Movie Review: It’s Fright Night Again

Science/Fantasy Monday: It’s Fright Night Again

I’ve been doing a lot of these Sunday morning movies (gotta love AMC’s $5 morning movie tickets!). This past Sunday was Fright Night.

I was looking forward to this movie for a couple reasons I love movies that mix classic horror elements with dark comedy (like Zombieland), and I love David Tennant, who plays Peter Vincent in the movie.  So I went to this movie, not expecting anything brilliant or intellectual (because seriously, do you go to a vampire movie for intelligence or drama? No, you go for blood and gore, and in this case, some great one-liners), but expecting to have fun.  And I did.

Fright Night begins with a seemingly harmless cookie-cutter suburb outside Las Vegas, where high-school senior Charley lives with his single-mother.  The audience is allowed a little time to get to know Charley he’s recently ditched his nerdy best friend, Ed, to enter into the “cool” cliques, earning him his gorgeous girlfriend, Amy; he’s very protective of his mother after his father ran out on them an unspecified number of years earlier.  At the same time, the audience learns that Charley’s mother is a realtor trying to bring new people into their neighborhood, which is dying as more and more people move out.  To this end, she sells the house next door to a man named Jerry, who keeps odd hours and has blacked-out windows (you can see where this is going, yes?).  I don’t think I’m giving too much away (as it happens in the first 20 minutes of the movie) when I tell you that Charley’s old best friend, Ed, has been spying on Jerry, and tells Charles that his next-door-neighbor must be a vampire.  The next day, Ed disappears, and Charley begins to realize that he may have been right.  Now, Charley must protect his mother and girlfriend from the vampire next door, and enlist the help of Peter Vincent Las Vegas stage magician and vampire expert before he becomes the next victim.

Fright Night is a remake of an old 80’s campy horror movie of the same name, but I haven’t seen the original so I can’t do a comparison here.  Instead, I’m taking the movie on its own merits.

Charley is played by baby-faced Anton Yelchin.  Yelchin is only 22 years old, and is still fairly new to the scene, but he already has two huge blockbusters under his belt.  He played Chekhov in the newest Star Trek movie, and he played a young Kyle Reese in Terminator: Salvation.  If this doesn’t tell you something about his acting ability, his potential, and the good opinion directors obviously have of him, than nothing will.  He’s young, but he’s good.  And he’s going to get better.  Fast.  In Fright Night, he plays a conflicted, well-meaning, determined teenager with energy and empathy.  And I look forward to his next projects.

Jerry the Vampire is played by Colin Farrell not my favorite actor by any stretch of the imagination, but he does a surprisingly good job here, playing equal parts creepy and oddly funny, in a strange, off-kilter way.  Sometimes the way he moves, cocks his head, lifts his arms, and so forth is almost awkward (especially in the early scenes when Jerry is obviously trying to hide his identity from his neighbors), that you just can’t help but laugh at this vampire who can’t quite “play” human.

The girlfriend, Amy, is played by Imogen Poots (and there’s a regrettable name if I’ve ever heard one), who was pretty all she needed to be: pretty, mostly-believable as a high school student, and at least a decent enough actress not to drag down the script or the other actors.  She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t anything to write home about either.  But honestly, the part didn’t require that she be a fantastic dramatic actress anyway, so no harm done.

And, of course, David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) played Peter Vincent.  Now, this character was interesting, and Tennant’s portrayal was hilarious: he’s a Las Vegas stage magician (long black wig, lots of black eye-liner, and black leather, you know the type), but he’s also an expert in the paranormal, who is well known for his collection of artifacts and information about vampires.  You quickly find out, too, that for all his knowledge of vampires, he’s terrified of doing anything about them, and would much rather run and hide.  Tennant plays him up as crass, foul-mouthed, arrogant, more than a little cowardly an absolute mess.  And he’s hilarious.

As for special effects… Well, it was filmed for 3D, but I didn’t see it in 3D because I just don’t like it.  I think it’s mainly a gimmick.  However, the usual movie special effects were fairly effective.  Lots of blood-splatter, a severed arm or two, and the like made an appearance.  And the vampires (yes, there were more than one by the end), did more than just look human in feeding frenzy, their faces transformed into almost shark-like gaping mouths with lots and lots of sharp teeth.  The CGI for this effect wasn’t the best ever, but it wasn’t bad, and the touch of campiness added more to the fun than anything else.  (At least the vampires didn’t sparkle.)

Finally, the writing (story by Tom Holland, screenplay by Marti Noxon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame):  Again, you don’t go to this kind of movie expecting brilliant writing, touching drama, etc etc, blah blah blah.  And you’re not going to find that here.  The story is fairly formulaic, and everything that happens is pretty much exactly what you expect to happen.  There are no surprises here.  Also, despite the R rating, this is not a scary movie.  Sure, there’s blood (but more often than not, the camera pans away from what would be the really gory bits), and I think the R rating has more to do with the language (including Tennant’s hilariously excessive use of “fuck”).  If you’re expecting a horror movie, this isn’t it.  It’s more a dark comedy with horror elements.  But that’s what made it fun for me.  Quite a lot of this movie was just flat-out hilarious (sometimes including the blood-splatter).

Final verdict: If you liked Zombieland, you should like Fright Night.  It’s not as clever or original, but it is a lot of fun.  (And if you’re a David Tennant fan: he’s shirtless. ‘Nuff said.)

If you’ve seen Fright Night already, what’s your opinion?  Did you enjoy it?  Were you expecting something else?  If you’ve seen the original as well, how do the two compare?

#ToBeReMo 2: On Dark Paths

As I mentioned last Friday, I was reading book #2 for #ToBeReMo and would likely have a review of it up for Wednesday.  As promised, below you will find a review of On Dark Paths by Andrew Kincaid.  But first, a couple quick updates and a few questions for my readers:

1) For those who missed my very hyper extra blog post on saturday night, I FINALLY finished the first draft of my current WIP, Midnight’s Knife.  For further ranting on that issue, I refer you to Saturday’s blog: “Time to Celebrate! I Finished Something!”

2) I am curious to know whether putting any excerpts from Midnight’s Knife would be of any interest to anyone, or if that would be (as Kristen Lamb has said on more than one occasion) essentially shooting myself in the foot.  Should I just wait until I have a finished product to sell to all you lovely folks?

3)  Anyone have any good suggestions for places to learn more about writing summaries/synopses and queries?  ‘Cause I know NOTHING on the subject.  I’ve never gotten far enough along to worry about it before.  I have Bob Mayer’s book The Novel Writer’s Toolkit, which I think has a chapter about such things, but other than that… I’m clueless.

4)  I was digging through some old files and came across fragments of a short story I started — a sort of magical realism kinda thing about a woman whose best friend has disappeared off the face of the earth without a trace, except for strange reports of sightings.  I think I might tackle that as well, in between revising Midnight’s Knife, so wish me luck.

And now, without further ado, my review of On Dark Paths:

On Dark Paths is a collection of horror short stories by Andrew Kincaid, available as an ebook on amazon.com.  These stories peer into the darkness that sits just beyond the edge of normal existence, and sometimes deep inside the self.  I would not call these stories frightening exactly, though I am as a rule very hard to scare so perhaps I’m not the best judge of such things.  However, they are certainly entertaining.

Of the short stories in this collection, I enjoyed “The Bite” because it does something somewhat unusual – speaking from the perspective of a zombie, rather than those running from the zombie.  “It Came At Midnight” and “The Thing That Smiles” both effectively play on some of the most common fears of children (fear that often stick, despite ourselves, into adulthood): the thing under your bed, and the creature outside your window.  For me it was never the monster under the bed or in the closet but the noise outside my window that gave me pause, so “The Thing That Smiles” hit a little closer to home than did “It Came At Midnight.”  I suspect, however, that most will find “It Came At Midnight” the creepier of the two.  I also enjoyed “Benton’s Station” as the creature in it appeared to me to be something of an homage to Lovecraft.

Some of the stories in this collection are problematic for a few reasons.  For one, I think some, most specifically “…And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” “Plop!”, and “Where the Darkest of Dark Things Dwell,” try too hard to be deep and philosophical, rather than relying on the strength of the story and allowing the readers to come to their own conclusions.  Also, sensory descriptions are sometimes rather lacking – it is obviously an attempt to try to leave things unsaid so that the readers may fill the image with whatever horrifying thing they can think of, but we are not always given enough to go on.  At other times the exposition is full of background information that is far too long and often unnecessary for the story.  This is especially true in “Benton’s Station: which would, I believe, be stronger without much of the first 8 pages (on the Kindle) and a few pages from the middle (out of a story that is 49 pages on the Kindle).

Lastly, some of the images and concepts start to feel a little repetitive and recycled.  There are several stories involving creatures that snatch people in order to eat them.  On several occasions the 1st person narrator declares something along the lines of “I don’t remember much after that.  I cam to hours later…” as if to avoid having to explain scenes in further detail or fill in the narrative.  And I saw descriptions of “maggot-white” hands and faces, and demonic cackling, in at least 3 or 4 different stories.

All that being said, many of the stories are still highly enjoyable.  I think my favorite might be “Pandemic Hysteria” because the monsters, at last, are not supernatural creatures from the underworld but merely humans being stupidly, horrifyingly human.  And that kind of story, in which the horror is entirely too believable, is the kind that has power to me.  So, while these stories are not exactly scary (at least not to me), if you enjoy thought-provoking tales with more than their fair share of twisted darkness, then you should enjoy On Dark Paths.  It is not a perfect work, but it is an admirable debut effort, and I believe that Andrew Kincaid is someone worth keeping your eye on.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to comment on my questions at the top.  See you all on Friday!

#ToBeReMo Book 1 and a Quick Update

For #ToBeReMo (“To Be Read Month” – see Suzan Isik’s blog for details), I’ve decided to try to read six books during the month of June.  The first book I read was a mystery novel by Ryne Douglas Pearson, Confessions.  Ryne Douglas Pearson is the author of several books, including Simple Simon, which was made into the movie Mercury Rising, and has worked on several screenplays as well.  The summary of Confessions from goodreads.com states:

A call in the dead of night summons Father Michael Jerome to a suburban Chicago hospital—a police officer has been shot. As department chaplain, Michael arrives to find that the officer will survive.

The same cannot be said for his assailant, who lays mortally wounded on a gurney, begging for absolution for some past sin. Offering last rites to the dying man, Michael hears his final confession and is shaken by the admission of a crime committed five years earlier.

A murder that shattered his family.

Struggling with the constraints of his faith, Michael moves cautiously as he tries to identify others involved in the vicious killing. But every secret he uncovers leads him further down a path where it becomes clear that someone is desperate for the past to stay buried.

I used to read mysteries a lot, but for the last few years I’d let that particular genre fall by the wayside. However, in the last few months I’ve been trying to pick them back up again, and Confessions was a wonderful addition to my collection.

The first-person present-tense narration was fluid, and full of character and emotion without being florid or melodramatic. The narrator/main Mike Jerome was a flawed but highly likable character who defies the strictures of his position in order to solve his sister’s murder. The murder mystery and the progression of Mike Jerome’s difficult choices kept me anxious and kept me reading. And despite my attempts, like Mike, to figure out the answer, the solution shocked me greatly. I never saw it coming. And I like a story that keeps me on my toes.

I highly recommend this novel. If I tell you I started it at 9am in the morning and finished at 8:30pm the same day (in between doing household chores and writing a blog) that should give you some indication of how much I liked it.

For my second #ToBeReMo book, I am currently reading On Dark Paths, an ebook collection of short horror stories by Andrew Kincaid.  You can expect another short review from me on that book, probably next Wednesday.

However, I have spent most of the week writing feverishly, and I am proud to say that I am almost done with the first draft of my demon-hunter WIP, tentatively titled Midnight’s Knife.  I finished Ch. 29 last night, and I think Ch. 30 will be the last (perhaps with an epilogue thrown in, though I’m not sure at this point).  I’m right in the middle of the final battle now.  I had some trouble yesterday morning diving into the scene, but once I got moving I couldn’t stop.  I wrote 6500 words yesterday alone; the words just flowed out of my fingers.  It felt a little like magic.  It was awesome.  My plan is to be done with the last chapter by Sunday, at which point I will probably take a little break to get some reading done before I begin the long process of revisions.

If you aren’t participating in #ToBeReMo, you should consider it! It’s a great motivation to get through some of the to-be-read book piles most of us have.  If you are participating, how many books are you planning on getting through?

Also, I’m always curious to know what sort of projects you all are currently working on, and what kind of progress your making.  I want to share my excitement with as many people as I can, ‘cause seriously, finally making some progress is an awesome feeling.

Have a good weekend, everyone!