Saturday, 10 September 2011

Fright Night

Charley Brewster is an ordinary kid growing up in Las Vegas with a girlfriend and hanging out with the cool kids. Then, a mysterious stranger called Jerry moves in next door. Charley’s former friend, Ed, tells Charley he believes Jerry is a vampire responsible for the disappearance of a number of fellow students, but Charley doesn’t believe him. However, the next day, Ed himself disappears, and Charley begins to believe. After a close encounter with Jerry, Charley searches out the one man who he thinks will be able to help him defeat Jerry: Vegas magician and self-styled ‘vampire expert’ Peter Vincent...

It’s only September. Surely a vampire movie like this is being released a month too early. Nevertheless, Fright Night is a 3D remake of the 1985 original of the same name. As to why exactly this was remade is unclear, but the original was certainly well received at the time and it seems as if today’s movie market is giving licence to any filmmaker who wants to resurrect any successful 1980’s horror franchise, whether it be with a reboot or remake or belated sequel (A Nightmare on Elm Street, anyone?) and so, here we are. So can it justify its resurrection after more than 20 years of lying dormant? Can it hold a place in today’s busy film industry? Surprisingly, yes, yes it can.

Fright Night is predicated on the notion that the concept of the horror/vampire film should be self-knowing and aware of its absurdity, and Fright Night has its tongue firmly in its cheek. That’s probably what makes this film work; it knows it’s a silly concept and never truly takes itself seriously. The acting is over the top from all involved (seriously, there’s more ham on display here than on the deli counter at Tesco’s) and it manages to engage its audience well from start to finish, providing a nice entertaining 100 minute motion picture that never drags its feet and says everything it wants and needs to say within its time limit. There’s even a clever, self-knowing nod to the original when Chris Sarandon pops up in a cameo appearance. It’s all in good fun, honest!

As far as the acting goes, it’s all pretty good, again surprisingly so. Colin Farrell plays the 400 year old vampire Jerry and does so with plenty of sickening charm and brooding seriousness. It’s a ridiculous performance, but fits well within the film, so it’s hard to tell if Farrell has adapted his style to suit the film or whether he played his role with lashings of ham and cheese completely by accident. Same goes for David Tennant playing Peter Vincent. He plays Vincent with aplomb, recalling The Doctor in sheer ludicrousness with the over the top character, delivering a performance which matches the character perfectly and really brings him to life. Anton Yelchin plays the protagonist Charley, and does OK with what is a disappointingly uninteresting character. Imogen Poots has the best anme I’ve heard in a while, but is insignificant and flat. Christopher Mintz-Plasse does well playing the same character he’s played in several film now, and certainly produces a surprise.

What makes this film watchable is the sharp script, which is self-knowing and referential to the vampire film canon, making references to Twilight and proving/dispelling various vampire myths in order to fit around the plot. It plays with its concept nicely and never slips into anything too serious, aside from the mild peril the protagonists are placed in while fighting Jerry. The most disappointing thing about this film? It was shot in 3D. At least it was actually shot in 3D and not converted in post-production, but the 3D is so unnecessary. I saw it in 2D and it was dark enough as it was, which is understandable given that this is a vampire film, therefore most of the action has to take place at night and in the dark. Even watching it in 2D, you can see which parts were designed to use the 3D technology, and it’s all cheap and nasty effects which add absolutely nothing to the plot. If you can watch this in 2D, do it, stay away from the glasses.

Overall, it’s not too bad and certainly justifies its resurrection. As long as there aren’t any sequels, this will be a fine addition to the franchise; I just can’t see how they could make a good, justifiable sequel given the events of this film. It’s entertaining, full of funny performances and is certainly worth paying to see on a Friday night as long as it’s the 2D version. Unfortunately, this is another case of 3D spoiling what could have been a great film. As it is, 3D viewers will walk away feeling cheated and that’s the real shame. There is a good film behind the gimmick, and the sooner this particular gimmick disappears the better, as it will give films like this a better chance of succeeding.

Rating: ***1/2