18 August 2011

Fright Night

Anton Yelchin is shown in a scene from "Fright Night."
Evil has a new name.

And that name is ...

... Jerry?

Actually, it's not new at all, as "Fright Night," with refreshingly old-fashioned, bloodthirsty, bursting-into-flames-in-the-sun (no sparkling allowed) vampires, is a remake of the 1985 film written and directed by Tom Holland.

This new version, directed by Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") and written by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" veteran Marti Noxon, is a tight little horror movie, well staged and acted, and with a fair amount of comedy sprinkled among the scares.

Right off the bat, the movie establishes its suburban Las Vegas setting, a cookie-cutter neighborhood in the middle of the desert, the kind of mind-numbingly ordinary locale that is the perfect spot for a monster hiding in plain sight. It's a place where teenagers can go missing without the outside world taking notice.

Our hero is high school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, the young Chekov from 2009's "Star Trek"), who's left behind his nerdy past and best friend, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin), in favor of the "cool" crowd, including his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots).

Colin Farrell is Jerry, the vampire-next-door originally portrayed by Chris Sarandon. Farrell plays him with a friendly blandness designed to help him blend in with his surroundings: He flirts with Charley's single mother, Jane (Toni Collette), but doesn't come on too strong; later, while entertaining a lady friend, he pops over to borrow a few beers.

Ed is on to Jerry's true nature, and Charley eventually comes on board, too, leading to a suspenseful sequence (with a whopper of an ending) in which Charley breaks into Jerry's house; a visit with Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a Criss Angel-like illusionist who puts on a vampire-themed Vegas stage show and maybe a real-life vampire hunter; and an impressive car chase with camera work and special effects reminiscent of a famous scene in "Children of Men" (2006).

Farrell's performance grows stronger as the movie unfolds, his dull, nonchalant exterior holding up even as he's trying to kill Charley, Amy and Jane. He offers a casual "hey" when he catches up to them after the car chase, and when Charley stands up to him and orders his mom and girlfriend away, Jerry gives them an equally neighborly "see ya around." It's funny and a bit unsettling at the same time.

Yelchin, one of the more likable young actors to emerge in recent years, is a competent lead, while—to the movie's benefit—Collette, an Oscar nominee for "The Sixth Sense" (1999), seems overqualified for her small role.

It has been so long since I've seen the original "Fright Night" that I cannot offer much of a comparison. My faded memories tell me the original went a little harder for the camp factor than the remake does. Gillespie and Noxon get in some commentary on the monotony of suburban life, but mostly, this is just an enjoyable horror movie.

As is almost always the case, the 3D presentation is nothing but a hindrance. The movie is dark to begin with—it's "Fright Night" after all, not "Fright Morning" or "Fright Afternoon"—and 3D makes the images even dimmer. See it in 2D and have fun.

Greg's Grade: B+

(Rated R for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references. 106 minutes.)

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