Film Review: Fright Night

fright_night_header“Ugh, not another 3D horror film,” said the person who didn’t even watch My Bloody Valentine.  “That’s such a waste of money.”  Often true, but what isn’t true is the stigma against the cheesy b-rated films of this genre in concern to what is not expected of them.  At least when it comes to Fright Night; other movies are often fair game to mock.  Instead of a laughably scripted, poorly acted film to be seen solely to make fun of, we actually get a remake that is pretty great.

Like many recent horror films including Black Christmas and The Stepfather, Fright Night is a remake of an older film, more specifically a 1985 film of the same name. If the idea of a 3D horror wasn’t enough to deter you, then this might tip the scale. But for those of you who squish your face in disgust at the mere mention of the previous titles, I’d like you to once again read my last sentence in the into. To sum it up for those who hate to back track, Fright Night is actually pretty great, as in high up there on my list of awesome vampire movies.

“Ugh, another vampire movie!? F Twilight.” Yes, there are vampires in this one as well, opinionated reader. Now stop starting your thoughts with “ugh.”  Not everything is as disgusting as you think it is.  None-the-less the fretting can stop. What lies within is the Angelus version of the bloodthirsty creatures without remorse for their victims, as opposed to the vegetarian variety.
Which brings us to Jerry. As the residents of a Las Vegas subdivision start to disappear like the dollar bills of the male patrons (or female) at a strip club, an old friend brings it to our protagonist’s attention that he is actually living next to a blood-sucking fiend. At first he writes it off as a nerdy boy losing himself to his fantasies, but eventually after some Disturbia like sleuthing Charley starts to see the logic in Ed’s accusations.

Now for those of you who pride yourself on being more perceptive then you probably figured out by now that I am actually the opinionated person providing the quotes for this review (though I am not actually strongly opposed to the Twilight films).  Sorry for pulling the curtain back on you.  With that said, when I was handed 3D glasses for this one I did let out an “ugh” (I don’t just save those for dramatically written dialogue).  In my mind there was no conceivable reason for this film needing the extra dimension, and watching it definitely didn’t change my mind.  Other than one fantastic and surprising beat in the meat of the film, the only thing worth mentioned about the 3D is that it is notably blurring the images to an extent for my poor deteriorating eyes.  Which is why I’d suggest paying for the cheaper tickets on this one.

However, even if you dodge that bullet by not doling out the extra money, you are still going to sit through some questionable CGI.  As a person who loves horror films / creature features, I have seen my fair share of effects to create distinctive vampires, ranging from the simple lengthy fangs, to the furrowed brows of the Buffy vamps, to the full blown bat creatures of Underworld: Evolution and Daybreakers.  All of these do it well, and it should be noted that a lot of what was just mentioned involved a lot of practical effects and makeup.  My complaint here is that when Colin Farrell goes full blown creature feature in this, it sets itself up to fall low on the list of effective vampire looks.

Even though the film seems to leave these excessive, vampiric facial features for the special occasions, they are poor enough to deserve mention, especially because Colin Farrell’s performance does not need the additional help.  He has the creeper next-door act down pat, and even when he is trying to act charming there is something about him that keeps the cognitive alarm bells ringing in that “he is gonna eat your face!” sort of way.  Plus he adds many physical quirks that give away his true nature, from the obvious heightened sense of smell to comically hissing at a beam of light. Not to lessen their performances in any extent by listing them out, but in addition to Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, David Tennant, and Toni Collette (who I wish had more screen time as Charley’s mother just because she’s awesome) all create great characters who don’t seem to just be tacked on as the underdeveloped best friend, relative, or girlfriend whose sole purpose is often simply to be used as bait or cannon fodder, especially Christopher Mintz-Plasse who moves far enough from his usual roles in a ridiculously perfect way that will still be comfortable for those who prefer him to remain like McLovin.

In addition to the great actors piled into this film, the best thing about Fright Night is the tone it takes.  It is serious to an extent without being too serious, allowing the characters to poke fun at the genre they are a part of at the same time.  In other words, without delving into the darker Let Me In / Let the Right One In tone, it sets the story in part of the real world where vampires still are a creature of fantasy, creating a well-developed setting with great characters who are easy to care for, as well as laugh at as they mock many of the things that make up this genre (without going into spoof territory, thank goodness).

In all fairness this film is right up my alley considering the genre it finds itself in, my long, dark alley with paranormal creatures of the night skulking around in the shadows waiting for the next victim to meander down this shortcut home.  So though I am more prone to love it, at the same time I have seen enough films of the genre to have a decent collection to compare this to.  And though it isn’t perfect, Fright Night manages to climb rather high on my list of favorite vampire films.

Final Grade: B+     

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