Monday, August 29, 2011

Fright Night

Many films from the 1980s hold a special place in my heart—most of them horror movies—and I usually take great offense when they’re said to be remade or rebooted. And although I’m never happy when I hear these announcements, I still go to the local cinema to check them out. Sometimes they succeed (Friday the 13th)—sometimes they don’t (A Nightmare on Elm Street). But I still give them a chance.

Such is the case with Fright Night, starring Anton Yelchin as Charlie Brewster and Colin Farrell as the vampire next door, Jerry Dandrige. When I first heard that they were going into production with this film, I actually told myself that I would not go see this movie, that it was an insult to the awesome and campy 1985 original. But who am I kidding? I knew I’d go see it…I just knew I wouldn’t be happy about it.

I’ve been wrong before and I’ll admit I was wrong this time as well, because I really enjoyed this flick.

The film opens in some small suburb, seemingly isolated as we see the overhead shot of the whole neighborhood only consists of a few blocks surrounded by acres of open land. Throughout the streets we see that many of the houses are for sale, giving us a sense that this neighborhood is becoming abandoned and deserted.

Like the original film, Charlie lives with his mom (the beautiful Toni Collette), has his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), and his estranged friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The house next door to them has a new neighbor that has been doing a lot of work on the house, dumping a lot of broken concrete chunks in the dumpster out front, leaving Mrs. Brewster wondering what kind of work’s being done inside. Meanwhile, in school, kids have been missing during roll call.

The switch in this 2011 version is that Evil Ed is the one who voices his paranoia about the new neighbor, while Charlie thinks he’s crazy. He explains his suspicion to Charlie, telling him about the news reports of people missing and the kids that haven’t been showing up to school. He tells Charlie right out that he thinks his neighbor is a vampire. Of course, Charlie thinks Ed’s delusional, reading too much “Twilight,” and that the idea is ridiculous. Ed tells Charlie to make sure he doesn’t invite Jerry in the house, that a vampire can’t enter unless invited.

Later, Charlie gets home and is bringing in the garbage when Jerry suddenly shows up, startling him. He tells Charlie that he has a hot blonde coming over and had forgotten to replenish the beer in his fridge, asking if they had any. Charlie’s somewhat taken a back, seeing how insistent Jerry’s acting, and walks to his back door to go into the kitchen. As he’s at the refrigerator and getting a few beers together, he notices Jerry followed him to the back door but would not come inside. Charlie takes note that Jerry makes small talk about how nice the kitchen looks, seemingly wanting to come in to check it out, but doesn’t cross the threshold. Even as he hands the 6-pack of beer to him, he sees that Jerry won’t even let his fingers go past the door jamb.

Later, after Charlie realizes that Ed was right and taking pictures of some items in one of the rooms in Jerry’s house, he seeks out help from a local Las Vegas performer, and self-proclaimed vampire slayer, by the name of Peter Vincent. Charlie poses as a reporter for the local newspaper to get an interview with Vincent and asks him to help him kill Jerry. Of course, it doesn’t go well, as security kicks Charlie out. But he leaves his photos and Vincent finally looks at them later, recognizing a picture of an insignia that he had his own drawing of. He calls Charlie back to explain that he knows Jerry’s a vampire—one that killed his own parents—and tells him how to go about slaying the vampire.

First off, Colin Farrell was great as the smooth, good-looking neighbor, effortlessly winning over Charlie’s mom and his girlfriend. He had that likability to make you believe girls would easily fall for him, yet you can see his immorality lurking underneath his charming fa├žade.

Anton Yelchin is just an incredible young actor and has done magnificent roles over the years. He embodied Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and definitely stood out as Chekov in 2009’s Star Trek. He has a great future in film and I look forward to seeing him grow further as an actor.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse was basically playing the same character as he did in Superbad and Role Models and Kick-Ass…in other words, he was just being himself.

Toni Collette was wasted as Charlie’s mom, not lending any help to the movie except during one scene where she helps her son out of a confrontation with the vampire. She’s conveniently placed in the hospital for the third act of the movie and makes a little cameo at the end.

Now, the stand out of the movie—but at the same time, the one who didn’t get much screen time—was David Tennant as Peter Vincent. Instead of the late night “creature features” host, which was a popular shtick during the 70s and 80s, but may be lost to younger audiences today, the filmmakers went with a more modern approach and made Peter Vincent a Goth magician in Vegas. Tennant was definitely the life of the movie when he was present, but that was the problem…he wasn't present very often.

Overall, the film was enjoyable with some scares and feeling of dread (like when Charlie broke into Jerry’s house), a lot of lighthearted moments, and just an interesting flick to sit through.

My final “bit” on Fright Night? The story was more or less the same one we’d gotten 26 years ago with some modern spins on it and not too much added after that. As a fan of the original, I didn’t feel that there were many surprises and that it played out as it ended the way I thought it would. Aside from that, it was well acted by all, the dialogue and conversations between the characters were believable, never over-the-top. I opted for the 12:45 pm 3D showing in my town which left me by myself in the theater to watch this flick completely alone. Not much was added to make the 3D viewing worthwhile, so I’d advise you all to just go with the less expensive 2D option. I can’t say it enough that 3D is a gimmick and it really has over-stayed its welcome. Like Harold said in the A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas trailer, it has already jumped the shark. But, anyway, Fright Night is worth a look and I think most of today’s younger audience will enjoy this.