Friday, August 19, 2011

Fright Night: You're soooooo cool, Brewster

Hats off to you, Colin Farrell. You are sometimes amazing ("In Bruges") and often awful ("Phonebooth") but as Jerry the vampire in "Fright Night" you are spot on.

I could see how hardcore fans of the original 1985 "Fright Night" might get upset at this remake. I'm there, but for a different reason. The original Tom Holland story and the nostalgia craze got this movie made, but really, it could have stood on its own. Farrell as Jerry is vicious. He's a hunter. Watching him smell the air and twitch his head to tiny sounds are animalistic nuances that would not have worked if Farrell didn't take the part so seriously. He had ample opportunity to phone it in for this remake, but he embraces the role and turns in one of the better vampire characters this side of Christopher Lee.

Farrell isn't the only reason to see "Fright Night."

David (Doctor Who) Tennant is a joy. His Peter Vincent starts off as a brash and faithless drunk before revealing some heart. Then he melds the two aspects of his character into a cranky but loveable jerk. Almost makes me wonder what I missed during his years as the Doctor.

Much of the rest of the cast seems replaceable. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed isn't as wild as the original Evil Ed, but that works for the tone of the film. What he lacks is the screen time to develop his character. It's harder to be on his side as the "weird picked on kid" when we don't have enough background to care. Imogen Poots as Amy (yes, she wears the classic white dress from the original) is smoking hot and there is chemistry between her and Anton Yelchin's Charlie Brewster, but again, not enough character development to really care.

Thankfully, Farrell chews through scenes like Jerry chews through virgins.

And then there's the use of 3D. You may have heard my philosophy on 3D: it must serve the story or enhance the experience. Count me in as experience enhanced. The obvious use of 3D for this flick is in the blood spatter, which is great. The floating ashes of exploding vamps is also a nice touch. Unlike other films, "Fright Night" was shot completely in 3D by director Craig Gillespie. He gets his money's worth. The 3D adds a depth to the film that would not have been there. We are inside the Brewster's house. We are inside the club. We are inside Jerry's basement for the finally. We are almost inside Jerry's mouth every time his jaw widens and he truly becomes the shark Evil Ed calls him. Horror films can be fun to watch, but few are beautiful to look at. We won't be seeing "Fright Night" at the local art gallery any time soon, but it's definitely a cut above average.

There are enough nods to the original--including a brilliant cameo that I won't spoil for you--to appease fans of the original. It has its humorous moments, but unlike the first film, is not campy humor. The jokes sometimes feel forced, but they are still funny. Screenwriter Marti Noxon even threw in a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" joke for fans of the show for which she wrote and produced.

"Fright Night" is worth the price of admission and should be seen in its intended 3D. Go to a matinee if money is tight.

Threat level: ORANGE. "Fright Night" probably won't have the wider appeal of "Super 8" but is the year's most solid pure horror film so far. (For an explanation of our ratings, visit the Warning System page.)

"Fright Night" is rated R and stars Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrel, Imogen Poots, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Directed in 3D by Craig Gillispie and written by Marti Noxon.

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