Friday, August 19, 2011

GC's Review of Fright Night (2011)

Plot: Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is an ordinary teenager living an ordinary life. He has a weird friend named Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a hot girlfriend (Imogen Poots), and, oh yeah..a neighbor named Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell) who when he's not hitting on his mom (Toni Colette), becomes a vampire at night. After his mom and girlfriend dismiss his accusations, Charley goes to the one man who can help: magician/vampire killer Peter Vincent (David Tennant). Can they get rid of this 400 year old menace forever?

Overview: Face it folks. There are two things that are not going away anytime soon: remakes and vampires. An example of the former, "The Thing"(which in itself was remade in 1982) comes out later this year. An example of the latter, "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1," also comes out later this year. An example of both, Tim Burton's remake of the 1970s cheesy vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows," goes into production soon. So, we can call Hollywood uncreative. We can say they are bastardizing our youth. But, what I tend to do, is look at what they can do to make the original better. And, let's be honest. The 1985 film of the same name this is based on, was not perfect. I would venture to say that the audience at the screening I went to were not even alive when it came out. And, judging by their reaction when a certain character makes their reappearance, they did not even know that an original existed. As fun and campy as it was, there was definetely room for improvement in Tom Holland's film. What better way to open people's eyes to how vampires were once feared, not loved as in the "Twilight" films (a thing that is pointed out on more than one occasion in this film).

I find the best remakes tend to not necessarily improve upon the original, but tweak it a bit. John Carpenter did this brilliantly in his own 1982 remake of "The Thing From Another World." And, from the opening scene, screenwriter Marti Noxon (of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" fame) does just that in this one. While not giving anything away, let's just say that if you have seen the original, don't be fooled by the opening couple of shots. There's something else going on than what you remember. There are also a ton of winks and nods to people who have seen the original ("you're so cool Brewster.") And even a cameo from an alumni, which I am not giving away here.

Right away, I was taken in by the performance of Yelchin, who knows a thing or two about bringing old characters to new audiences after he did his version of Chekov in JJ Abrams' 2009 "Star Trek" movie. He and Toni Colette have great chemistry as mother and son, and you automatically care about these characters, setting you up for the carnage they get into later on. The real fun, though, is had by both Farrell and Tennant.

Colin Farrell is the perfect modern day version of Jerry Dandridge, played by Chris Sarandon in the original. He has the swagger and, when he wants, can be truly menacing. He also seems to be having the most fun onscreen that he has had his entire career, and a couple times had the audience I saw it with howling with laughter at his delivery. However, a big beef I had about the movie is that they tease a bit of a flirty relationship Farrell has with Brewster's mom near the beginning, yet do not capitalize on it again at anytime thereafter, choosing instead to go on an admittidly intensely fun car chase. A little more of Colette going for Farrell's advances would have brought the character development even more to the forefront. Also, while Sarandon played a vampire version of a sexual predator with an obsession with apples in the original, Farrell is just a menacing beast...with an obsession with apples. Why producers did not capitalize on Farrell's ability to bring in the ladies like they did with Sarandon in the original is beyond me. Yet, this can also be looked at as a nice little tweak, so I didn't have too much of a problem with it.

Then you have Tennant as the modern day Peter Vincent, who when we first meet him looks like a cross between Criss Angel and Dave Navarro. His delivery of lines is hilariously spot on, and they took the route with his character that I thought they would have done to Roddy McDowell's version in the original, and that is make him a bigtime drinker. It truly works for his character and when the final battle is fought, he is truly fun to watch.

Which leaves me with my major beef with the film: Will someone PLEASE tell Hollywood to quit with the CGI blood in horror films? Yes, they probably save money because they aren't having to buy the make-up effects blood (which when they do use it is pretty effective) but it just took me out of the movie when you watch Dandridge kill someone and have computerized blood do an impersonation of splattering all over the screen. That being said, the 3D in the movie was surprisingly effective. Save for a few shots in the beginning, director Craig Gillepsie ("Lars and The Real Girl") knows how to use the technology to his advantage and it even had me jumping back in my seat a few times, especially during the aforementioned car chase. It also looked really good when a vampire was either staked or burnt and the ashes floated in front of you. Very nicely done.

Overall, I had a blast watching this version of "Fright Night." While there were some plot holes and the effects were not always spot on, it was a truly fun experience watching Farrell and Tennant own the screen, while Yelstin played a great second tier and protagonist throughout the entire film. So, in 20 years when our kids get angry that they are remaking "Scream," tell them that it's not necessarily a bad thing. Especially if Colin Farrell plays Ghost Face.

Overall score: 8/10

Note: Notice I did not say anything about Evil Ed (Mintz-Plasse) after the beginning of this review. The less said about him the better, but let's just say they could have done this film without him.

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