I’m getting a little weary of vampires’ popularity. I mean, Dracula is one of my favorite books, but there is such a thing as overexposure. I think I’m wearier of saccharine, supposedly-epic romances though, so given the choice between Fright Night and One Day, I opted for the vampires.
In Fright Night, Charlie (Anton Yelchin) has some newfound popularity and a pretty girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), so he’s hesitant to believe his nerdy friend Ed when he starts claiming that there’s a vampire in their Las Vegas suburb. Specifically, Ed thinks the vampire is Jerry (Colin Farrell), the man who just moved in next to Charlie and his mother (Toni Collette). Charlie doesn’t want to regress to his former nerddom, so he ignores Ed’s warnings. It’s not until things start to really go wrong that Charlie believes his friend. Unfortunately, now it’s on his hands to stop Jerry and Jerry knows Charlie’s onto him.
One of the aspects of this film that works well is the awareness the characters have of how trendy vampires are right now. Beyond the obligatory Twilight reference, however, Fright Night does not seem to do much more than take advantage of vampire-mania. The first act of this remake of the 1985 film feels a lot like Disturbia, the 2007 update of Rear Window. Voyeurism leads to terror and well-meaning, if nosy, teens find themselves in over their heads. The tension between Charlie, his new idiotic friends, and his old nerdy friends very much reminds me of 80’s movies, but without the context of what happened before the curtain opens. The first act, however, was really the best part of this film. Abruptly, the tension is spoiled as the cat-and-mouse games give way to an all-out battle with no transition. From the moment Jerry decides to attack Charlie’s home, the rest of the movie is a somewhat tedious and drawn-out saga of failed attempts to kill the vampire. Admittedly, the endgame of this war is pretty cool, but by the time I got there I was just ready for it to be over.
My issues with the screenplay aside, the acting in Fright Night is pretty solid. I’ve been a fan of Yelchin since Charlie Bartlet (2007) and his wry delivery worked well for this Charlie, who is often more exasperated than anything else. As much as I love Toni Collete, her performance savors strongly of every other mother she’s played. While Charlie warns her that Jerry is dangerous, it was hard not to think of her as the mother of another boy, one who saw dead people. Still, this mom is pretty tough and funny. David Tennant plays Peter Vincent, an occult expert and Vegas performer who allegedly can slay vampires. His character is one of the more entertaining parts of the movie, but his performance looks a lot like a Russell Brand impersonation.
Casting Farrell as the vampire was a genius choice. Yes, he is super handsome, but also kind of slimy and that combination worked wonders. To me, one of the creepiest moments of the film is a scene in which Jerry is talking to Charlie mano-a-mano. He’s saying things that you’d imagine a womanizer would say to the 17 year-old son of a single mother, but Charlie’s suspicions about Jerry give everything an eerie double meaning. What makes the scene, however, is the way Farrell leans on the doorframe. He can’t enter the house uninvited, but his level of cool makes his calmness a threat in itself.
Fright Night is yet another movie released in 3D that left me wondering why. Yes, they have a little fun with blood spatters, but most of the movie is in the dark, so the 3D seems a bit like a ploy to raise ticket prices. There are some gorgeous sunrise/sunset shots that the 3D enhances, but that’s about it.
All told, Fright Night was fun, but just not very impressive. It is a little torn between comedy and horror and if it had been campier or scarier it probably would have been a lot better. It’s worth renting for Farrell’s turn as the vampire next door though. 2.5/5 stars
Fright Night was directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Marti Nixon, based on Fright Night by Tom Holland. It runs 106 minutes and is rated R for bloody horror violence and language, including some sexual references.
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