something that gave me an opportunity to be more expansive.”
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_____________And Fright Night was the script they settled on.
“I loved the original film,’ says Farrell. “And you know I was playing a vampire that didn’t have any fear at all and had no kind of desire to locate his romantic counterpart.
“And there was none of that stuff, you know. It was just really an exercise in malevolence and brutality, and it was fun.”
Farrell liked the script because although Fright Night can genuinely scare the pants off you -- and it does this much more often than the original did -- it’s not a poker faced epic romance involving a will-they, won’t-they hookup plotline. All Jerry wants to do is kill people, or turn them into vampires, or both. He’s pretty clear-cut, and he’s pretty lethal.
“My whole MO was to be as unattractive as possible,” says Farrell, with a knowing laugh. The truth is he plays a serial killing monster, but he’s never looked more like a broodingly handsome movie star on screen.
As an Irish actor Farrell says he knew how to access the levels of introverted angst that the Twilight series has been serving up for years now, but both the role and the director Craig Gillespie pulled him back from that.
“Pain seems to be easier or melancholy seems to be easier, and I don’t know if that’s because I’m a human being or because I’m an Irishman or both, but you know, kind of a sense of loss or a sense of longing seems to be an easier thing to gravitate towards than, than a sense of brutality, an absolute kind of unharnessed cruelty which this character Jerry really, really had,” Farrell says.
Gillespie wanted to get away from the brooding, lonely, isolated and disenfranchised vampire that we’ve gotten used to (and some might say sick of) in recent years, and actually go back to vampires being animals who are incredibly able survivalists but also ones that gets great joy out of instilling fear in others. In this sense Farrell was definitely the right man for the job.
Asked if there was something about being Irish that makes tackling a character like Jerry easier to play and easier to accept, Farrell thought it gave him awareness that certainly helped. It was being Irish, Farrell says, that provided good training for playing a vampire.
“I just know as an Irishman I have a deeply kind of wired desire and ability to live in a world of imagination,” says Farrell. “I do know that, and maybe that’s just as a human being, but I speak as an Irishman who’s a human being so I’ll speak about that, but you know we have a very deep and kind of honored tradition of oral storytelling in Ireland, and it was because life was a particular way and parochial society and there was a certain amount of hardship that we needed to kind of transcend the harshness of the environment in life that we were experiencing as a people.
“And also there was the form of unity in bringing the seanchai (Irish storyteller), bringing the community together so with that in mind, I mean I would have, I think, a fairly wild imagination and ability to kind of lose myself through applying suspension or disbelief to myself you know?”
As Charlie, the young man coming of age with a vampire next door to contend with, Star Trek and Terminator’s Anton Yelchin is out of his depth until he befriends vampire specialist Peter Vincent, played by the brilliantly cast former Doctor Who David Tennant.
Vincent (who’s like a combination of punk rocker Sid Vicious and Hamlet) turns out to be all theory and no practice, but his heart’s in the right place and he’s the first one to truly believe Charlie’s story.
What makes Fright Night the date movie of 2011 is how easily it moves from scary to funny and back again. This is nowhere more evident than when Charlie asks for help from Las Vegas illusionist and self-proclaimed vampire expert Vincent.
In scene after scene featuring his hilarious ad libbing Tennant threatens to steal the film right from under the talented cast. But thankfully he’s playing opposite Farrell rather than Robert Pattinson or this would have been achieved without a fight.
As it stands both Farrell and Tennant make the film even more nastily campy fun as they threaten to outdo each other in outrageousness stakes.
It’s hard to think of another film this indulgent that still provides as many brilliantly effective cheap thrills as it hurtles towards is shocking conclusion.
There may be more important films than Fright Night released this summer, but you won’t find a more entertaining one.