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?