Fright Night (2011) R

When word first got out about a Fright Night remake, I was skeptical to say the least. The original 1985 film is rather campy, silly and scare-less. It is however, entertaining and enjoyable. Although this film is considered a remake and the original names are kept in tact it's a very different film. It has a completely different feel. It's dark, much more intense and actually rather unfunny. Going in I thought Colin Farrell (In Bruges, Miami Vice) was going to be the weak link; false. Farrell is what keeps this film moving, and actually delivers the majority of the laughs with his little facial expressions and quick one-liners. There are some miscast characters which ruin some scenes quite honestly.

Are people sick of vampires? Yes. Yes they are. Don't start with me on the Twilight "saga." Those aren't vampire movies. They are teen romance films with shirtless dudes, pale people and some timber wolves. In order to be a vampire film there needs to be blood, and lots of it. 2011 has been a decent year for vampire films though with the terrific Stake Land landing a few months back. That is a superior film, and one of the best movies of the year. It's almost amazing just how badly this film flopped at the box office, especially considering the cult following of the 1985 classic, but I shouldn't be too surprised. Last year the outstanding remake Let Me In had a similar fate. People would rather go see little blue "people" jump around in tights, another probably appalling Spy Kids film (really Robert Rodriguez?), or that one chick from Avatar do some karate and kill some dudes while screaming "I want my family back!"

With all that said I somewhat understand what everyone is thinking. This film has little to no star-power, is a horror film (which people simply do not spend money on) and was advertised with some pretty unappealing trailers. I was as surprised as anyone when I heard Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock) was directing. I would've loved to see a Tarantino, Roth or Rodriguez handle the material, but this remake was a hard sell from the beginning. Gillespie's work has been, um, interesting to put it lightly. How awful was Mr. Woodcock? What a waste of talent (Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon). It takes a pretty awful writer and director to make those three fantastic actors look like idiots. So, congrats Craig!

Anton Yelchin (Terminator Salvation, Star Trek) stars as the infamous Charley Brewster. Yelchin is a name and face you should probably get used to, because he's an actor on the rise. There's some Oscar buzz surrounding his role in the upcoming Like Crazy (due in October). You all remember Anton from the latest Star Trek reboot where he played Chekov. Or perhaps maybe from Charlie Bartlett, who knows. His best work, in my opinion, was in 2009s Terminator Salvation. A complete disaster of a film, but Yelchin is terrific. I actually thought the acting was top notch in that film with Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, but the direction was completely laughable.

Charley is a misfit high school kid who recently started up a relationship with the pretty Amy (Imogen Poots). They still don't know how to define their relationship just yet, but it's somewhere in between dating and friendship I suppose. Charley gets along great with his loving single mother Jane (Toni Collette). She's a realtor, and she must be a good one at that because they live in an expensive house. Quite a large place for just two people if you ask me. Charley's old best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) despises him ever since he started dating Amy and hanging out with cooler, more interesting people. Charley is in the wrong, but he just thinks he's outgrown the friendship and Ed is holding him down. Dick.

Charley, Amy and Jane finally meet their new neighbor whose been carving up his lawn, remodeling the interior of the house and making all sorts of noise in the middle of the night. His name is Jerry (Farrell). Jerry is rocking the wife-beater, messy jeans, slicked back hair look. Jane is practically touching herself while taking to the sweaty, filthy Jerry. But Jerry has other plans, he can't take his eyes off of young and "ripe" Amy. This is one of the those early scenes where Farrell owns the screen. Later that night, against his will, Charley hooks up with Ed one last time. They meet at their friend Adam's house. Adam has been missing for more than a week now. They sneak into the house, but no one is home and there's no trace of a struggle. It's here where Ed reveals that Charley's neighbor Jerry is a vampire. He shows him a well-calculated map of all his victims and tells him horror stories that Charley disregards. Charley doesn't believe Ed for one second and for good reason; vampires don't exist (right?).

Charley bails on Ed, so Ed walks home alone. While on the way home Ed gets bullied by one of Charley's new pals. While fleeing, Ed runs into, guess who, Jerry. Jerry has been watching Ed and his little chum spy on him for days, so he ate Adam and his entire family. And now Ed is next in line. Jerry talks about turning over to his side and becoming a vampire. He makes it sound glorious, so Ed gives in. So, Jerry sinks his best two teeth into Ed's neck and drains him of the old red-red kroovy.

Days earlier, Ed mentioned all the missing kids from class and how it wasn't a coincidence. Now Ed is the one who isn't in class. Charley becomes worried after a couple of days, so he goes to his house but he's not there. That night, Jerry stops Charley in his backyard for a chat. Jerry gives him a nice little talk about family, sex and protecting the ones you love. This speech is full of innuendos, as Jerry is onto Charley's snooping around. But Charley is also onto Jerry's vampire habits. Jerry asks for some beer because he has a lady friend (their neighbor Doris) over who he wants to get drunk and screw (suck/murder). Jerry doesn't come in, because (as you all know) vampire can't enter a house without an invitation. Charley plays with the ritual a bit and angers Jerry. Jerry eventually leaves but both Jerry and Charley know where they stand with each other. It's the old "they know that we know that they know that we know." Think about it.

Even later that night, Charley hears screams from inside Jerry's house so he calls the cops. The cops are a lot help as they end up getting buddy-buddy with Jerry and leave laughing. Never trust the police folks; incompetence. You have to take matters into your own hands, which is what Charley is about to do. After Charley sees Jerry pull out of his driveway he decides to go over there for a recon mission. He knows Doris is in there somewhere, probably bloodied and bashed. He uses his pick-locking skills to get in. He can't seem to find anything, but he takes a few pictures for good measure. However, Charley eventually finds a secret passage into a narrow little hallway with six doors. Each door has a peephole looking in. In the final room there lay Doris, all tied up and gaged. Before he can do anything he hears Jerry enter the house. He slips into one of the vacant rooms and watches through the crack of the door as Jerry drags Doris out of the room, and bites her neck. After Jerry gets his fill he strolls downstairs, cracks a beer and grabs a green apple to sink his teeth into.

Charley now tries to save the weak and groggy Doris. He slowly drags her downstairs as they try to sneak by Jerry. Just as they make their way for the back door Jerry spots them but doesn't do anything, he just smiles. Mainly because it's daytime now, he knows her fate. As Charley and Doris make their way into the sunshine she lights on fire and disintegrates into nothing but ash. Charley simply stands there in awe as Jerry laughs from the shade of his house. There's no doubt anymore. Charley is in a world of hurt. Jerry won't rest until Charley is drained and disposed of.

Charley now turns to Las Vegas magician and vampire "expert" Peter Vincent (David Tennant). Vincent isn't the easiest guy to get alone for five minutes but Charley manages. Peter wears a wig, a fake mustache and earrings. He's a just big phony with a funky accent. He boots a distraught and pushy Charley out of his man-cave, but Charley manages to leave some of his revealing vampire findings behind (which Peter takes a look at the next day). Later that night Jerry comes over to the Brewster residence looking for blood. Charley has covered the house with crosses and garlic just to be safe, and Jerry can't come in without an invitation. Jane thinks his son is just joking around with all the vampire, crosses and holy water talk. But Amy is severely worried about Charley. He looks like hell and is acting like a lunatic.

From this point on the film gets pretty action driven, which was an inevitability but a shame nonetheless. What ensues from this point is a car chase, the return of Ed and Peter Vincent, lots of blood and some average special effects. This is anything but a bad film, but it's just a decent, meaningless remake. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is a shame. Yet another film with a good buildup with no payoff. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, Role Models) is so severely miscast it's simply unspeakable. Sorry, but Mintz-Plasse is a terrible actor in the first place. But whenever he's on the screen the film is almost eye-gouging bad. Casting director, you are fired.

The screenplay by Marti Noxon (I Am Number Four) is solid at times, but falls flat in the second half of the film. Especially the useless final scene that's neither funny or romantic; it's simply unnecessary. There are only a few minor changes from the original; most of which only hurt the film. This film needed more camp, which was probably supposed to be delivered by Mintz-Plasse but that was an epic fail. There are a lot of similarities to 2007's Disturbia, but that film starred a much more likable lead in Shia LaBeouf and was full of pop culture, tension and budding sexuality. That's not to say this film isn't packed full of tension, because it is. That's one of the two things going for this film: 1) Colin Farrell 2) tension. It's often edge of your seat stuff, especially the first half.

I for one find Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense) mildly annoying, but that's just one little bears opinion. A lot of people had high praise for David Tennant's ("Doctor Who")portrayal of Peter Vincent, but I found it just okay. Nothing special, and only mildly comical. Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Solitary Man) is one of the top up-and-coming actresses out there, but I definitely prefer her native British accent. Jerry from the original 1985 film was played by Chris Sarandon, and he has a small cameo appearance which should bring a smile your face.

Look, there ain't much to see at your local theater these days. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a must see for sure, The Help and Our Idiot Brother are getting some decent buzz as well. But other than that it's a bunch of crap. After looking at a lineup that includes The Smurfs, Shark Night, Apollo 18, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian and One Day maybe this film isn't looking too bad after all. I'm only mildly recommending this little horror flick. You can probably wait for the DVD release. Next week brings both Contagion and Warrior. Both of which have been getting high praise and boast terrific casts. My suggestion is to wait it out and catch one of those films next Friday. Don't you dare go see Bucky Larson, if you do....I will come to your house, and I will cut you!
C+

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