By: Ben Koch (Three Beers) –
Fright Night (2011) is the remake of a 1984 film of the same title. My original intention was to watch the 1984 movie and possibly even its 1989 sequel (Fright Night Part II) and then write this review as a well rounded view of the film as a remake. Unfortunately that didn’t work out because Netflix has some kind of “Long Wait” for the 1984 one and the sequel isn’t available at all and the local video store was closed. Okay, I didn’t go to the video store, but seriously, who does anymore? Anyway, so I went into this movie as most of you will: cold.
This movie does a number things right and also a number of things not wrong. This is probably because of the strong pairing behind the scenes with Craig Gillespie directing, whose name you may recognize from Lars and The Real Girl (2007), and Marti Noxon writing, who also wrote for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel TV series. Together they keep this movie from burning in cliché hell. The movie follows a simple vampire/monster movie framework but for the most part didn’t feel formulaic.
In this time of Twilight and True Blood, Fright Night features a simple story concept I have always loved and wished would make a comeback: the vampire as the villain. The story is not the only thing that is a throwback to those old days, though; the old vampire rules apply. That’s right, sunlight burns, crosses maim, holy water hurts like a bitch, and they have no reflections. Colin Farrell plays Jerry, the vampire-next-door to Charley Brewster, played by Anton Yelchin. Colin Farrell is very convincing as a scary bastard (probably because I’m positive he is a scary bastard in real life).
He lures you in with that sexy accent and then beats you to death with a pint of Guinness.
Yelchin does a decent job as well as he ran around being the scared nerd hero with Christopher Mintz-Plasse running around as the bigger scared nerd who harbors resentment for him. I recommend this movie, especially for fans of Buffy (like me) or any fans of old school vamps. There is good humor all through the movie and it is well mixed with the more dramatic and horror aspects. Behind this, undoubtedly, is Noxon’s writing which feels very Buffyesque in many ways (including a couple of nods to the show itself) so, if you are a Buffy and Angel fan you might want to check this one out.
Decent dialogue and Buffy vamps aside, the film feels very familiar. I use the word “familiar” here because I don’t really think of it as a bad thing, but the story is nothing Earth shattering. It follows basic monster and slasher movie patterns. For example, the movie starts with the opening scene that shows the killer (the vampire in this case) killing a whole family and then fading right into the title sequence and the rest of the movie. Like always, this scene is sort of indirectly tied into the rest of the movie but manages to set up the action and introduce the killer.
We see this scene in lots of good horror movies like Jaws(1975) when the nude night swimmers get chomped or when Drew Barrymore gets sliced open four minutes into Scream(1996). Being a salute to old vampire movies, it certainly fits that Noxon has such an obvious knowledge and love for the old slashers. I had to add a beer to this review for the simple reason that none of this is new and for some viewers it might be a big turn off where others will find it is necessary when today’s vamps seem to be brooding and glittery allegories for abstinence.
You know what? Too easy.
Let’s talk a moment about visuals. While again there is nothing mind-blowing with the visuals and artistry of the film, it is done adequately and never disappoints. That is, unless you see it in 3D. I will start by saying that while there are those who are whole-heartedly against this new fangled 3D business, I am not one of them. I like the depth it adds to the movies, I like visual opportunities it presents, I like 3D itself.
I do admit it has its flaws- it’s pricey, the glasses are annoying, and most importantly the 3D process dampens the colors and light in a movie by at least 20%. I have to admit, though, that of the few movies I have actually been able to afford to see in the theaters, I have never been put off by this effect. Well, until I watched Fright Night. There are quite a few scenes in the movie that take place at night in badly lit places (with some kind of dust or fog in the air, even when they’re indoors) where the reduction in light from the 3D makes it hard to see.
“I hate 3D, I can’t see shit.” “WHO SAID THAT?!”
Most of those seem to be in the beginning of the movie and get better towards the end. Or, at least, my eyes got used to it by the end. That’s not to say that there was nothing good about the 3D experience, however. The opening title sequence was actually pretty cool: my favorite shot was a directly overhead, ninety degree shot of the small desert suburb nearLas Vegaswhere these characters live. This one was really cool to me because the shot had true depth to it and the buildings stuck straight out at you but only slightly because they were short houses.
After that, though, the 3D was used mainly to add a little depth and cheesy bits like arrows flying at you and that sort of thing which usually bug me. So, if you too are easily put off by those cheesy 3D gimmicks and when you can’t see for a good deal of a scene, I recommend not seeing it in 3D.
I saw this movie with two other people who both said the same thing: “I wasn’t expecting much, but it was pretty good.” I have a feeling that most people who end up seeing this will say the same thing. Personally, it was about what I expected: an entertaining vampire throwback with some decent humor and Colin Farrell. If you think it looks fun, see it. If your friend is dragging you to go see it, then stop whining because it could be worse. If you’re going to wait for it to come out on DVD, that’s probably not a bad idea.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever someone is breaking and entering.
Take a Drink: whenever something is lit on fire.
Take a Drink: every time someone is viciously murdered but no one notices or cares.