Monday, August 29, 2011

Fright Night (2011)

Won't You Bleed My Neighbor?

When I first heard talk of a Fright Night remake, I was reasonably uneasy on the idea considering that the original film is a cult classic, not to mention a prime example of fun 80's horror. When I learned that Colin Farrell was on board to play the seductive vampire-next-door, my interest definitely peaked. This wasn't a role I would have expected him to take, so I was eager to see what he would bring to a comedy-horror film whose original has a strong following. Fright Night may not be the best remake on the market, but it's a damn well entertaining one thanks to a fun, witty script and all-around great casting.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation) is your average high schooler stuck in between the lines of full-fledged dweebery and semi-popularity thanks to his beautiful girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots, 28 Weeks Later). In order to retain this "middle class" status in school, Charley has abandoned his once-best-friend and fellow dweeb "Evil" Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad), who's been vying for his attention ever since. When a string of students go missing, Ed reveals his suspicions that Charley's new neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire who is behind it all. Charley refuses to believe the concept,  but Ed blackmails him into helping him investigate. When Charley's had enough of Ed's behavior, he ditches him for good. Soon enough, Ed is missing and Charley discovers footage that proves Ed was right all along. The only problem is that his mother (played by the always wonderful Toni Collette) has taking a liking to Jerry and it's going to be a bit difficult explaining that their new neighbor is a devilishly handsome bloodsucker. Desperate for help, Charley seeks out Peter Vincent (Dr. Who's David Tennant), a Criss Angel-esque illusionist who hosts a vampire-themed television show called "Fright Night". With Jerry onto Charley's motives and his sights now set on Amy, it's time to either stake or become steak.

What surprised me the most about this film is how quickly it gets to the punch. The beginning gives you just enough time to meet the characters before Charley is informed that his neighbor is a vampire. It's also not long before Charley has confirmed this for himself. It's even sooner that Charley has almost everyone believing him (something that the original didn't quite touch base on as his mother wasn't around much in the third act) and figuring out a plan to stop Jerry. For a film that runs about twenty minutes shy of two hours, you know you're going to be getting a lot of action when your first act is running at this fast of a pace. There are motorcycles being tossed through car windows, houses exploding, characters throwing each other around like rag dolls, and enough arterial spray to leave you happy.

As previously mentioned, the acting is very much worth noting. Everyone gives off a great and convincing performance, but Farrell takes the cake. Where the original film's villain was played by a half-serious, half-casual Chris Sarandon, Farrell really brings the sex appeal to the character of Jerry. When he's not giving off smoldering looks or flinching a snarky lip twitch that would make Elvis cream his pants, he's seducing both the film's characters and the audience with his more darkly playful take on Jerry, who goes so far as to allowing Charley escape with one of his victims, only to have her explode in his arms when they enter light. Jerry does this just to show Charley who's running the show, but does so with a cocky smile and a bite of an apple.

While it's understandable that Fright Night elitists may not be entirely thrilled with this adaptation, it's hard to ignore the film's high points. The lows come mostly from the unneeded 3D aspect, which rarely stands out during the film and seems to be mainly utilized in masking some dodgy CGI during a few particular scenes. I was also disappointed with the lack of character development, especially between Charley and Ed. While Ed played a large role in the original film, the feud between the two hardly allows for any connection to be established except for a few "remember when..." moments. By the time Ed returns much later for his showdown with Charley, there isn't a lot of concern with what happens next. It's also unfortunate that other actors were given little screen time like Dave Franco (James Franco's younger brother) or Reid Ewing (Modern Family) as they serve mostly as pigs to the slaughter for Jerry.

Despite these personal qualms, Fright Night is still a highly enjoyable film, especially for a remake. With a great cast, plenty of action, and enough eye candy for both male and female viewers, it's hard to put this film on the back burner. While it may not have the campy 80s feel of the original, it still provides a fun and fast paced experience, perfect for those looking for something to make their Friday night a bit more enjoyable. Just don't forget to invite your neighbor to watch!

3.5/5 Stars

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