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'Fright Night' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By

'Fright Night' movie poster.
© DreamWorks SKG
Given the spate of 21st century horror remakes, it's a bit surprising that it took until 2011 for there to be a redo of the 1985 cult favorite Fright Night, and now that it's here, fans of the original might find themselves wondering, "Why bother?"

The Plot

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is an upwardly mobile teen living in a suburban enclave just outside of Las Vegas. A geek for most of his life, he's now enjoying the spoils of newly acne-free skin, new hot girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) and a new set of cool friends. In the wake of his newfound hipness, however, his loud and proud nerdy ex-friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is struggling to alert Charley to events going on around him. Ed, it seems, is convinced that Charley's new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.

Charley dismisses Ed's theory, but when Ed vanishes (as several of their classmates have already done), he begins to eye Jerry suspiciously. His windows are blacked out, he emerges only at night (supposedly he does nighttime construction) and one night, Charley hears a scream from Jerry's house that leads him to investigate further -- and confirm his fears. But who will believe Charley's story of a vampire living next door? The answer might lie in a local Criss Angel-like magician and self-proclaimed vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant), but is he what he claims to be?

The End Result

Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell in 'Fright Night'.

Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell in 'Fright Night'.

© DreamWorks SKG
Fright Night is attractively shot, light horror fare with a likable cast that nonetheless fails to consistently generate either the thrills or the laughs to excel as a horror comedy. As a remake, it's a senseless modernization that aims to exploit the very things that many genre fans loathe about the recent rash of "reimaginations": a slicker look, sexier stars, CGI effects and the dreaded 3-D technology.

The 3-D effects are hard to ignore, as director Craig Gillespie insists on throwing objects into viewers' faces every 15 minutes or so as a reminder. A veteran of comedies like Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock, Gillespie struggles not only with the horror elements -- the scares are nonexistent and the gore is cartoonish and heavily computer generated -- but also the action, which is uneven, occasionally obscured and aside from one extended sequence midway though, lacking in thrills.

The screenplay, from Marti Nixon (I Am Number Four, a couple dozen episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) likewise displays some awkwardness, plagued by bothersome jumps in narrative logic. Some issues arise from changes to the original storyline -- the link between being a goth-y magician and being a vampire hunter is a lot more tenuous than being a vampire-slaying horror movie star -- and some just feel like conveniently glossed-over details (Nobody notices that eight or so young people have vanished in rapid succession?). That said, there are some changes that work well -- including Jerry's more direct attack on Charley's family, thus avoiding a prolonged sequence of scenes in which Charley tries to convince his mom and girlfriend that there's a vampire next door.

Yelchin is a likable everyman, although his character's promotion to the cool clique feels a bit premeditated to draw in the MTV generation, and Poots is a strong, fresh-faced gal pal. Despite the shortcomings of his character's design (including a back story that unnecessarily tries to shoehorn itself into the vampire mythos), Tennant gives it a fun, boozy, Russell Brand-ish go, providing the lion's share of the film's humor. Farrell is the real weak link, replacing the original Jerry's suave, debonair worldliness with shallow good looks and the charm and charisma of a bricklayer.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (A very good, enjoyable cast, but Toni Collette is underused and Farrell is dull and unconvincing.)
  • Direction: C- (Looks good, but the action sequences are mediocre and the scares are nonexistent.)
  • Script: C- (Has a couple of nice changes to the original, but also full of plot holes, jumps in logic and not enough genuine humor.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Way too much CGI gore and creature effects -- and not particularly well done at that -- and annoying in-your-face 3-D.)
  • Overall: C (A charming cast and intriguing storyline helps maintain its watchability, but faulty writing, direction and casting for the lead villain make for a failed remake.)

Fright Night is directed by Craig Gillespie and is rated R by the MPAA for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references. Release date: August 19, 2011.

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