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Thread: FRIGHT NIGHT (Craig Gillespie 2011)

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    FRIGHT NIGHT (Craig Gillespie 2011)

    Craig Gillesie: FRIGHT NIGHT (2011)
    Review by Chris Knipp


    ANTON YELCHIN AND COLIN FARRELL IN FRIGHT NIGHT

    The nerd was right

    The earliest Fright Night was a Three Stooges comedy in 1949. In that light it may not be surprising that this new one, by Lars and the Real Girl director Craig Gillespie and starring Collin Farrell, moves in a direction that's both timely and tongue-in-cheek, without giving up a strong dose of horror. This movie is a remake of the 1985 Tom Holland Fright Night, with Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall, about a teenager who discovers his next door neighbor is a vampire. But it's smarter and more contemporary than its predecessor, moving from the Midwest to a desolate ticky-tacky suburb of Las Vegas where the recession is deeply felt, with "for sale" signs everywhere. Since a lot of the inhabitants work on the Strip at night and sleep all day, it's a perfect place for a vampire to "turn" his victims. This Fright Night has something going for it, including a cast full of name actors. It doesn't deserve a completely free ride, because its long last segment abandons its original approach in favor of a finale that's conventional and effects-dependent, but this is a polished offering that's only pretending to be a B picture.

    Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is interested in girls now, so has turned away from his nerdy former best friend Ed (played by Superbad's Christopher Minz-Plasse). The irony is vampires are too much the stuff of geeks like Ed for Charley (Anton Yelchin), who now is interested in appearing cool for his cute girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). And Ed's local authority on the undead Peter Vincent is a tacky, alcoholic Vegas magician (David Tennant) who's like Russell Brand with worse hygiene and way too tight leather pants. The new neighbor (Farrell) is single, a macho beer- drinker called Jerry. How can he be a vampire as Ed thinks? Vampires are kids stuff, fantasy. Charley's single mom Jane (Toni Collette), a real estate agent whose business isn't doing well and who needs a man, just finds Jerry attractive.

    But though Jerry may be pallidly handsome (has a vampire ever had such big eyebrows?) he's doing something fishy with a dumpster in his lawn and working late at night. Besides, as Ed points out, students are disappearing from their classroom. Charley still has enough nerd in him to begin gradually to heed Ed's repeated warnings and start spying on Jerry, with dire results. But it's Ed who falls prey to Jerry first.

    The 1985 version was overdone. What's good about this version is how matter-of-fact Farrell is, and how slowly Charley arrives at Ed's level of fear, how casually Jerry turns to blood-drinking. Charley at first rejects Ed in favor of smart-ass, good-looking high school jerks like Ben (Reid Ewing) and Mark (James Franco's kid brother Dave), who really have contempt for him and are jealous of his liaison, still Platonic, with the hot Amy. If looking a bit too old as most Hollywood screen highschoolers do, Yelchin is otherwise well cast here, because he hovers between geeky and sexy.

    Fright Night goes back to basics, unlike the romantic and hokey Twilight productions -- which Ed explicitly scorns as not the way real vampires are at all. It lacks the elaborate plots and settings of Twilight and settles for stark, inexpensive contemporary housing instead of the ornate Victorian manse Jerry occupied in 1985. This new Fright Night is more sophisticated than either the earlier version or the Edward Cullen dramas, because it's both a tough contemporary riff and refrains from taking itself too seriously. When the CGI kicks in, Jerry gets nastier and nastier, morphing in and out of snarling beast mode. Charley joins forces with the drunken Peter Vincent, who, while rather repulsive (Brand carries off the louche English thing with more charm), helps to liven things up and justify the fire and brimstone and crossbow battles. Vincent has a whole panoply of vampire-killer weaponry, including one that conveniently not only kills your creature but turns back his victims to humans again.

    There is a danger that this new Fright Night won't totally satisfy anyone: not solemn and scary enough for horror fans, not absurd enough for those looking for laughs. But with Farrell's presence and confidence and strong support from Collette, Yelchin, Poots, Tennant, and the rest, this is watchable summer fare. For some, its rough macho bloodsucker, who wastes little time getting down to his grisly business, will seem a refreshing break from the moony sexual repression of Stephenie Meyer's girly tales.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-21-2011 at 03:08 PM.

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    A Great Beginning but Less Than Satisfying Second Half

    Chris is onto to something with the notion that the re-make is more sophisticated and complex and perhaps even bad-ass serious. Yet, the remake also leaves out the most sinister and most compelling hypnotic as well as enduring nature of the vamprie myth and legend. The beginning segments are in many ways superior to the orginal in its authenticity and balance of more believable characters. Yet by the explosion scene, the movie seems to descend into the more traditional physical action horror motiff and loses much of what made the vampire character so dangerously appealing. The remake leaves out most of the sexual lust and dripping mesmerizing scenes of losing one's soul to the devil themes of vampirism. Additionally Colin's character which he seems to have literally risen to the occasion is left hanging somewhat limply by the screen play. What makes great vampire movies, personally, is the delicate balance between good and evil and that neither the humans nor the vampires have a complete market on either one. The grudging sympathy and elegant, dashing but soulless vampire of the original Jerry is only glimpsed at instead of a screenplay that portrays an entity that women would truly dream about and be tempted by. David Tennant from DR WHO also provides a glaringly acceptable Peter Vincent with little resemblance to his more well-known role, a credit to his acting, direction, and screenplay. The remake if had only kept true to the essence of the original consistently through to the end, it would have been a significant addition to the vampire movie genre.
    Last edited by tabuno; 08-21-2011 at 11:15 PM.

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    I would agree that many aspects of the vampire legends are left out but the bad-ass element is effective. I could admire this movie for its balance and its humor without finally being won over or particularly scared by it. In some ways I enjoy the mystique of the Edward Cullen stories. But my favorite recent vampire story is the original Let the Right On In and to a lesser extent the US remake Let Me In. Since the being invited in rule was so harped on in Fright Night I finally got what the Swedish title meant, but which also had been stressed, but somehow I failed to connect it with the title idea, that a vampire must be invited across a threshold to enter a house.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-21-2011 at 11:39 PM.

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    Apparently in box office terms Fright Night and Conan both did badly (Fright Night worse) and The Help still reigns, and Rise of Planet of the Apes still hangs on well. The Help is doing better than did its previous summer demographic cousins Julie and Julia and Eat Pray Love.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-22-2011 at 03:18 AM.

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    Embarrassing I have yet to see Chris's Preferred Choices

    I must admit that I haven't seen Chris's preferred vampire movies, though I would still risk to put my favorite one, that being Louis Jourdan's Great Performances in Count Dracula (originally aired December 22, 1977 with most vampire movies. This performance was the closest in period historical ambiance and period stylistic portrayal of the elegance and horror of dracula as a vampire.

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    Tomas Alfredson's Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In is really the best take on the theme, the most realistic, that I've ever seen and I like it and the US remake Let Me In is quite good too even if basically just a louder less subtle copy (some might disagree) but it has good actors, including Smit-McPhee of The Road, the discovery Chloe Moretz, and (for a short short while) the always satisfying Richard Jenkins. I'm afraid I haven't seen the Louis Jourdan film. These modern ones are very far from Dracula.

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    One Two Sides of A Great Teeter Totter

    The Great Performances' version of Dracula is likely to be among the hardest to acquire...I don't know how could get a copy of it. I video taped it on VHS when it came out years ago. Perhaps, I need to have to transferred to DVD. I would suspect that Chris has a lot of great company in his comments on the best vampire films and fortunately I and others have still have the opportunity to see them. This teeter totter leaves me rather on the low end since for the rest of you on the high end would somehow have to jump off into the air and hopefully land somewhere you can see a copy of the Louis Jourdan's version of dracula.

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    It's to bad if that Dracula is hard to find, but it does seem to exist on DVD -- maybe newly so. They list it on Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Count-Dracula-.../dp/B000R7I48G

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