Fright Night ** ½
Directed by: Craig Gillespie.
Written by: Marti Noxon based on the film written by Tom Holland.
Starring: Anton Yelchin (Charley Brewster), Colin Farrell (Jerry), Toni Collette (Jane Brewster), David Tennant (Peter Vincent), Imogen Poots (Amy), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Ed).
I have to admit right off the top that I never saw the original Fright Night from 1985. While I love ‘70s horror films, I have found that many of the ones from the ‘80s are cheesy rather than scary, and don’t really do much for me, so right off, I think it’s fair to say I have nothing to compare this new version to.
This Fright Night is a passable horror film – and not much else. I like the idea of casting Anton Yelchin, who has more range than many actors his age do. Perhaps the filmmakers were inspired by what a great job Jesse Eisenberg did in Zombieland, mingling in humor with the horror, and Yelchin tries to bring the same thing to Fright Night (although the screenplay isn’t as good). Yelchin is Charlie, a high school nerd, who has moved up in social standing since landing the gorgeous Amy (Imogen Poots – who I’m still convinces is a Harry Potter character) as his girlfriend. This means he has essentially abandoned his old nerd friends – like Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But Ed is concerned because his only remaining friend – and one time friend of Charley – has gone missing, along with his whole family. Ed is convinced that Charley’s new neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire, and even Charley’s convincing argument that Jerry is a “horrible vampire name” doesn’t convince otherwise. But then Ed goes missing too, and Charley is starting to notice strange things about Jerry. Perhaps Ed was right. The only person Charley thinks may be able to help him is a Criss Angel type magician, obsessed with vampires named Peter Vincent (David Tennant) – but of course, his show is just an act. Or is it?
Fright Night is an enjoyable horror movie for the most part. It adds a few laughs to go along with the scares, and I for one am glad that the filmmakers didn’t neuter the film by trying to make it PG-13. This is a bloody, profane little film. Yelchin anchors the movie with his fine performance, and he is ably helped by Toni Collette as his mom, and Poots, who makes Amy not just an average high school beauty. As for Colin Farrell, I found his performance to be uneven. There are times when he seems to be relishing his vampire role – getting off on all the creepy stuff he gets to say, and glorying in looking evil. And then there are times when he seems to be going through the motions. From one scene to the next, I never knew what Farrell I was going to see.
The film was directed with efficiency by Craig Gillespie. He directed the fine indie comedy Lars and the Real Girl, where Ryan Gosling is in love with a blow-up sex doll. That was a surprising sweet film, dodging every trap you would think a movie about a man and a sex doll could possibly fall into. I guess however, we may have to add Gillespie to the list of indie filmmakers who go on to make Hollywood films and never look back. That’s a shame, because while Fright Night is well handled, it could have been directed by nearly anyone with the same results. Few could have made Lars and the Real Girl as well as he did.
I can’t say that Fright Night is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For horror fans, it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. No, it didn’t really scare me, but few films do. It is well made and for the most part well acted. But like Farrell’s performance, too often it just felt like it was going through the motions.