Movie Review: Fright Night

Movie Poster: Fright Night

Fright Night

Directed by Craig Gillespie
Screenplay by Marti Noxon

Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster
Colin Farrell as Jerry
Toni Collette as Jane Brewster
David Tennant as Peter Vincent
Imogen Poots as Amy
Chris Sarandon as Jay Dee

How long is Fright Night? 106 minutes.
What is Fright Night rated? “R” for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references.

CLR [rating:3.5]

Movie Still: Fright Night

Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin star in Fright Night.

Remake features wit and gore,
easily has more bite than the original.

Horror film comes in all shapes and sizes: you have slashers, torture porn, psychological horror, horror-comedies, deliberate B-horror, artsy scare flicks (which the foreign market largely has covered), and myriad others. Finally, there’s a little-appreciated subgenre that’s largely been put to rest since the eighties: the adventuresome, fun horror movie. These inevitably feature plucky kids battling some terrifying force of evil: think The Lost Boys, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, or “IT.” One of the lesser eighties-era adventuresome horror flicks was 1985’s Fright Night. Seeing as how The Lost Boys just had its third sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street had a remake last year, and “IT” is being remade for release in 2012, Fright Night was ripe for a redux.

The Fright Night remake doesn’t follow in the footsteps of most horror retries – it’s stylish, smart, and well done. Charlie (Anton Yelchin) and his single mother Jane (Toni Collette) live in a cookie-cutter suburb of Las Vegas, full of newly built houses set thirteen feet apart on identical lots complete with beige vinyl siding and cheap, pretty interiors. Jerry (Colin Farrell), a seductive blue-collar construction worker, moves in next door to Charlie. Suddenly, empty desks become more frequent in homeroom; kids go missing from school. Charlie’s friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) starts to suspect Jerry is none other than that creature of eternal darkness, a vampire.

The original Fright Night was great precisely because it joined the ranks of films that grant agency and preternatural knowledge to teenagers. In the aforementioned films, adolescents battle against not only an inexplicable force of evil, but against adulthood itself. In the new Fright Night, Charlie shirks his former persona as a role-playing nerd in favor of horrible friends who twitchily flick emo-kid hair out of their stoned eyes. His new girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) would like to go farther than Charlie is comfortable with, and Charlie’s too preoccupied with the new vampire neighbor to have relations with his girl. Of course, a youthful penchant for make-believe comes in handy when the pretend enemy turns out to be very real.

Because he lives just outside Sin City (although this is never explained), Charlie is inundated with the propaganda of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Criss Angel facsimile who looks like Russell Brand at his most dramatic. Vincent, whose stage show is called Fright Night, claims to be a vampire slayer but is full of theatrics and little else. In the original, Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowall) was a B-movie actor whose ilk probably included Christopher Lee and Elvira. He’d been making bank from “vampire killing” for so long that he had no idea how to actually kill vampires – because of course according to adulthood, vampires aren’t real. In the remake, Tennant plays Vincent as a frustrated egomaniac whose antics are a result of a tragic childhood vampire incident. When Charlie approaches him, Vincent is appreciably iffy, but of course the two end up battling the demon together.

The cast seems to be having a lot of fun throughout the movie. Colin Farrell, whose pale skin and dark brows make for a stark contrast even without vampire makeup, ably takes on the role that Chris Sarandon played in the original – sexy, superbly composed ladies’ man whose eyes betray not a hint of emotion. Anton Yelchin (Running With Scissors, Charlie Bartlett), who displays a self-effacing comedic style similar to Michael Cera’s, is more than adequate as the lead. Imogen Poots, playing a role that’s supposed to be rather unlikable, lends to Amy more than a pretty face. Naturally the kids-battle-evil subgenre has to feature a number of adults who refuse to believe, but in Fright Night Toni Collette’s Jane is pretty quick to jump on the vampire bandwagon after a vicious attack on her home. Christopher Mintz-Plasse probably leaped at the opportunity to don Greg Nicotero’s faux gore and let axes swing at his neck. Best of all is David Tennant, who’s known best as the tenth Doctor Who; the actor gets to swagger around in leather pants scratching his testicles and cursing at scantily clad women, and he’s good at it.

Discerning “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans will have noticed Fright Night’s screenplay is written by Marti Noxon, who penned some of the best episodes of the WB show. Who better to take on a screenplay about a solo teenager combating vampires? Noxon’s screenplay is witty, gory, and fast-paced. Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who also did memorable work on The Others, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and The Road, made Vegas, a city of lights and constant motion, seem remarkably cold and foreboding. His exacting camerawork blends with 3D technology to create an experience that’s worth it. If I’m going to pay for 3D glasses (which is a racket), I want things to fly out of the screen at me – and Fright Night features some good 3D effects.

I’ve lamented before that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt, particularly when it comes to horror. We’re seeing more sequels and remakes than ever before – but this one, like the new versions of Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, is easily equal to or better than the original. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is what it is: a fun, adventuresome horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It offers gore, suspense, and wit. It’s hard to believe autumn is nearly upon us and an influx of horror flicks is on the way along with jack-o-lanterns and caramel apples. Fright Night is like the butler, ushering you through the open door to a new year’s worth of horror flicks. If the fall’s scary movies are better than this one, we’re in for a good year.

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Fright Night Trailer

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