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'Fright Night' stars share beers, barbs in Austin

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

"Fright Night" stars Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse stopped by the Alamo Drafthouse South this week for a special screening of their remake of the 1985 cult classic.

The Tuesday screening closed a circle in a sense for Yelchin. He originally met director Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") in Austin to talk about "Fright Night," when the filmmaker was in town to shoot the pilot for Showtime's "United States of Tara."

In the horror film that opens today, Yelchin and Mintz-Plasse play friends whose relationship has been strained to the breaking point due to the social climbing of Yelchin's Charley. Embarrassed by his unapologetically nerdy friend, Ed (Mintz-Plasse), Charley ignores his former Live Action Role Playing partner, as he attempts to woo the gorgeous Amy (Imogen Poots) and earn a place of distinction with the school's in-crowd.

Ed's insistence that Charley's mysterious neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire serves as the tipping point for an increasingly aggravated and arrogant Charley. But Charley soon realizes his paranoid friend had good reason to be horrified by the pasty, dark-haired Lothario new to the neighborhood.

The film escalates into a battle for lost souls, as Jerry terrorizes Charley, his girlfriend and his mother (Toni Collette). Despite the graphic 3D thrills and supernatural terrors, much of the tension in "Fright Night" derives from the relationship between Charley and Ed, as the newly minted popular student realizes that his understanding of maturation has been perverted by social pressures and his own arrogance.

"That relationship (between Charley and Ed) was very useful in structuring the character for me," Yelchin said at the Highball. "He realizes he sort of jeopardized what was important to him and spends the rest of the film trying to get that back. He realizes he sacrificed his values when he didn't really have to at all and was sort of blind to what was important. It was just a clear arch, which is a credit to Marti's (Noxon) script."

Drinking beers while exchanging sarcastic quips and half-sincere compliments, Yelchin and Mintz-Plasse display a casual ease with one another in person that translates to the screen. Mintz-Plasse, best known as McLovin from "Superbad," oddly adopts an Indian accent as he shares a wandering anecdote about the time Yelchin's Russian mother first met Farrell. The story draws a bemused scoff and rebuke from Yelchin, who was last in Austin for the world premiere of his film "The Beaver."

The comfortable back-and-forth between the 22-year-old actors echoes the improvisation they say Gillespie allowed them to bring to the set. Yelchin came to the "Fright Night" shoot directly from the romantic drama "Like Crazy," which opens in November, and he says the freedom Gillespie allowed instantly made him comfortable.

"'Like Crazy' probably more than anything influenced me on this because it was an improv film; so I was just really into not caring about the lines," Yelchin said. "Luckily this guy and that guy (points to Mintz-Plasse and "Fright Night" actor Dave Franco, who entered midinterview), and pretty much everyone else were down with that. Especially Craig. It was really Craig's choice whether he allows us to go in that direction. But I felt really free because of the way that Craig is. He just sort of appreciates what you can bring to the movie. He casts you, he trusts you and he lets you do what you want to do."

modam@statesman.com; 912-5986