Sunday, December 15, 2013

Modern Vampire of the City

Year: 2011
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Full disclosure: I have not seen the 1985 Tom Holland vampire flick on which 2011's Fright Night is based. So I can neither extoll its virtues as a glorious remake nor detract it as a pale shadow of its ancestor's glory.

I have no idea of the quality of the original, but I'll say my opinion on the 2011 iteration couldn't be downgraded easily - the film's much too dazzling for that. Fright Night 2011 is one in a long line of modern age remakes of classic 80's horror films and one of the few to accomplish what the remakes of that period (Carpenter's The Thing, Cronenberg's The Fly, The Blob) tended to do regularly - capture the tone and magic of the original film while updating it for the modern world.

Fright Night is endlessly fun and immediately earns a spot in my top five remakes of the century. Although, to be fair, my Top Five Remakes Awards Shelf currently contains Fright Night, Evil Dead, Wizard of Gore, some dead flies, lint, and a Post-It Note that reads "NOT Prom Night."

And a collage of "Colin Farrell shirtless" Google Image results.

High school student Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has risen in popularity due to another generous gift from the Puberty Fairy, leaving his geeky old friends Adam (Will Denton) and Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse and is there a film in the front half of this decade that doesn't have this guy in it?) behind in the dust. Why would he hang out with them when he can make out with his way-out-of-his-league girlfriend Amy (the hilariously named Imogen Poots) or her douchey friend Mark (Dave Franco)?

Sidebar: Amy is the worst. She doesn't want to go to prom cuz that's lame (I'm thinking she'll regret the decision to be too cool for prom fifteen years from now) and she forces him to buy her smoothies. 0/10. Would not recommend.

He lives in a cookie cutter Las Vegas suburb with his realtor single mom (Toni Collette, who has been playing this part since about the time Hollywood was invented). Business has been tough though, because of all those families in the neighborhood that keep moving out mysteriously without warning. And what's going on with that weird neighbor who only comes out when the sun goes down?

It takes about 30 seconds for Ed to warn Charley that Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire and oh hey, maybe don't let your mom invite him inside.

The real horror is not being allowed to let this carefully unbuttoned man into your home.

Already the plot is moving at a fast clip (take into consideration that it took Bella Swan about an hour to figure out that Edward was a vampire - in a movie completely predicated on this plot point) and Fright Night sprints full pelt through a variety of delectable vampire setpieces as Jerry slinks around stalking his prey, as sly and calm as a jungle cat.

David Tennant plays Russell Brand Peter Vincent, a Las Vegas magician and master of vampire lore who is contacted by Charley to help maybe vanquish the guy who's been killing all his neighbors. But all is not as it seems and Vincent is as cowardly as they come, refusing to go anywhere near him. This is wise, especially considering that he's landed himself in the one remake that's actually pretty consistently scary.

Left to his own devices, Charley must find a way to destroy Jerry and somehow avoid looking like a complete psycho in the process. This leads to a variety of awkward teen situations ("What are you working on?" "...Porn") and the sudden realization that not only is this movie pretty scary. It's funny.

I'm talking actual laughing out loud intentionally funny jokes. Jokes that land! In fact, at least three moments are among the funniest scenes I've ever witnessed in any horror-comedy film (see: Ed falling in the pool and Charley's escape attempt with Doris). And one look at the credits would reveal who else but Marti Noxon behind the pen, one of the key women behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

With a goddess of the craft in her element, a barrage of bloody vampire mayhem, and irrationally solid comic performances across the board, Fright Night is an undeniable success.

It really bites. ...You know. In a good way.

That came out wrong. I meant to say it sucks.

Screw it! It's good.

Imbuing the explosive excess of the 80's (Literally - things explode left and right here. People, houses, you name it.) with modern sarcasm, references to Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, and an unusually well-integrated use of modern iTechnology, Fright Night is a wonderful marriage of two decades of awesomeness.

With an utmost dedication to gleeful pandemonium and a balls-to-the-wall outrageous Third Act chase scene, the film overcomes even the nacho cheesiness of the 3D effects. Did I mention it's in 3D? How could it not be? Although I didn't watch it in three dimensions, which greatly hampers the overall effect of some of the more CGI-based moments.

Alongside the action and gore, the sound design works triple time in a uniquely exaggerated register that is absolutely inspiring. Not many films would be able to stand under the weight of the almost grotesquely comical sound effects (Dave Franco swinging his fist sounds like a freight train) but the film is funny enough all around to sustain and benefit greatly from it.

And although, like most 3D films, the cinematographer is mostly held at bay by the necessities of adding a whole dimension (Altering the basic properties of quantum mechanics is hard, OK?) but one shot - an elevator going down with the sun - is imbued with all the beauty the film could muster.

Kind of like Colin Farrell.

All around it's a great film that doesn't take itself seriously and allows the scary moments to bubble up naturally from within the silly scenes instead of laying them atop them like oil on water. Not for no reason is this film one of the highest rated remakes on Rotten Tomatoes (although we shouldn't necessarily trust them considering that they don't ask for my opinion)

Even if you're not a fan of horror (or perhaps especially if you're not a fan of horror), I urge you to check out this cotton candy gem. It has crazy vampire teeth, a quippy hero, Doctor Who, explosions, and even a twist ending that gets revealed in the final scene! The twist ending being that Anton Yelchin is secretly the hottest member of the cast.

Who could have guessed?

TL;DR: Fright Night is a remake that I'm absolutely not ashamed to admit is pretty fantastic.
Rating: 8/10
Word Count: 1147
Reviews In This Series
Fright Night (Holland, 1985)
Fright Night (Gillespie, 2011)

1 comment:

  1. You've gotta see the original if you haven't yet, B.! (And I should catch up with the remake myself, it seems.)