Notable Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Review: Any vampire film that openly makes fun of Twilight I’m almost obliged to check out. Mix in the fact that Fright Night is a remake of an old Tom Holland (Child’s Play) flick in the prime of the campy horror period, and it most definitely made it to my watch list. But would Fright Night fall into the “crap-tastic remake that never should have happened” Nightmare of Elm Street category? Or the “you know what, that was a well-groomed update on a classic” The Hills Have Eyes category. For me, it’s neither, sitting soundly between the two sides. It neither trashes the source material nor embellishes upon it with new flashy Hollywood techniques. Having vampire popularity at an all time high and a hot young cast, Fright Night dares to take a bite out of the competition. Don’t be afraid though, it’s just pretty boy Colin Farrell being good looking and menacing.
Charley Brewster (Yelchin) is your average awkward teenager, just trying to climb the high school social ladder. His fear that girlfriend Amy (Poots) will dump him for someone “cooler” forces him to push geeky childhood friend Ed (Mintz-Plasse) away. But when more and more local kids start missing class, Ed reveals a shocking discovery to Charley: his neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire. Ed goes on to explain he’d been stalking Jerry with their now missing friend, and he’s afraid Jerry became aware of their snooping. Charley of course writes off Ed’s paranoia as delusions of grandeur, and continues to ignore his obsessive amigo. The next day though, Ed joins the group of missing high schoolers, and Jerry starts acting very peculiar around Charley. Remembering the vampire quirks Ed was always rambling off, he tests Jerry, and starts having questions of his own. When those questions are confirmed, it’s up to Charley to fight off the undead Jerry, protect his mother (Collette) and girlfriend, and free his community from the clutches of….JERRY! He does get some help from hot-shot magician and vampire enthusiast Peter Vincent (Tennant) along the way though, so he doesn’t have to go it all on his own.
I suddenly have the hankering for some Italian food…
Right off the bat, I want to delve into the writing. I love horror films that can play with well-known horror myths, while putting down other horror films at the same time. I don’t care about subtlety or wit. If something it true, it needs to be said. That’s why Fright Night basically saying Twilight is a pox on the entire vampire genre really gave me a good chuckle. With that same statement though, the film was saying “if Twilight is what you associate vampires with, then you have another thing coming,” almost promising a truthfully scary vampire. While vicious, Fright Night still used the pretty boy method by only showing Farrell in full-blown vampire form for a short amount of time. When I think of vampires, I look back to this year’s Stake Land, a much better take on the beastly vampire look. But again, there was some fun to be had, playing with the vampire folklore we all know. I like when writers can tie their characters into reality and not put them in their own fantasy world, for example, where people have never heard of vampires before, discovering all the ways to kill them as the film goes along. At this point, we know it all. Garlic, Holy Water, crosses, sunlight, and stakes to the heart are our only defense. I hate films where the character fights off the demon vampire, and “luckily” grabs a cross to find it out it drives them back. Horror audiences at this point don’t want to be insulted, but instead want to see movies build upon the “rules” already set in place. Fright Night stays away from this tom foolery, so give it a few points.
That said, I thought Farrell was a great choice for Jerry the vampire. He had the persona a vampire should have, being charming but having the instincts of a predator at the same time. I mean, vampires are essentially immortal, so they should possess a bit of a cocky attitude to flaunt, and Farrell can do just that. His threats always were hidden behind what could be interpreted as friendly conversation, and he was a true manipulative genius. On the topic of characters I loved though, David Tennant as magician Peter Vincent stole the show. The Scottish born actor is a delight on-screen, but mostly known for his work on the BBC, and not stateside. I’m really hoping an appearance like this opens doors for him in the U.S. film industry, and he gets to entertain us in such undeniably silly roles.
Where the film loses steam though is in the story and whatnot. The film could not invest me in the multiple plot points going on, such as: Charley and Ed’s relationship, Charley and Amy’s relationship, and Charley vs. the big bad villain. There was really nothing to the fighting, except Charley trying something clichéd, and Jerry laughing at him. In that way, the film acted a little too egotistical for its own good. Fright Night used tactics like this to try to convince you “oh yeah, this isn’t your average vampire film,” while in fact that’s ALL it was. I don’t even want to throw Fright Night in the horror genre because there wasn’t a genuine scare the entire film, unless you have an unexplained fear of Colin Farrell drinking people’s blood.
So, while Fright Night had promise, there was no full delivery. The writing had moments of clarity, but the rest of the time left much to be desired. As a remake, Fright Night attempts to bring a little integrity back to the vampire genre, but again the original flat-out does it better. The original also had time on its side, as the campy horror audience is dwindling these days. That killed this remake a little bit, as the new script tried to get away from the camp and into the mainstream. In my opinion, even though Tennant and Farrell were the hot spots of the film, they should have had more imaginative fun, and Jerry the vampire could have been way more over the top after his identity was discovered. While I like Fright Night for trying to be the anti-Twilight, the final product is closer to that side of the spectrum than it would like to believe. Don’t get me wrong, it had some fun action and kills, but not enough to keep the die-hard horror fan in me excited the whole time.
Final Rating: 6 neighbors I now accuse of being vampires out of 10
Kneel before the wrath….of…..JERRY! Sorry, I do love lame name that joke.