Fright Night

Fright Night

***1/2

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

The "if it ain't broke don't fix it" maxim long ceased to apply to Hollywood, if it ever did. So here we have Fright Night from director Craig Gillespie (whose repetoire includes the curious Lars And The Real Girl). It's a remake of the original 1985 vampire comedy directed by Tom Holland, which pitched a young and horny American suburb kid into the unfortunate position of having to having to deal with the neigborhood vampire, facing danger and disbelief at all corners. Though the original has perhaps been diminished in the memory by the Twilight effect and Buffy The Vampire Slayer among others, it still enjoys a fond place in the hearts of those who came up on a diet of such films in the 1980s.

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is an American suburbia kid trying to survive the minefield that is high school and hormones. He seems to have finally graduated to the popular set and has, to his bemusement, scored the hottest girl in the form of smart high school stunner Amy (Imogen Poots). The only loser in this triumph is Charley's former best friend and school nerd Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who Charley now avoids lest his reputation as a one-time geek be brought back into people's minds. But things suddenly head south when nocturnal smooth-talking stranger Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in nextdoor. He seems like a great guy at first, but there's something not quite right and Ed thinks he has the answer: Jerry is a vampire.

Copy picture

Charley scoffs at the idea and refuses to put his new slick image at risk by teaming up with Ed to investigate. But after witnessing some very weird goings on and seeing his friend Ed disappear, Charley has to face the fact that Jerry is really a vampire. With no one to turn to, he has to find a way to get rid of the monster himself. Luckily, help is at hand in the shape of TV mystic Peter Vincent (David Tennant) - if he can stay sober enough.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer was just one of many vampire franchises that showed how well-suited the vampire genre is to having all kinds of metaphors and allusions hung on it - while staying funny. The battle against the undead can be twisted in all kinds of ways to mirror the struggle to survive high school and the end of childhood, the desire to get the girl and prove the high school losers will be the ones left standing.

Fright Night relies on the same effective horror-comedy fuel. To defeat Jerry, Charley is forced to put aside his fake hipster image and re-embrace his inner geek, as only geeks know how to defeat vampires. There are also enough effective special effects set pieces and tension (it is actually a genuinely unsettling situation for Charley to face - a vampire living nextdoor to him, no one will believe him, and he still has to try to go to school and carry on as normal) to balance out the laughs and make it look like there are, pardon the pun, stakes involved.

What's noticeable about Gillespie's version is how little really has to change to make it work. In fact, outside of some references to social networking and smartphones, this film could be set in any recent decade. At its core is the same simple concept, which is backed up by a likeable cast, who look like they enjoying the chance to let rip, particularly Tennant. It won't tax the brain, but if you've got a hankering for well-paced, gore-splattered laughs on a dark night (why is this film being released before Halloween when it is perfect for it?) you won't find better.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2011
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Fright Night packshot
Is horror movie addict Charley Brewster’s suave new nextdoor neighbour Jerry Dandridge really an evil vampire responsible for a string of recent deaths?
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Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Marti Noxon, based on the story by Tom Holland

Starring: Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Dave Franco, Grace Phipps, Reid Ewing, Emily Montague, Sandra Vergara, Chelsea Tavares, Will Denton, Tina Borek, Charlie B. Brown

Year: 2011

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: UK, US

Festivals:

Frightfest 2011

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