Theatrical Review: Fright Night

Charley Brewster is a teenager who seems to have things going on for him right now.  He’s got a very attractive girlfriend in Amy and he looks to be climbing the social strata at school.  He formerly saw himself as a classic geek, and he’s trying to put that image of himself behind him by not hanging out with his childhood buddies, Adam and “Evil” Ed Lee.  But, Adam has disappeared and now Ed is desperate to get back in touch with Charley because he believes that Adam was killed by a vampire and now that very vampire is moving in next door to Charley.

Fright Night is a re-make of a 1985 film of the same title.  The original is fondly remembered by those of us who saw it back in the day, thanks to skillful direction and a witty script from director/writer Tom Holland, along with some great visual effects for the time, and some engaging performances from Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowall.  This new version comes to us thanks to director Craig Gillespie, known for two past movies, Mr. Woodcock and Lars and the Real Girl and writer Marti Noxon, who’s best known for her work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel television series, and I’m pleased to say, it’s a pretty entertaining film.

Gillespie and Noxon have managed to take the basic structure of the original film and the original character names and give us a few new twists to everything that makes it more palatable to a current audience.  Some of these changes include a change of background for our story’s location, a nicely thought-out background change for the vampire, Jerry and an entirely different set-up for Peter Vincent, the “professional” that Charley seeks out to aid him in killing Jerry.  This all makes for a pretty entertaining re-make that can certainly stand on it’s own, but doesn’t tarnish the original in the slightest.

Now it’s not all perfect, there’s a few plot holes and a little too much over-reliance on digital effects, but I was able to get past that thanks to the film’s quick pacing, the changes mentioned above and a very capable cast.

Anton Yelchin plays Charley and doesn’t quite start out being the same likable character that William Ragsdale was.  He’s quite a bit more self-absorbed, but that changes as events escalate. Imogen Poots plays Amy and she’s quite a bit more sophisticated than Amanda Bearse’s original starting off that might seem a little off-putting, but as things develop, so does her charm.  Toni Collette plays Charley’s mom, Jane, and it’s the least “showy” of all the parts here, but certainly serviceable and she looks terrific.

The real standouts though are Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  Farrell plays the role of Jerry and he really attacks the part, heightening the danger factor just a touch higher than what Chris Sarandon did in the original.  David Tennant plays Peter Vincent and of course Tenant is best known for his terrific version of the Doctor in Doctor Who. His Vincent is quite a different change from Roddy McDowall’s more genial version, being a much more self-absorbed and acerbic character, but still highly watchable and he just looks like he’s eating up the part.  I didn’t much care for Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Kick-Ass but really like what he did here as “Evil” Ed Lee.  It’s a completely different take than what Stephen Geoffreys did in the original film with Mintz-Plasse playing a total geek/nerd.  Now that in itself doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch, but his pain of falling from grace as Charley’s friend certainly does come through and he gets the chance to do some really “showy” stuff later in the film.  For fans of the original, there’s a really nice little bit of extra-casting mid-way through the movie, but I don’t want to spoil that here.

I saw this in 3D and compared to my recent viewings of Final Destination 5 and Conan The Barbarian this 3D is a little lackluster and actually falls flat in a few of the darker scenes, though it does have it’s moments thanks to a few scenes designed to have some “in your face” effects.  Now I don’t necessarily put the blame for less effective 3D viewing here at the filmmakers’ hands.  I saw this in a different theatre than the other two movies and this just didn’t seem to be projected as brightly as it could’ve been.  I certainly think could be a very real factor for a lot of disenchantment with 3D right now.  The 3D isn’t essential for your viewing of this film, though if your theatre projects it bright enough that could make all the difference.

I had a fun time with Fright Night.  It’s heart is certainly in the right place and it’s updating doesn’t do anything to tarnish the original film.  Even though there are a few plot holes, it doesn’t really suffer thanks to some nice pacing and a terrific cast, with stand-outs being Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  I’m a week behind with this review, just thanks to some unfortunate timing.  The thing is, I think it’s some unfortunate timing on the release of this as well as it doesn’t seem to be that embraced by audiences right now (though I’d certainly account that to the 3D “backlash” going on now as well).  Had this been released in mid-fall or early in 2012, it might’ve stood a better chance.  Regardless, Fright Night is a good time at the movies and certainly worth seeing.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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