Home Film Fright Night – Anton Yelchin on transitions in the horror genre

Fright Night – Anton Yelchin on transitions in the horror genre

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Fright Night - Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette and Imogen Poots
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, right) attempts to protect his mother Jane (Toni Collette, left) and girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots, center) against a powerful vampire © 2011 Dreamworks

Anton Yelchin has crafted quite a career for himself, starring in such diverse movies as Charlie Bartlett, Terminator: Salvation, Star Trek, Alpha Dog and most recently The Beaver.

His new movie is a remake of the classic 1985 horror film Fright Night. In it he portrays Charley Brewster, who discovers a vampire named Jerry (Colin Ferrell) has moved next door to him and his single mother, Jane (Toni Collette). Desperate for help in handling Jerry, Charley approaches a Las Vegas magician/illusionist, Peter Vincent (David Tennant), whose entire act surrounds the myth of vampires. But can they stop Jerry, who is preying on the neighborhood?

I spoke with Anton about his new version of a horror classic, and working with David Tennant, who is famous for playing Doctor Who.

How aware were you of the original film?

Fright Night - Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
High school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is leaving his geek life behind and abandoning his best bud Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in the process © 2011 Dreamworks

I read the script and then I went back and watched the original. Since then I have watched it a bunch. I wasn’t actually familiar with it until I saw it after reading the script.

Did you get a sense that they are similar but different?

Absolutely. I think inevitably what happens is there’s a different kind of arc for Charley that motivates the story differently. I think in a lot of ways it’s similar, at the core the vampire still moves in next door and wants to kill him. But the original was about the transition of classic, traditional Hollywood horror films into the ‘80s which is completely different, more gory, self-conscious and campy.

This one takes a position of looking at teenagers in a world where we are not so over saturated with the Twilight vampire mythology. What happens when the classic menace moves in next door, not the suburban, melodramatic, romantic vampire but just a guy who’s a monster? It’s a very interesting generic relationship.

I think the genre itself is so complicated and rooted in social context and history and economic positions of the time and place. But, I think these two films are really related because they’re self-consciously looking at a similar type of transitions in the horror genre.

What are your favorite vampire movies?

Fright Night - Anton Yelchin
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a high school senior, who finds himself in an extraordinary situation, hunting a vampire © 2011 Dreamworks

I haven’t seen any of the Twilight [Saga] movies. I don’t really want to see any of the Twilight [Saga] movies. But I love Hertzog’s remake of Nosferatu (the Vampyr). I even like Interview with a Vampire. I love From Dusk Till Dawn. By far my favorite vampire movie is Vampyr. It’s silent.

Obviously you prefer the menacing vampire.

Absolutely One of my favorite vampire moments is Gary Oldman drinking blood (in Dracula). That’s what a vampire is. I love that stuff and I think it’s just interesting because you can use that icon to have whatever ideological affect you want. The reason Vampyr affected me so much is that it was about a spiritual journey.

How did you handle all the emotions in the film, especially about your mother?

I think that’s what grounds the story. The vampires are such hyper real characters, such monsters.

I felt if the [mother/son story] was real, and you could emotionally connect with that, then you could have Jerry as big as he wanted, and as menacing as he wanted, and you could have the violence as gory as you want, but you could still come back and relate to something in the film that’s grounded.

What type horror films do you like?

Fright Night - Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) in the clutches of Jerry (Colin Farrell) © 2011 Dreamworks

I like campy ‘80s horror movies. I recently saw Night of the Creeps. It’s not really a horror film, it has a detective from a film noir, and there are some aliens. I love Japanese horror movies. I love gore. I was really stoked to watch this film and see there was quite a lot of gore in it.

There was quite a bit of gore in the original and I was just [afraid] that for some politically correct reason someone would want to cut that out of this one There was a lot of faux blood on set and I hoped they would not cut it out – they added to it.

Did you do any training for the fight scenes?

We got together with the stunt guys and the choreographed the fights. It’s like choreography because you go over it and over it. And then on the day you hope it looks cool. Bob Brown, the stunt coordinator, is always watching and saying, ‘That swing’s too wide.’

You go over the choreography in your head so you’re not stumbling though and it looks more fluid. I was on fire for a little bit. I’m not as much proud as I was stoked because I like fire.

Were you a fan of Doctor Who?

Fright Night - David Tennant and Anton Yelchin
Peter Vincent (David Tennant) and Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) get down to business taking on the deadly vampire in his lair © 2011 Dreamworks

I’ve never seen Doctor Who, actually.

So did you know who David Tennant was?

No, which I feel awful saying, but hey, I’m American and we don’t know what’s going on in the UK! I came to know David through his work on set, which I thought was wonderful. I was told what a big deal Doctor Who was. They kept saying, ‘Doctor Who travels around in a telephone booth.’

But David’s so wonderful and so extremely interesting, it was great. I think the character he creates is so awesome, and it was awesome to watch.  You could probably cut together a whole film out of just what David did in that one scene where he’s taking everything off. So getting to know him that way was really exciting.

Seeing it firsthand is almost better than seeing it on the screen.

Any updates on Star Trek 2?

No. I know we’re going to make it, I just don’t know when.