For Your Information: Star Ratings Out Of Five (★★★★★) Stars

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fright Night


"Fright Night" is a rarity these days: a horror movie with a plot, a hero worth rooting for, and a villain -- in this case it's Colin Farrell looking like Dracula's blue-collar cousin Ralph-ula -- we can't help but like, even though we want him stabbed in the heart, decapitated, and set on fire.

The movie also has another thing going for it: it feels somewhat classical. And when I say classical, I mean -- it feels like it could have been made in 1985. Which is funny, because it's a remake (shocking, right?) of a 1985 cult classic directed by Tom Holland.

Transplanted from bourgeois middle America to the cookie-cutter housing developments of the Las Vegas desert, "Fright Night" (2011's version) retains the elements of 80's horror fare while employing garish, faddish 3-D for added camp (and fee). Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a teen whose eyes for pretty blonde coeds and neighbors effectively blinds him from noticing the bloodsucker next door (Colin Farrell). "Jerry? That's a terrible vampire name," he spouts, skeptical when classmate Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) -- a nerdy old acquaintance -- gives him the bad news. But it's Vegas; a lot of people have midnight jobs and blacked out windows and can only come in if invited and have no reflection, right? Wrong! A case can be made for the soullessness of Sin City, but Jerry's Satan spawn, no doubt. And Charley gears up to take him down before the monster destroys everything he holds dear; including his new class-hottie girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots).

To tell you the truth, we've seen this all before, many times. But to call "Fright Night" formulaic is being unfair. In the age of torture porn and vengeful grim reapers killing brainless teens by locking them in tanning beds or laser eye surgery chairs (or whatever), it feels refreshing that "Fright Night" has the courtesy to play the my cell phone has no service right when I need it horror movie cliche. When a headlining magician and vampire expert named Peter Vincent (David Tennant, channeling Criss Angel and Russell Brand) lent Charley the necessary magical stake to set Jerry's victims free, it felt like the contrivance of all contrivances, but it also felt beautifully nostalgic. At least "Fright Night" has the plotting and character development to warrant a get-out-of-jail-free-card.

In this way, "Fright Night" reminds us just how far down the rabbit hole of laziness other recent scary movies have gone. Horror today is all about threadbare story linking set piece after set piece of mindless human mutilation. The same could be said for the triteness of "Friday The 13th" -- the trademark 80's slasher franchise. But at the very least, what we now understand about those films is that they were reflecting a repressed zeitgeist seeking to vent sexual frustration. Why do you think Jason Vorhees and Michael Meyers were compelled to terrorize young, attractive women? Their trepidations were mutual. Anton Yelchin's Charley, the ex-geek who wants nothing more than to bed the girl of his dreams, Amy, has similar, if certainly less homicidal, inclinations -- horror driven by teenage libido. (Shades of John Hughes and Sean S. Cunningham, who knew?)

In the 80's time machine of "Fright Night", vampires (the film's central ghouls) have the patronizing sass and personality of "The Lost Boys" or "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". At least for the 100 minutes I sat watching Colin Farrell's bushy-browed bravado, the brooding and pining, teen-angst, love-story-anemia of "Twilight" was non-existent. The new millennium has ruined so many great things, including vampires. But "Fright Night" makes them fun again and succeeds beyond being a modernized Bram Stoker incarnation because it's really not the fanged undead that do the scaring: Charley spies from his window (a la Hitchcock) as Jerry leads a pretty, blonde stripper inside his home for a drink, never to emerge. He's that suave serial killer next door we've only read about -- Ted Bundy stewing, seething and, then, satisfying his blood lust while the rest of the neighborhood sleeps.

Terror rattling the coziness of suburbia was the theme of "Halloween", "Nightmare On Elm Street" and the original "Fright Night". George A. Romero said the monster could very well be the neighbor. Nowadays, the theme is public catastrophe for the sake of a cause: "death's plan" or Jigsaw's moralist quest -- terrorism abridged, targeting faceless victims. (Maybe that's why the condemned of "Final Destination" always look interchangeable.) But "Fright Night" knows the suburbs are one thing that hasn't changed much. What freaked people out in the Reagan years should work today. And it does -- in 3-D for a change. Take that 1985!

1 comment:

  1. Very funny review but I don't appreciate the reference to laser eye centers.