“Fright Night,” written by Marti Noxon and Tom Holland (story), directed by Craig Gillespie, 106 minutes, rated R.
Before vampires were sexy, brooding and boring, they were sexy, brooding and entertaining. “Fright Night,” Craig Gillespie’s remake of the 1985 movie of the same title, is a return to form for the bloodsuckers, who have endured too many years of Stephenie Meyer and the legions of “Twilight” knock-offs.
In a sleepy Las Vegas suburb, where an exodus of residents isn’t uncommon, reformed uber-nerd Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is convinced that his new neighbor — the dreamy, persuasive Jerry (Colin Farrell) — is in fact a vampire.
The film quickly comes to terms that Charley is right, without trying to build a mystery around any potential delusions Charley may have. Plain and simple, Jerry is a vampire. He rests during the day, and stalks his prey at night, watching “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” during his downtime.
Charley’s knowledge of Jerry’s true identity puts his mom (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), in danger. When Jerry sets their home on fire to draw them out, the three are forced to flea from the safe-house and seek out the advice of vampire “expert” Peter Vincent (David Tenant), a hack illusionist a la Criss Angel.
With Jerry relentlessly at their heals, Charlie, Amy and Peter become a ragtag army of vampire killers in a seemingly futile effort to defend themselves against the world’s most dangerous predator.
If nothing else, “Fright Night” returns vampires to their roots as cold-blooded killers parading as humans, luring victims in with their charm and feeding off them. The film pays homage to a Golden Age of horror cinema with its organ-infused score and its loyalty to the classic set of vampire rules established over decades. Nobody glitters in the sunlight unless they’re about to burst into flames.
Of course, writer Marti Noxon knows a thing or two about the lore, having worked for years on Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which still ranks among some of the best TV ever. She’s in her element here, mixing horror, comedy and high school in a way that die-hard “Buffy” fans have been looking for since the show’s departure.
And, like “Buffy,” there’s a coolness that director Craig Gillespie lends to the film, with his choice of music (Foster the People and Hugo’s “99 Problems” etc.), and in Charlie’s obsessive shoe collecting and fashion choices.
Mercifully, “Fright Night” leaves out any sign of melodrama or teen angst made popular by “Twilight.” Instead, it’s a modern vampire movie that entertains.
But more importantly, “Fright Night” is Nicorette for “Buffy” addicts. It’s not quite as smart, quick or witty as “Buffy” was, but it will help relieve cravings.
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By Anthony Crabtree, Guest Blogger
While I always try to go into a film without any expectations, I just couldn’t help but get my hopes up about “Fright Night” when I saw the names involved. The film features talented actors Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, all of whom do a fine job.
Meanwhile, the writer of “Fright Night,” Marti Noxon, has worked on television shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Mad Men.” Noxon creates a script that has the quick Whedon-esque dialogue that became a staple on “Buffy.”
Yet, there is one weak link that really keeps this film from taking off and being something great: director Craig Gillespie. This is not to say that Gillespie necessarily does a poor job, but given all of the talent involved, he comes off as nothing more than competent.
Before “Fright Night,” Gillespie had only directed “Mr. Woodcock” and “Lars and the Real Girl.” I confess, I never saw “Mr. Woodcock,” but “Lars and the Real Girl,” was boring, and sadly, Gillespie brings that same humdrum and unfunny feeling to “Fright Night.”
Where Noxon’s dialogue is constantly spunky and quick-witted, Gillespie manages to bring her words and action down to a drawl. A perfect example of this is when Jerry (Colin Farrell) and Charley (Anton Yelchin) are having their first one-on-one interaction. Jerry is unable to enter because he has not been invited in, and Charley knows that Farrell is a vampire. The dialogue should be fast, tense, but also humorous. Noxon’s writing and the actors are great. Yet, after each line, there seems to be an awkward beat of silence that does not create tension and makes it just a bit less funny. This continues for the duration of the film, as though Gillespie thought that every word needed to sink in before he hit us with the next line.
Gillespie does redeem himself with some decent action sequences and by creating a classic atmosphere in a modern horror film. His use of the setting sun, shadows, and clouds give “Fright Night” a visual, southwestern gothic flair that hasn’t been explored in recent vampire films.
With all of this aside, those in front of the camera do a great job. Farrell creates an incredibly bizarre vampire in Jerry, someone who is at the same time a social stud and socially awkward. He’s a vampire who is squirrelly (my wife’s words, not my own) in his movements, but also wolflike in the way that he sniffs around and is constantly on the hunt. His food of choice? Humans. His second food of choice? Apples. It’s subtle quirks like this that make Jerry a hilarious, but somewhat terrifying, vampire.
David Tennant is also worth noting in his role as Peter Vincent, a Criss Angel-like magician, who when not onstage drinks, swears like a sailor, and cowers.
The cast and the writing make “Fright Night” worth the trip, but just barely. Gillespie’s directing during scenes of dialogue, which contain a bulk of the humor, is pedestrian. He just doesn’t have what it takes to create comedy.
Does he have what it takes to create a straight horror film? Perhaps. Yet, I had too much fun listening to Noxon’s dialogue no matter how imperfect the pace of it, and it is a treat to watch the actors create truly unique characters.