Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Fright Night again

Seemingly every notable horror title of the past two decades is being remade right now, but Fright Night is particularly well suited for a revamp (if you’ll pardon the pun). The original 80s classic was focused more on the humor of the situation, with a pleasingly hokey tone, some high camp performances, and memorable special effects. Director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon have the opportunity to make the story far scarier this time around, and they take it. The movie’s no ground breaker, but it succeeds as a suspenseful and entertaining thriller.
This Fright Night seems as much a response to the homogenized Twilight breed of vampires as it is a retake on Tom Holland’s original film. The movie’s bloodsuckers, led by Colin Farrell’s intimidating Jerry, are vicious and visibly monstrous killers. The gore is plentiful and the movie doesn’t shy away from depicting the terror and agony of Jerry’s victims.
The basic set-up is the same: Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin), a typical American teenager with a comely girlfriend (Imogen Poots’ Amy) discovers that his next door neighbor is a vampire. This time it’s Charlie’s friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who brings the situation to his attention, and their tortured history—once the best of friends before Charlie decided to ditch his dorky pals and past—is one of the movie’s more compelling subplots. After Ed and a female neighbor fall prey to Jerry, Charlie becomes determined to take him down and enlists the help of Peter Vincent (a scene-stealing David Tennant), a Las Vegas magician in this retelling but every bit the coward Roddy McDowall’s character initially was.
Noxon’s script is a good one: brisk, clever (there’s a choice nod to her past work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and engagingly humanistic. There’s real pathos to some of the story lines, notably Ed’s lonely arc. As Jerry, Farrell brings a true sense of menace and danger; an early scene at Charlie’s doorway is dripping with tension. This, combined with a strong grasp of suspense, make Fright Night more frightening than the average horror flick.
The adorable Yelchin leads a cast of characters we can care about, an all too neglected element of horror films. A vintage classic has been remade as something stylish, creepy, and enjoyable.

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