Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: New "Fright Night" is Sexy and Mean

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 104 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Fright Night (2011)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references
DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
WRITERS: Marti Noxon; from a story by Tom Holland (based upon the film, Fright Night, written by Tom Holland)
PRODUCERS: Michael De Luca and Alison R. Rosenzweig
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe
EDITOR: Tatiana S. Riegel
COMPOSER: Ramin Djawadi


Starring: Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Sandra Vergara, and Chris Sarandon

Fright Night is a 2011 comic horror film. It is also a remake of the 1985 film of the same name from writer/director Tom Holland. Like the original film, the new Fright Night is about a teen boy who believes that his new next door neighbor is a vampire and tries to stop the monster’s killing spree.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has a new neighbor, Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell), who claims to work construction at night. Charley doesn’t like the way Jerry looks at his mother, Jane Brewster (Toni Collette), and his girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots). Charley’s former best friend, Edward “Evil Ed” Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), claims that Jerry is the reason people have been disappearing from all over the Las Vegas suburb where they live… because Jerry is a vampire. After Ed disappears, Charley realizes that he needs help, so he turns to Las Vegas magician, Peter Vincent (David Tennant), whose Vegas stage show, Fright Night, chronicles his vampire-hunting adventures. But can the reluctant Vincent really help Charley fight a powerful vampire?

I like to distinguish how movies mix laughs and chills. A horror comedy is a comedy that tries to act and look like a horror movie. A comedy horror is a horror movie that desperately wants to have it both ways – be funny and scary, usually with disastrous results. The best is the comic horror film. This type of movie is truly a horror movie. It looks and acts like a horror movie because it is a horror movie. It is scary, violent, and thrilling, but there is humor of some type: sarcasm, satire, slapstick, and camp. Successful comic horror films include a classic, The Evil Dead, and the more recent Zombieland, and of course, the vampire send-up, the original Fright Night.

The new Fright Night is a superb comic horror film. In fact, it’s batshit crazy with its gleefully vicious villain and its hero – some kid trying to be the protector, rescuer, and savior. I like how screenwriter Marti Noxon re-imagines the original film into a story of a large transient and disconnected population that is easy prey to the monster next door. It’s as if these people don’t notice that their friends, neighbors, classmates, and sometimes even entire households have seemingly disappeared into thin air (or that there is a small war going on between a vampire and a kid). I cannot help but believe that this film is a biting commentary of our foreclosure and alienation society.

Director Craig Gillespie offers so many exciting action set pieces, and he imaginatively stages some of the wackier elements of the screenplay in ways that create a comic edge vampire films rarely have. The action in this film is also aggressive. In the first Fright Night, the part of the plot that dealt directly with the vampire was like a mystery story, and the villain was a suave ladies’ man. In the new film, there is little pretense about what Jerry Dandrige is; thus, the conflict between boy hero and vampire becomes practically a small war. In this way, Fright Night 2011 is more visceral than the original. It is a wild, bloody ride with generous helpings of jest and sarcasm.

This comic horror film has a few key, droll and witty performances, but first, I have a complaint. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the new “Evil Ed” is an insult to Stephen Geoffreys as the original. It’s not Mintz-Plasse’s fault; the new version doesn’t seem to care much for the character, and it seems as if Ed is included out of a sense of obligation. Conversely, David Tennant’s loutish spin on the Peter Vincent character is a winner; early in the film, this interpretation seems as if it will be a disaster, but, by the end of the film, I wanted more.

Colin Farrell’s Jerry Dandrige is part bully, part predator, and pure carnivore. Farrell is funny, and this performance testifies to his largely untapped talent. Farrell’s Dandrige is similar to a description of baseball pitcher Roger Clemens by a commentator: a big white Republican who believes that he can do whatever he wants – damn the rules.

However, the new Fright Night hinges on Anton Yelchin, and he is fantastic. In the new Charley Brewster, Yelchin creates a complex, layered teen. When the story focuses on Brewster as the reformed nerd, his stubborn determination to be the cool kid, no matter the cost to his soul, to say nothing of the cost to his former friends, is painfully realistic. That is why Brewster’s transformation into teen warrior also rings true. The new Fright Night is a delight, and the reasons are many for this well-made film – with Yelchin being the most important one.

7 of 10

Friday, December 16, 2011



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