Film Review: “Fright Night”

by Jason LeRoy on August 19, 2011

Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell in FRIGHT NIGHT

starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing

written by: Marti Noxon

directed by: Craig Gillespie

MPAA: Rated R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references

In Fright Night, this week’s other remake that no one asked for, Anton Yelchin stars as Charley, a high school senior living in a small community outside of Las Vegas. Charley already has a lot on his mind: he recently spurned his nerdy best friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), in exchange for cooler friends (the sexy-retarded duo of Dave “brother of James” Franco and Reid “Dylan on Modern Family” Ewing) and a hottie girlfriend (the awesomely named Imogen Poots). He also has to deal with his single mom (Toni Collette, wasted in a throwaway role) throwing herself at his hunky new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell).

Yes, Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are both in this film. Which presumably means it’s the genesis of their Funny or Die video:

So hot. But anyway, when Ed starts trying to get Charley’s attention at school, he assumes it’s just to give him more shit about being a superficial social-climber. If only! Much to Charley’s surprise, Ed informs him that Jerry is actually a vampire. Charley is dubious of Ed’s claims, and the two become further estranged. But as he starts observing some oddities in Jerry’s behavior, Charley begins to realize Ed was right. Desperate, he reaches out to Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a pompous Criss Angel-style Las Vegas showman who claims to specialize in vampires. As bodies begin to fall, Charley attempts recruiting Peter to help him stop Jerry before he kills anyone else.

With fairly impressive credentials, including director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) and screenwriter Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men), Fright Night is a slightly above-average vampire movie. Noxon has loaded the script with bits of self-aware humor that will be recognizable to Buffy fans; for instance, in the middle of an otherwise nerve-wracking extended scene where Charley breaks into Jerry’s house and becomes trapped when he unexpectedly comes home, Jerry pauses to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey after feeding on a stripper he’s holding captive (which is obviously the last thing Bravo needs this week). And while it may not qualify as “humor,” Lisa Loeb shows up as Ed’s mom. Lisa Loeb! I gasped audibly when she appeared onscreen, then looked around to see if anyone else was excited.

Fright Night is in 3D, and is possibly one of the most conflicting cases I’ve seen so far. On the one hand, it is a textbook example of a cardinal live-action 3D sin: the film’s colors look so incredibly dark and muted, I was frequently straining to see what was happening. This is just unacceptable. It’s not worth it. But on the other hand, it really goes the distance to provide fun 3D effects. There are lots of big animated splatters, objects being thrown at the screen, and burning embers floating through the air. It’s kind of the best and the worst of 3D all in one movie.

As Jerry, Colin Farrell succeeds in being genuinely menacing. In our fang-banging culture, I can’t remember the last time a vampire actually seemed more like a scary monster than a romantic lead. It’s refreshing! Although Nan Flanagan will be displeased. Like all vampire movies and TV shows, this one picks and chooses which parts of the mythology it wants to apply. It also introduces at least one vamp quirk: when Jerry is preparing to bite someone’s neck, he does this weird thing like he’s about to sneeze. I kept waiting for it, and then he’d go in for the bite. I was like, “Oh, fake-out!”

Fright Night is a modest achievement. While it has a decent sense of humor, some good scares and a solid cast – Tennant especially knocks it out of the park – it feels uneven, undercooked and lopsided. There are some pacing issues, and the whole thing feels kind of anticlimactic. The last scene is lame enough to ruin almost everything that comes before it. But I do have to applaud it for actually going for an R-rating. Between that and the 3D ticket price, I can’t imagine it will do much box office. But in terms of unwanted remakes, it is a pleasant surprise.

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: