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Movie Review: Fright Night (2011)

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In the land of Hollywood, remakes/reboots/reimaginings, what have you, reign supreme. When it comes to horror films, that number is ever higher. Sometimes it feels like every month there’s at least one sequel or remake coming down the chute. If you’ve seen this year’s earlier entry, Scream 4, Hayden Panettiere’s character loves her horror movies and when asked to name a particular remake in a conversation with Ghostface, names off at least 20 entries. While the greats are few and far between, there’s just no stopping horror fans from coming back for more. Just last week we even got a series’ return to form with Final Destination 5. So it is without further ado that yet another cult classic is reborn, with far greater aplomb, with Tom Holland’s Fright Night.

If you’ve seen the original, or watched the trailers, you know what you’re in for and that’s not a bad thing. For once, a director (Craig Gillespie, Lars and the Real Girl) takes a playfully updated screenplay, courtesy of genre vet Marti Noxon (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel), and takes the vampire films of late and proves that there’s still life in the undead blood suckers yet. They also prove that you can have fun with the genre while still staying true to original source material. But when your original is already as much fun as 1985’s Fright Night still is, I’m not surprised that they managed to not screw things up. However, they have also drastically changed the location while providing a few new twists to liven things up along the way.

The film hits the ground running as a quiet night in a Las Vegas suburb is interrupted with a vampire attacking and killing teenage Adam (Will Denton) and his parents. Turns out, Adam was friends with best friends Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and “Evil” Ed Thompson (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Ed and Charley are having bromance issues of their own thanks to Charley managing to snag the girl of his dreams, Amy (Imogen Poots). Charley thinks because he has decided to “grow up” and get a girlfriend that he’s too good for hanging out with Ed and sticks him on the back burner, even if he still can’t help but lust for his neighbor across the street, Doris (Emily Montague). Next door we find new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) has just moved in but just can’t seem to finish his interior decorating and Charley’s mom Jane (Toni Collette) wishes Jerry would at least get rid of the eyesore of a dumpster camped out on his front lawn.

It doesn’t take long before Ed is trying to convince Charley that Jerry is a vampire since he’s been spying on him because kids from school keep going missing. Things go awry when Ed goes looking for Adam and after he goes missing Charley finally perks up to what’s going down in his neck of the woods. He tries to enlist the Criss Angel-esque Peter Vincent (David Tennant) who has an illusions showcase called “Fright Night” and has a vast assortment of vampire- and supernatural-related antiques he buys off Ebay. Peter wants nothing less than to help poor Charley with his vampire problem and it turns out that there’s more to his occult fascination than meets the eye. Again, the plot here is nothing too new. Charley sets out to take down Jerry himself and Peter finally steps up to help poor Charley put an end to Jerry’s neighborhood reign once and for all.

While 3D at the movies will always and forever be nothing more than a gimmick and a reason for boosting ticket sales, sometimes it can pay off. In this case it’s still totally unnecessary but adds some sense to the fun thanks to director Gillespie’s independent filmmaking background and sensibilities. There are some amazingly staged action/suspense sequences spread throughout, including but far from limited to a high-speed pursuit and a simple escape from inside Jerry’s house. Both of those scenes also end with some of the most hilarious punchlines in quite some time. And let’s just say that ash and embers may wind up being a new prerequisite when it comes to 3D effects in horror films. Along with snowfall it just may be the ace in the hole for truly effective 3D gimmickry.

Holland’s original Fright Night is far from being raked over the coals here and should reintroduce the current generation of vampire film fans to what they really are. Bloodthirsty, charming, and usually deadpan hilarious, Farrell brings out a great display of surprisingly subtle scenery-chewing. He is nothing but perfect for the role of Jerry and it was nice to see that Gillespie and Noxon seem to acknowledge how long ago the original came out by never trying to keep the vampire surprise in the bag. A surprise cameo offers up a passing of the torch in a perfect sense for once, and some of the hilarious lines including, “You’re so cool, Brewster,” are given new context without losing their laugh. And as far as my wife is concerned, there’s nothing funnier than a scrambling vampire after he’s been staked in the chest with a real estate sign. I say, when a horror/comedy can manage to make her snort with laughter when she’s never been a fan of the genre to begin with, I’d say job well done indeed. It really is just that much fun.

Photos courtesy Touchstone Pictures

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.