Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fright Night – review

Director: Craig Gillespie

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

The idea of a remake of Fright Night was potentially going to be fraught. I mean, I started my review of the original stating it was “a classic vampire movie from the eighties” and defying “any fan of vampire films generally not to adore this film”. So, a tough act to follow but, by the very fact that I am not already wringing my hands and crying woe to the world, follow the act they did.

They did so by changing the entire timbre of the film in the remake and making it its own beast. They kept the same basic storyline – vampire moves into neighbourhood, kid finds out, challenges vampire and looks to help from icon who is less than iconic – but they changed the character dynamics and general order of events (as we will see the vampire is already moved in at the start of the film). They also changed the general feel, gone is the campness that harked to horror films past, the comedy is more or less excised and the film feels all the more modern and “real” for it.

hiding in the slaughter
So, we begin with a suburban house in a conurbation just outside Las Vegas. On TV there is an advert for the show Fright Night, starring stage magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant, Dr Who, Smith and Jones). A dog sits atop a table naughtily snacking on food left out and then we see a boy, Adam (Will Denton), thrown. He runs upstairs as his assailant continues an attack in the room he emerged from. He gets to a bedroom and there are his parents; dead and mutilated. He hides under the bed, grabbing a gun from under the mattress and fishing the keys to the gunlock from his father’s pocket. He gets the lock off but never gets to fire a shot…

Charley and Amy
Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) can’t get his dirt bike working but consoles himself with a quick watch of his neighbour’s, Doris (Emily Montague), ass. This activity is spotted by his mother, Jane (Toni Collette), who seems more amused than anything else. She is less amused by the fact that her new neighbour has a dumpster in his yard – despite the fact that, as the realtor, she needed to get the house sold. Charley’s girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) picks him up for school. Jane makes a comment about his friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) having called again and, if he doesn’t want to speak to him to tell Ed. Charley comments that such an act would defeat the point.

Colin Farrell as Jerry
As he gets to school we begin to understand what has happened between Charley and Ed. Charley managed to get Amy and, as such, became accepted by the popular kids. Ed is a nerdy outsider, however he wants to speak to Charley. He tells him that Adam has gone missing – something Charley is dismissive of. Finally Ed resorts to blackmail (with information that will forever destroy Charley’s cool status) to get him to meet after school and check Adam’s house. Charley, of course, forgets and heads home with Amy, where he meets the new neighbour, Jerry (Colin Farrell). The dumpster was for renovation work in his basement and it hasn’t been moved as he works nights on the strip. Both Jane and Amy are rather taken with the neighbour’s rugged looks. A text reminds Charley of his promise and the impending release of an embarrassing video so he goes to find Ed.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed
They break in to Adam’s but – barring the fact that no one is home – nothing seems out of place. Ed tells Charley that his new neighbour is a vampire (leading to comments about Jerry being a poor name for a vampire and (the now almost obligatory) digs at Twilight). He and Adam had been tracking disappearances and Ed has evidence at home of Jerry’s undead status, though most of the information he has was gleaned from Peter Vincent’s website. So this is a major dynamic change, it is not Charley who discovers the truth and (at this stage) seeks help but Ed. Of course Charley does not believe him and the night cements the rift between the erstwhile friends.

Ed's last stand
Ed heads home and runs in to a local bully (and one of Charley’s new friends). Escaping him he ends up face to face with Jerry in someone’s backyard – Jerry knows that Ed has been watching him. Ed manages to break into the house but Jerry enters – he doesn’t need an invitation if the house is abandoned. Ed escapes by getting out of a bathroom window, much to the amusement of Jerry who sits in a lawn chair waiting for him. The boy makes a brave stand (cross in hand) in a swimming pool but is vampire chow.

Doris for dinner
The next day Ed is not at school. Charley ducks out and goes to Ed's house and his parents (who think Ed left early) let Charley into his room, where Charley finds video footage of Jerry – but the footage shows things moving on their own as Jerry doesn’t show up on camera. Getting home he meets Jerry, who wants to borrow some beer. Charley, very nervous now, does not invite the man in. In his room, with Amy, he is distracted by the fact that Doris is the lady Jerry was expecting and manages to upset Amy through said distraction. When he hears a scream from the house he calls the cops. They come to the house but leave happy. So, once Jerry leaves in his truck, Charley breaks in.

explode in the sun
He snoops round the house, taking pictures as he goes, including one of a coat of arms. He finds a variety of uniforms in a closet but Jerry returns home. Charley then finds a secret room with cell areas and Doris is locked in one. Charley hides and watches Jerry bite Doris then, when the vampire has gone, he breaks her out and tries to help her out of the house. The escape is fraught but – unbeknown to Charley – Jerry is perfectly aware the boy is there and allows him to escape. Jerry is amused, therefore, when they get outside and Doris steps into the newly risen sunlight and explodes – she was turning already.

David Tennant as Peter Vincent
From this point Charley goes to Peter Vincent and, whilst I don’t want to go into that in too much detail, it needs to be said that this is a very different character from the original. Drunk, arrogant and rock and roll, Vincent has collected vampire relics. The reason for the vampire orientated act and the collection is later revealed to be due to the fact that – as a boy – Vincent’s parents were killed by a vampire. He, however, lives in a denial and tries to build the idea of vampires as a fantasy thing. He kicks Charley out, accusing him of being insane, but relents when he notices the picture of the coat of arms, and that reveals the type of vampire being dealt with. His advice, however, is to run rather than fight.

a lot of teeth
Lore wise we already have sunlight being deadly and invitations being necessary (in occupied houses). This type of vampire is one of the worst and originated in the Mediterranean. They are earth dwellers and tribal in nature. A taste of their blood give the vampire control of the one who has tasted it. A bite seems enough to turn their victim – though they like to feed over time (the two things don’t necessarily gel and this is not explored further to illuminate the paradox). Death can come about through fire, staking through the heart and, as we have seen, sunlight. Holy water burns, touching a cross causes it to burst into flames and staking with a stake blessed by St Michael will free the vampire’s victims from vampirism.

Chris Sarandon as Jay Dee
The film itself works well and, as I said at the head, eschews humour to a pretty large degree. Jokes are still included but the film is not a comedy. There are moments included for the Fright Night fan, such as a cameo by Chris Sarandon – the old Jerry playing a victim of the new Jerry – and the line of “Your so cool Brewster” – which is overshadowed by its use in the excellent Bite Marks, I’m afraid. Also, a musical refrain is used from Bloodrayne. Both Yelchin and Farrell offer good performances, Charley coming across as a bit of an unthinking idiot who makes good.

Peter Vincent's stage persona
However the test, performance-wise, was always going to be David Tennant as Peter Vincent. This is a very different character but is excellently portrayed and becomes quite the show-stealer. He has managed to make “Midori me” a catchphrase and, having been worried about how this incarnation of Vincent would work out, Tennant provided us with a great character. All in all the film is not the classic film that the original is; it might be more “real” and more gritty but it lacks the same charm. However it is a good, solid vampire movie and was worth the remake. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Bullington said...

i'm been hearing great things on this movie & it look awsome i might buy some day!!!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I hope you enjoy it too Elizabeth - do pop back and let us know your thoughts on it when you've seen it

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Margaret said: Excellent review as always! I have to say I agree with your assessment on all counts. That a fan of the original could enjoy a remake is just proof that they really did a good job of making it their own in this case. Cheers!

I replied: thank you, I appreciate the positive feedback. You are right as well, with your analysis, it would be so easy to turn off from it because of the original but that does this film a diservice