Teenager Charley’s (Yelchin) life is going pretty well. He’s dating the gorgeous Amy (Poots), albeit at the expense of losing his geeky friend Ed (Mintz-Plasse), and is about to finish high school. But then he begins to suspect that new neighbour Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire.
The advent of a new neighbour is always a worry, especially if he turns out to be a vampire who has turned a blood-shot and hungry eye in your direction. That’s the scenario faced by Charley (Anton Yelchin) in this remake of the 1985 horror-comedy. In a film of several distinct phases, Charley goes from disbelief in vampirism to Cassandra-like prophet to Van Helsing wannabe, as Colin Farrell’s Jerry first toys with and then targets him.
The plot drags at first, so it’s a good thing that Yelchin’s a likable sort. Taller and more imposing than in his teenage roles in the likes of Alpha Dog, he now straddles the line between leading man and dweeby underdog — perfect for Charley, who’s recently undergone his own metamorphosis from geeky outcast to in-crowd boyfriend material for Imogen Poots’ game Amy. Yelchin’s a smart actor, which helps to sell some of Charley’s dumber decisions (don’t run upstairs!). He’s given feisty and funny support by his former best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, playing the same role he always does to good effect).
But this film lives or dies — as did its predecessor — with vampire Jerry and Peter Vincent (David Tennant), the showbiz vampire “expert” called in to consult. As Jerry, Farrell clearly has a ball, abandoning the guilt-ridden persona he’s played in so many recent films for an utterly amoral, remorseless killer who takes considerable glee in toying with mousy Charley before he destroys him. Mixing animalistic behaviour — some wild eye-rolling and sniffing the air — with considerable Irish charm, this, along with Horrible Bosses, suggests that Farrell is wasted playing (usually) nice guys. Tennant, dressed like a doppelgänger of Michael Sheen in Underworld, is hampered by the script’s refusal to give him any punchline that isn’t a profanity — swearing becoming the whole meal here rather than a condiment sprinkled on top.
As the pace builds, tension gives way to terror-attacks by the increasingly uninhibited Jerry and effects begin to come into play for the first time. Here the film missteps a bit, with truly unsettling transformations from human to vampire but a dissatisfying final result. A bit of CG gimmickry amuses but ultimately doesn’t add much — though the pace is exhilarating and the denouement pleasantly gory. Twilight, this ain’t.
Funny and scary — and sometimes both at once — it lives up to the original, even if it fails to surpass it.