Spoiler Talk: Fright Night (2011)

If you’ve expected a movie to be terrible for the longest time, and then you watch it and it turns out not to be complete garbage, does that necessarily make it good? I have no idea. I do know it’s never a good idea to start a review off with a question.

I will admit to not thinking much of the Fright Night remake (except for the casting) as it seemed to be yet another remake in an litter box full of them and the best one could hope for is that it’s better than _________ [insert your own shitty remake here as you could probably name a dozen off the top of your head].

But 2 hours later as you exit the theater singing along to the end credits (“99 problems and a bitch ain’t one…”) you realize that you had a pretty decent time, and that last week’s The Help would have been a lot more entertaining and a lot less preachy had vampires been involved.

Besides, it’s always nice to see a real vampire movie for a change instead of the brooding Beiber-vag’s that contaminate the megaplexes nowadays.

It’s time for SPOILERS…

Fright Night 2011 opens in Vegas. We meet Charlie Brewster (Star Trek‘s Anton Yelchin, looking less androgynous than William Ragsdale), a 20-something trying to pass off as a teenager in high school. He leads a pretty decent existence, with the only real negative being that he can’t get his motorbike to work properly. He has a girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) and one of those genuinely understanding moms (Toni Collette) that you only see in the movies and rarely in real life.
He also has a stripper neighbor Doris (Emily Montague) who will probably be dead in less than half an hour.
The majority of Charlie’s neighborhood leads a transient lifestyle, so it’s not unusual to see people moving in and out of the burg. This time Charlie has a brand new neighbor, though what he/she looks like isn’t known yet.

Charlie wants to hang out with Amy, but Charlie’s mom tells him that his ex-friend Ed keeps calling. Charlie continues to make excuses as to why he can’t speak to Ed, but Ed can’t be held off forever.

Charlie eventually gets to meet the new neighbor as he’s seen helping his mother with some manly chore. His name is Jerry (Colin Farrell). Jerry works nights, so he’s acclimated to the Vegas lifestyle. Jerry’s good looking, fit and gives Amy and Charlie’s mom long unsubtle looks up and down.

He’s either a hustler like Joe Buck or he’s a vampire.

He’s a vampire as everyone already knows. Too bad the characters don’t. Yet

While Charlie’s in class looking older than everyone else it’s pointed out that there are a number of actual high school kids not attending class. It’s normal that kids cut class sometimes. It’s also normal that kids get killed in movies containing the words “Fright” or “Night” in them.

Ed (McLovin) finally corners Charlie into a corner at school and they are forced to interact. You see, Ed (nicknamed Evil), Charlie and a dead guy named Adam were the best of friends when they were younger, as they even made dorky cosplay videos together, but for some reason Charlie decided to distance himself from Evil and Adam as time went on. We’re guessing it’s the cosplay.

This time Evil really needs to talk with Charlie because Adam has been missing for a while. They agree to meet at Adam’s house after school. Charlie reluctantly goes along because it’s the only way to get Ed off his back.

Ed posits a theory that Charlie’s new neighbor is a vampire. He’s calculated that most of the missing kids’ homes form a radius around Charlie’s house…and Jerry’s. Charlie thinks it’s Evil’s overactive geek imagination going into overdrive, and even if it were vampires, Charlie worked with Mel Gibson in The Beaver, so by comparison a vampire really isn’t that bad.
Ed recounts rehashed vampire lore like not inviting them in and having a lot of holy water around, but Ed is no vampire killer like his idol, the Vegas magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant). In Vincent’s website he’s revealed to be a master in the ways of the undead, or he could be a complete sham.

Charlie and Ed go to Adam’s house and find it completely empty. Charlie thinks nothing much of it but now McLovin is now even more suspicious. Charlie wants to hang out with Amy now because she’s a girl. Ed is left alone.

And Jerry has been watching them the whole time. Turns out Ed and the audience were right. Jerry eventually catches up to Ed and does what you’d expect vampires to do.

The next morning Ed is not at school and Charlie is a little freaked out. He goes to Ed’s house and his parents tell him Ed hasn’t been home all night. One of Ed’s parents is played by Lisa Loeb and for a moment we’re all transported to the year 1994.

Charlie goes up to Ed’s room for the first time in a long time and realizes that Ed really hasn’t grown up from a lot from when they were kids as geek paraphernalia and crusty tissue paper take up most of its space. Charlie surmises that the room’s four walls have never enclosed something called a “girl” except for Lisa Loeb and her red glasses.

A seed of doubt is placed in Charlie’s head. Maybe Ed was right. Maybe Jerry is a vampire.

Sure enough, Jerry comes over and asks to borrow some beer because Doris the Stripper is coming over to discuss Daddy Abandonment Issues and he’s completely dry. Charlie notices that Jerry is hovering over the kitchen’s threshold, but never crossing fully over. Charlie is noticeably on edge and makes it a point not to invite him in. He gets Jerry his beer and now Charlie is completely suspicious, because when is Colin Farrell EVER out of alcohol?

Running up to his room, Charlie spies Doris coming over to Jerry’s house. After a while Charlie hears a scream. He calls 911. The cops go to Jerry. Jerry explains why exactly the girl was screaming using a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge and putting his index finger into an enclosed fist to signify that sexy sex was going on. The cops fist-bump Jerry, and even leave him a pair of handcuffs so that he and the stripper can continue the perfectly legal consensual non-vampiric sex.

The cops leave. After a couple of moments Jerry leaves in his truck.

Despite his better judgment and cries of “Don’t go in there” and “He’s so dead if he gets caught” from the discourteous and moronic members of the audience, Charlie goes to Jerry’s house and breaks in.

Jerry’s house is dark. This is probably because the lights are off and it is nighttime. So far, Charlie’s search of Jerry’s house has netted nothing unusual and after a couple of minutes Charlie hears the garage door open. Jerry’s home.

Charlie makes his way into a closet to hide.

After a couple of moments, he realizes the closet has a false wall, and stumbles into a hallway full of doors just like in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Through one of those doors is Charlie’s unlucky stripper neighbor. She looks terrified. Charlie does the index-finger-in-fist motion to sign if this being-trapped-in-an-isolated-room thing is part of their kink or is she really in danger. Doris continues screaming. Yes, something is really wrong.

And Jerry is now making his way into the closet. Now Charlie really regrets not listening to Ed when he had the chance.

What works with Fright Night “˜11

1) David Tennant steals every scene as Peter Vincent, getting away with most of the movie’s laughs as he’s given the movie funniest lines (“Let’s kill something”). Wise move by writer Marti Noxon not to make Vincent the cowardly lion he was in the original, if only to distance this version from Roddy MacDowall.

2) The White Dress- You know what I mean, and it looks so much better on Imogen Poots than it ever did on Marcy Darcy and her teased 80s hair.

3) The sequence in Jerry’s house is the scariest part of the movie, even if you know exactly what’s coming. Director Craig Gillespie uses your knowledge of horror movies somewhat against you, so you’re scared at the both the potential scares and the actual ones. And the climax got even the more jaded members of the audience squealing, although they might have been the same geniuses who were talking at the screen for Charlie not to enter the house.

I’m sure none of you reading are like this so feel free to skip… but no matter how much you talk to the screen, the characters are going to do what they’re contractually obligated to do, and if by chance the characters actions actually coincide with what you’ve been yelling, keep in mind that all the other paying theatergoers hate you and that you had fuck-nothing to do with what happened.

4) The vampire FX are decidedly old-school, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective. For Fright Night, it works much better than you’d expect. Can’t speak for the 3D, since I didn’t bother, but I’m guessing that you didn’t miss much. Big surprise there.

What doesn’t work-

1) As written, Evil Ed isn’t really given that much importance to the story so that you could have ALMOST cut the character out and it really wouldn’t have mattered that much to the overall story. As played by McLovin, Ed is neither all that funny nor all that scary when he has to be. Those who sharpened their claws at the casting of McLovin finally have a chance to use them. Go to town.

2) A sluggish first act that only speeds up when the characters realize what everyone already knows. There are more dead spots than there should be, but the capably handled set pieces make up for it so they don’t leave too bad a taste in your mouth

3) A terrible cameo that’s less egregious if only because it’s so brief. Did someone really need the money?

Overall. Grateful that Fright Night isn’t the disaster it looked to be from its inception. The 1985 original doesn’t hold a special place in my heart as it does for some, so my expectations may be a little more reasonable than the purists who kvetch while holding on to their VHS copies because Colin Farrell doesn’t have the white-guy fro that Chris Sarandon sported in the original or that Imogen Poots doesn’t have hubcap-sized pastel shoulder pads like Amanda Bearse. FN11 a perfectly passable vampire film that has its fair share of problems, but it’s the best thing opening this weekend as the new Conan remake is stupider than you’d expect it to be and One Day really isn’t something you’d see unless you were forced to.

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1 Comment »

  1. I think I might have to watch this for David Tennant alone.  We saw he can do badass scary guy in Chamber of Secrets, and I just wanna see him kill things.  Is that bad?


    Comment by Lori Strongin — August 21, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

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