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Movie Review: Fright Night
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Fright NightFright Night
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Release Date: August 19, 2011

Horror fans are well aware of the gloom associated with many remakes of well-known films, but despite this, I was pleasantly surprised with Craig Gillespie‘s take on Fright Night. The new film certainly pays tribute to the original film, but definitely brings it into the contemporary age, with a faster pace and some solid performances from the lead cast members.

Fright Night follows a great deal of the same plot elements as its original namesake. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) begins to have a sneaking suspicion that his new neighbor, Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. Brewster seeks the assistance of famous “vampire hunter” Peter Vincent (David Tennant) in the fight against Dandrige, to protect his mother, Jane Brewster (Toni Collette), and his girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots).

The principal strength of the remake is in the substantial performances from both David Tennant and Colin Farrell, and even Anton Yelchin puts in a very convincing role that truly makes you want to cheer on his character as the film heads to its climax. However, having said that, it is Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin!) who truly steals the show in his rendition of the character of “Evil” Ed Lee. In the original film, Ed was a lovable highlight who was depicted as a hilarious weirdo. Yet in the new movie, Mintz-Plasse brings the character into the 21st century, providing that “weirdo” element but adapted to his demeanor.

In effect, Ed Lee’s position in this new film is a cornerstone to the overarching plot. Where the original Fright Night was a tribute to (and perhaps a parody of) the late night cheesy horror flick on television; this version has deeper subtext, zeroing in on the conduct in which we as individuals aim to portray ourselves to others.

The original movie consistently reminded vampire fans that if you wanted a crucifix to succeed against a creature of the night, you must have faith. In this film, that faith is more or less steeped within the individual’s self-concept — of having faith in one’s self, and not having to rely on how one ‘performs’ in the presence of other people. It’s a key element of this movie that truly gives it a nucleus that was lacking in the original.

The first Fright Night, set loose on horror fans way back 26 years ago (damn it, now I know I am old), was trapped among the stereotypes that were almost prerequisites for horror films of the era. It was unleashed with plenty of camp and cheese, which was essential to the film; in fact, it solidifies itself as the foundation of the movie.

With the new Fright Night, the camp and cheese has gone (even the synthesizer soundtrack implemented in the original has THANKFULLY been disposed of), and in its place stands stronger, convincing, and fun performances, in addition to a little more depth and meaning.

The vampire lore employed in the movie also is noteworthy. The inevitable piss-take of Twilight was mildly amusing, but the vampire logic employed in Fright Night is more along the lines of The Lost Boys rather than the traditional Dracula motifs. Colin Farrell truly makes this creature his own, adding his own style and demeanor to it, while clearly throwing in some recognizable tributes to the likes of Christopher Lee from the Hammer Horror days. The vampire lore taken on board for Fright Night was an acceptable development for the remake and consolidated the impact of the new movie, while still including a tip-of-the-hat to the original.

And speaking of tips-of-the-hat, for enthusiasts of the original movie: Yes, there ARE apples!

As a Doctor Who fan though, I can’t help but gravitate towards and discuss Tennant’s performance in this film. To his credit, when he appeared on-screen I was not instantly reminded of his era of the Tenth Doctor — in fact, I immediately despised the character. At first I thought it was because his performance was out of place, but as his character developed, I realized that he truly had swayed to the viewers that he was a highly annoying celebrity. I’m very interested in learning about how the American audiences receive his work in Fright Night — as I anticipate with much hope that he gets noticed for some forthcoming film work. (Personally, I’d love to see him have a go at the new Ash in the Evil Dead remake, but that’s way off topic, and also just my ridiculous wishful thinking).

On the technical side of things, apart from the overbearing and unneeded aerial shots of Las Vegas (seriously, only a couple of shots were needed — this is Fright Night, not a tourism advert), a lot of the camera work done in this film is decent. The highlight of this work is used in the car chase sequence, where the camera and composite work is done so flawlessly, you will believe you’re in the vehicle with the main characters. The visual effects are excellent, with the exception of a few shots during the climax of the film that perhaps would have benefited from using some more ‘real’ make-up/mechanical effects blended in — an element of VFX that has unfortunately been ignored in recent years in favor of what has become considered to be more cost-effective.

Being a horror flick, it’s important to highlight the “scare factor” and “gore factor” for the fans out there. Regrettably, there’s not a great deal of frights in Fright Night, which is a shame due to its namesake. In fact, the movie progresses more in line with “The Hero’s Journey” tale used in an abundance of tales, with Anton Yelchin being more of a Luke Skywalker rising to the fight and David Tennant being more of a (albeit inebriated and swearing) Obi-Wan. In other words, Fright Night without the frights comes across as a “hero versus monster” action flick.

On the other hand, the gore dynamic is applied reasonably to the movie, without going too over the top. It is done so in a manner that adds to the “fun” element of the film. Yes, there is blood and a good amount of it, but don’t go in expecting waterfalls of gore. If that were the case, it would have greatly detracted from the movie.

Fright Night, while highly enjoyable, isn’t a perfect movie though. The coda stapled on to the end totally smacked of pleasing future audiences based on focus group feedback. The conclusion of the film would have come across much more significantly had this final sequence been removed, as it was rather an unnecessary addition. I also felt that while Imogen Poots, who plays Amy Peterson, was not up-to-par compared to her other work — she was very much a stand out in 28 Weeks Later and has put in distinguished performances in other films as well. I’m not saying she is terrible; quite the contrary, she was good, but I have seen better efforts from her.

Additionally, the 3D conversion did not do very much for me either; the on-screen aesthetic was, to some extent, ruined for me with the cheap-ass theater putting on quite a dim screening, making the darker scenes a little difficult to soak in.

But despite my minor nit-picking criticisms, Fright Night is indeed a lot of fun and stays true to the original, but with much added and welcomed strength. If you’re a fan of the original and/or a horror fan, check it out while it is in theaters, especially if you can catch the 2D version.

Rating: 4 out of 5

5 Comments »

  1. Everyone that wants to view this movie, well… DONT waste you time, keep walking. The  3-D was over focused and didnt capture the excitment you really wanted. Pathetic movie. Keep Walking.

    Comment by Mturner — August 20, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  2. You HONESTLY call this deeper?!  Seriously?!

    Initially I was looking forward to it. When I first saw the posters of
    David Tennant in his costume about 6 months ago I thought it was a brilliant
    change. I thought perhaps he was a has-been Buffy style actor or has Been Hugh
    Jackman Van Helsing actor, the way the original Peter Vincent was a has-been
    Hammer Horror actor. I loved the idea of David Tennant as Peter Vincent.When
    Marti Noxon said that horror movie hosts don’t exist anymore and that’s why she
    changed Peter Vincent to a stage magician I felt she missed the point. Movie
    hosts were NEVER fashionable. There are more now than there were in 1985, in
    fact, the character was being fired when the original movie began.Then I
    read the remake script and I was disappointed. I ranted and raved but I hoped it
    was just a rough draft script. I hoped I was wrong about it. Then I saw a clip
    of David Tennant and I had hope again. But then I saw the ComicCon Q and A and
    the director revealed he couldn’t recall the plot of the original and he felt
    this was a good thing. This filled me with dread.Then I saw the actual film
    and I was thoroughly disappointed. David Tennant’s attractive but that’s not
    enough to save it from bad writing. Charley is selfish and self-absorbed. It’s
    cynical and judgmental of teenagers of today, it’s kind of insulting. Peter
    Vincent isn’t very well developed and neither is Jerry Dandridge. He’s turned
    into a two dimensional psychopath with no real motivation other than to kill.
    Even Dracula had a plan! In fact he had very elaborate plans in the
    novel.These vampires in this remake can’t even shapeshift into a wolf, bat
    or mist. They can’t enthrall minds and they can’t even show up on digital camera
    (which don’t have mirrors by the way). How is stripping them of powers and
    giving them more limitations an improvement?And isn’t it the slightest bit
    annoying that a character in the movie has to tell us how modern Jerry Dandridge
    is just because he has his minion say sir instead of master?The dialogue in
    the movie is awful too. The F word is used more than Charley’s name. I don’t
    care if a film is loaded with foul language but it’s so over used that it’s
    annoying. If the word banana was used so much I’d be just as annoyed.10
    things that would improve this remake:1. Tom Holland as the writer or
    another writer familiar with Dracula style vampires. Even the writer of Dracula
    2000 or Van Helsing would have been better than Marti Noxon. 2. Respect
    for the intelligence of the audience. i.e. keeping Peter Vincent as a has-been
    horror actor who perhaps now has a web series as to modernize his
    position.3. Kept the shapeshifting abilities because it’s freaky and makes
    the vampires all the more powerful. 4. Leave the hint of humanity in that
    Jerry was looking for the look-a-like of a lost love. This gives a twinge of
    sympathy and also makes it all the more twisted and frightening when he does
    something evil because you’re taken off guard. 5. Find a director who
    actually is fan of the original and remembers it fondly and knows Gothic
    atmosphere, who can make suburbs creepy, like Tim Burton or Del Toro. 6.
    Leave it set in the suburbs. Every country has suburbs. Most places don’t have
    their own Vegas. 7. Make sure the hero is relatable and a decent human
    being. A self-absorbed tool who abandons friends for popularity just doesn’t cut
    it.8. A better budget. 15 million is pocket change today by Hollywood
    standards.9. Knowledge of what is popular in the genre. The director and
    writer of this remake THINK things like Saw and Final destination are in and
    Gothic is old. Actually it’s the opposite. Let Me in did very well. The last Saw
    movie did lower than expected. The Wolfman remake got an oscar while Final
    destination 5 is struggling. Dark Shadows, Harker, Dracula 3D and Haunted
    Mansion are in production right now. Lady in Black with Hrarry Potter’s Daniel
    Radcliffe is getting released through Hammer Horror in a few months. There are
    two Frankenstein films in production and Priest did well. Slasher films are out.
    Gothic horror is back with a vengence and the ones who made this remake are
    really out of touch to not know that.10. An effort to NOT appeal to any
    particular demographic. Notice how Tim Burton’s films are always successful even
    when people complain about how formulaic they’ve become. He never tires to
    appeal to a demographic. He makes films that appeal to his tastes and to Hell
    with what the studio thinks kids want today. Sleepy Hollow was going to be a
    generic, low-budget slasher film with no romance or atmospehre but then Tim
    Burton got a hold of it and added the supernatural, added the love story, and
    added the Hammer Horror-esque atmosphere and he made it work where it would have
    failed. If Hollywood would just stop trying to condescend to what it thinks is a
    simple minded audience we might start getting quality horror films again. Some
    people are already trying and it’s working. This film is not.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 23, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  3. You HONESTLY call this deeper?!  Seriously?!

    Initially I was looking forward to it. When I first saw the posters of
    David Tennant in his costume about 6 months ago I thought it was a brilliant
    change. I thought perhaps he was a has-been Buffy style actor or has Been Hugh
    Jackman Van Helsing actor, the way the original Peter Vincent was a has-been
    Hammer Horror actor. I loved the idea of David Tennant as Peter Vincent.When
    Marti Noxon said that horror movie hosts don’t exist anymore and that’s why she
    changed Peter Vincent to a stage magician I felt she missed the point. Movie
    hosts were NEVER fashionable. There are more now than there were in 1985, in
    fact, the character was being fired when the original movie began.Then I
    read the remake script and I was disappointed. I ranted and raved but I hoped it
    was just a rough draft script. I hoped I was wrong about it. Then I saw a clip
    of David Tennant and I had hope again. But then I saw the ComicCon Q and A and
    the director revealed he couldn’t recall the plot of the original and he felt
    this was a good thing. This filled me with dread.Then I saw the actual film
    and I was thoroughly disappointed. David Tennant’s attractive but that’s not
    enough to save it from bad writing. Charley is selfish and self-absorbed. It’s
    cynical and judgmental of teenagers of today, it’s kind of insulting. Peter
    Vincent isn’t very well developed and neither is Jerry Dandridge. He’s turned
    into a two dimensional psychopath with no real motivation other than to kill.
    Even Dracula had a plan! In fact he had very elaborate plans in the
    novel.These vampires in this remake can’t even shapeshift into a wolf, bat
    or mist. They can’t enthrall minds and they can’t even show up on digital camera
    (which don’t have mirrors by the way). How is stripping them of powers and
    giving them more limitations an improvement?And isn’t it the slightest bit
    annoying that a character in the movie has to tell us how modern Jerry Dandridge
    is just because he has his minion say sir instead of master?The dialogue in
    the movie is awful too. The F word is used more than Charley’s name. I don’t
    care if a film is loaded with foul language but it’s so over used that it’s
    annoying. If the word banana was used so much I’d be just as annoyed.10
    things that would improve this remake:1. Tom Holland as the writer or
    another writer familiar with Dracula style vampires. Even the writer of Dracula
    2000 or Van Helsing would have been better than Marti Noxon. 2. Respect
    for the intelligence of the audience. i.e. keeping Peter Vincent as a has-been
    horror actor who perhaps now has a web series as to modernize his
    position.3. Kept the shapeshifting abilities because it’s freaky and makes
    the vampires all the more powerful. 4. Leave the hint of humanity in that
    Jerry was looking for the look-a-like of a lost love. This gives a twinge of
    sympathy and also makes it all the more twisted and frightening when he does
    something evil because you’re taken off guard. 5. Find a director who
    actually is fan of the original and remembers it fondly and knows Gothic
    atmosphere, who can make suburbs creepy, like Tim Burton or Del Toro. 6.
    Leave it set in the suburbs. Every country has suburbs. Most places don’t have
    their own Vegas. 7. Make sure the hero is relatable and a decent human
    being. A self-absorbed tool who abandons friends for popularity just doesn’t cut
    it.8. A better budget. 15 million is pocket change today by Hollywood
    standards.9. Knowledge of what is popular in the genre. The director and
    writer of this remake THINK things like Saw and Final destination are in and
    Gothic is old. Actually it’s the opposite. Let Me in did very well. The last Saw
    movie did lower than expected. The Wolfman remake got an oscar while Final
    destination 5 is struggling. Dark Shadows, Harker, Dracula 3D and Haunted
    Mansion are in production right now. Lady in Black with Hrarry Potter’s Daniel
    Radcliffe is getting released through Hammer Horror in a few months. There are
    two Frankenstein films in production and Priest did well. Slasher films are out.
    Gothic horror is back with a vengence and the ones who made this remake are
    really out of touch to not know that.10. An effort to NOT appeal to any
    particular demographic. Notice how Tim Burton’s films are always successful even
    when people complain about how formulaic they’ve become. He never tires to
    appeal to a demographic. He makes films that appeal to his tastes and to Hell
    with what the studio thinks kids want today. Sleepy Hollow was going to be a
    generic, low-budget slasher film with no romance or atmospehre but then Tim
    Burton got a hold of it and added the supernatural, added the love story, and
    added the Hammer Horror-esque atmosphere and he made it work where it would have
    failed. If Hollywood would just stop trying to condescend to what it thinks is a
    simple minded audience we might start getting quality horror films again. Some
    people are already trying and it’s working. This film is not.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 23, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  4. http://languagearts.pppst.com/paragraphs.html

    Comment by Greg Davies/cGt2099 — August 27, 2011 @ 2:39 am

  5. I think you may have enjoyed the movie a lot more had it been 2D. 

    Comment by Greg Davies/cGt2099 — August 27, 2011 @ 7:40 am

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