Insofar as remaking any given 1980s horror film can be rightly said to make sense, it still doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to remake 1985's Fright Night, a self-conscious throwback whose charms are largely a function of its position in history: it is an attempt to make an old-fashioned, embarrassingly so, vampire picture right in the heart of the slasher boom, and one of the characters even says as much during an Author's Message moment. Even significant portions of the plot only really make sense if the thing is set in the mid-'80s. Nonetheless, we have a brand new version of Fright Night now, and the shocking thing is that it's really a decent amount of fun, all things considered.

Not a great remake. Certainly not a great remake. But the vampire movie is in enough of a state here in 2011 that Fright Night doesn't have to be great to be good enough.

Briefly, the film tells of a teenager, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), living in a ruthlessly planned-out subdivision on the outskirts of Las Vegas. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), and he's maneuvering his way into the right crowd, and has just about left his embarrassing geek years behind him, when his onetime best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) comes along with a theory about how their old buddy Adam has gone missing on account of being murdered by Charley's new neighbor, a suave ladykiller named Jerry (Colin Farrell). Who is, in Ed's version of things, a vampire. Charley believes this not at all - and it seems his distaste for the way of life Ed represents has something to do with his skepticism - but it takes surprisingly little time before Ed has gone missing as well, and weird damn things keep happening at Jerry's house, and very shortly, Charley, his mother (Toni Collette), and Amy are on the run from a terrifyingly self-assured vampire lord, aided only by an alcoholic magician in the Criss Angel knock-off mode, a vampire fancier named Peter Vincent (David Tennant).

As far as the script goes, two things leap to mind: the first is that the new Fright Night is a lot more sensible than the old one, setting up all the pieces in a manner that doesn't require nearly so much suspension of disbelief, and generally just being a much more effective story (the relocation to Las Vegas ends up paying surprisingly good dividends in this regard). The other is that while the original Fright Night more or less expected us to like everybody, the new Fright Night more or less expects us to like nobody at all. Or rather, it presents us with a lot of largely unlikable people. Screenwriter Marti Noxon is best known for writing all the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that make the protagonists seem like the biggest douches,* so it's equally possible that she is a student of the J.J. Abrams school of thought, that incredibly unlikable people are in fact likable. Either way, Charley is kind of a dick, and Amy is a colossal bitch, and Vincent is a miserable asshole redeemed only by Tennant's absolutely crackerjack comic performance.

A third thing comes to mind a bit slower, which is that the new Fright Night is comparatively quite shallow: partially because the characters just aren't as sympathetic, partially because Tom Holland, writer and director of the original, was obviously in love with the tropes he was playing with. Noxon and director Craig Gillespie (who has now made three features in three wildly disparate genres) are just looking to make a cool, flashy, 3-D vampire story (in wholly underwhelming 3-D, but at least it wasn't done that way in post-production), with the gimmick that they're bringing back the wholly evil demon of old, rather than the plaintive, sad vampires who have been growing in popularity ever since Anne Rice first decided to write a book, and are now just about the only game in town. It is a remarkably nice change of pace, though I'm a bit sad the present filmmakers weren't old school enough to let Jerry turn into mist or a wolf, like Holland was.

With effectively gloomy cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe (who has now made up for shooting not one, but two Twilight pictures), and some nifty, not tremendously imaginative CGI vampire tricks, and a nice vein of sexual terror just to keep it from being too teen-friendly (though there's nothing remotely like the covert homoeroticism of the first movie), Fright Night is at least a good, fun vampire movie; Farrell is, perhaps a little bit too pretty to really sell the idea that he's a brutal killer (he certainly lacks Chris Sarandon's oily quality), but this isn't meant to be a unending string of brutality; it's a sly black comedy. And that much, at least, Gillespie gets perfectly, aided considerably by Collette and Tennant (of the several young people in the cast, only Mintz-Plasse does anything terribly interesting at all, and he's not in nearly enough of the picture). And that's ultimately why the not-so-threatening vampire and the replacement of Roddy McDowall's bumbling coward of a vampire hunter with a sarcastic drunk Brit both work: the new film is very much intended as a late-summer refreshment. Not that the original was afraid to play for comedy, but the remake has no pretensions about mission statements or generational commentary. It is a textbook August movie, the kind that serves to pass the time on an afternoon and leave you feeling that it was, if not time well-spent, certainly not anything to regret.

Yeah, there's an ending that doesn't: the last beat of the story is wildly unsatisfying, after a climax that manages to improve upon the original in scope and gory ambition, if nothing else. Yeah, Yelchin's attempt to play a likable everyday kid hero go hideously awry. This ain't any kind of classic, and 26 years from now, it will still be the '85 Fright Night that people have in mind. But good enough is, well, good enough; it's more, frankly, than I was expecting on my way in.