FrightFest 2011 Review: Fright Night

Though not what you would call scary, Craig Gillespie’s new take on the 1985 classic certainly has a darker, more self-aware feel than its source material, which is something we have come to expect from almost every recent re-make/boot/imagining. The setup is the more or less same and while the original has that odd tone – never actually funny, never actually scary – this is a decent dose of both. After several disappearances in his small town, Charley Brewster can’t help but admit that Jerry, his unsettling new neighbour, is a vampire.

Colin Farrell’s shark-like Jerry is both eerie and quirky and there is a definite impression that he is relishing this part. He is an excellent mix of animalistic idiosyncrasy and simmering human darkness: snarling at sunlight and cocking his head in a predatory manner, while a deeply unsettling scene shows Jerry’s carefully constructed larder of locked cells. Farrell’s Jerry is less of the pompous aristocrat than Chris Sarandon’s Jerry and more of a sexualised predator, with definite nods to the serial killer genre. It is almost as if Farrell has been working up to this role, it’s not that it’s a fantastic dramatic performance, just that these darting animal twitches always seem to have been there in other roles, and here they have free reign. Anton Yelchin’s Brewster is both sweeter and more heroic than his predecessor. Hitting that perfect spot between every-boy and handsome, popular boy but with enough backbone that it’s believable for him to confront this dangerous predator. Christopher Mintz Plasse, as Brewster’s erstwhile best friend, however, seems somewhat uncomfortable, nowhere near as creepy as the rabid-like performance of the original Evil Ed. For me, this is one of the misfires in the film–Ed is rather silly post-transformation, not scary but not funny. His character jars, but maybe because to me he will always be McLovin…

One of the most anticipated performances here, David Tennant’s Peter Vincent, is as ludicrous as you could wish for: swigging Midori and flouncing around semi naked.  The Las Vegas backdrop is perfect and gives a realistic basis for his absurdity. I am no fan of Tennant, but I actually enjoyed his performance, and found much less to revile in his exaggerated strutting than in his semi-serious eyebrow-based acting of norm. The overall sexed-up feeling to the film is helped along by Imogen Poots, who, as the popular girl with a heart is pretty good. Toni Collette is a little underused, as Brewster’s lonely mother, but generally, the cast is solid.

With good set pieces and a few inventive touches, there is enough action to keep things moving along nicely. Overall this is a really fun film that will probably never attain the cult status of the original; a shame really because this is funnier, smarter and nowhere near as silly. That’s not to say there aren’t silly elements running through the flick – not least the complete lack of police response throughout – is this Vegas or Sunnydale? 3D is pretty forgettable too and – as is so often the case – adds nothing to the film. Another small issue for me is that this is definitely a teen film, and it’s a feeling you can’t escape. Whether it’s the teen-problems that arise throughout the film, like Charley’s desperation to be one of the popular crowd, sparking that sarcastic “You’re so cool Brewster” from Ed, or whether it’s just the desire to alternate the darkness with comical morsels, you can’t help but see it as little more than light-hearted entertainment. Fright night lite perhaps…

Hannah Turner

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