Tom Doty Times Columnist
February 28, 2014
A young man comes to suspect that his new neighbor is a vampire in this rapid fire remake of a 1980s classic.
It’s a daunting proposition to remake a film that was done right the first time, but this effort does a fine job by updating the material and keeping intact all of the best elements of Tom Holland’s original. The story still centers on Charlie Brewster. He’s a high school student in transition. He was a sci-fi loving geek but now has developed an interest in girls and is dating the adorable Amy. Meanwhile, a hunky new neighbor, Jerry, is putting the moves on his mom, while a buddy from his geek days, Ed, is desperately trying to get his attention.
Turns out Ed is convinced that Charlie’s new neighbor is a vampire. He tells Charlie that he has been following Jerry and is convinced that he is a bloodsucker and responsible for several missing persons. Brewster blows him off but is concerned when Ed doesn’t show up for school. A visit to his friend’s house reveals that Ed was assembling a compelling amount of evidence to support his claims about Jerry. Charlie returns home and starts getting a creep vibe from Jerry. Luckily, Ed’s evidence includes information on vampire weaknesses, such as they can’t enter a home unless invited. Sadly, a vampire can enter your home if he reduces it to rubble, and that’s just what Jerry does when he realizes Brewster is onto him.
Now the flick enters into action film mode, as the Brewsters effect a highway escape while fending off their supernaturally empowered stalker. Desperation leads them to seek out a Las Vegas magician/enemy of the dark forces, Peter Vincent. Unfortunately, Vincent is all sizzle and no steak. Sure, he knows a lot about vampires, but he also bolts into his panic room at the first sign of trouble.
When Jerry kidnaps Amy, it is clear that Charlie will have to beard this monster in his lair, but does he have the stones to take down a family of bloodsuckers? Will Vincent climb out of his bottle long enough to help ? The answers come at a gallop as the film races towards its action-packed finale in the basement of Jerry’s suburban home. Turns out, he has converted his cellar into a dungeon of death from which there may be no escape for a young man who has been neglecting his homework .
This is an excellent rehash that throws a bigger budget at Holland’s awesome characters. They are wise to update certain characters and give them a fresh twist. Jerry was more of the suave sophisticate in the first version, but here he comes off as a sweaty, blue-collar type who enjoys tapping veins and kegs of Budweiser with equal vigor. Vincent morphs from a washed up horror film actor in the 1985 version, to a New Age magician with lots of issues.
The film also gets a boost from a top notch script by Marti Noxon. This scribe knows this material after writing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for Joss Whedon. The script packs in plenty of action set pieces but also makes room for self-aware humor and some wicked one-liners.
The cast is also up to the job. Anton Yelchin (soon to be seen as Dean Koontz’s “Odd Thomas”) is an engaging Brewster. Collin Farrel has a field day as Jerry and even gets to kill the original actor (Chris Sarandon in an amusing cameo as an unfortunate bystander). The best lines go to David (“Dr. Who”) Tennant, as Vincent. He is equal parts hilarious and pathetic as the Las Vegas entertainer who has fallen into a bottle after trying to reinvent himself following the tragic deaths of his parents.
All in all, this is that rarity of remakes that will appeal to fans of the original, while staking out its own ground.
2011, rated R.
“He’s PMS-y today.”
“You could make him a big, garlicky omelet.”
“Once I thought I was being chased by carrots with machetes.”