Thursday, 8 September 2011

'Fright Night' Review

'Fright Night' (dir: Craig Gillespie, 2011) Cert: 15

After a remake-heavy summer, the trend doesn't seem to be showing signs of slowing down during the Autumn months either and it certainly seems that reintroducing screen audiences to updated versions of 80s Horror movies is still a fashionable idea. After the more 'traditional' remakes ('Halloween', 'Friday the 13th' et al), director Craig Gillespie has taken a more unique approach in re-vamping (excuse the pun) the classic Horror Comedy 'Fright Night'. The world seems vampire crazy right now so it seems fitting that we get some more 'original' bloodsuckers back on the big screen rather than the ones who sparkle...

When Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and his 'friend' Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) begin to notice many fellow pupils are failing to turn up for school, suspicions begin to consume the dusty suburban Las Vegas town  they reside in. Charley's girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) starts to see a distance in her partner when his family get a new neighbour called Jerry (Colin Farrell). Jerry's mysterious behaviour links to the strange happenings across the town and it is soon revealed that he is a vampire. Charley confines in Vegas performer and supernatural performer Peter Vincent (David Tennant) for help and soon the young man finds himself in a fight for his life against the undead.

 The first thing that struck me about 'Fright Night' was how multicultural it's cast is - the majority of the lead performers are from the UK (Farrell, Tennant, Poots) whilst Yelchin is actually Russian and his mother in the movie, Jane played by Toni Collette is Australian. It is great to see such an array of talent from across the globe all involved in a single project and the film efficiently benefits from this. In fact, there is a lot involved in this film that works in it's favour making 'Fright Night' an immensely enjoyable and entertaining romp.

 Like the best remakes, it is not essential for a viewer to have seen the original source material; Gillespie's version has it's own strong footing and stands up as a perfectly valid entry into the tricky sub-genre of Horror Comedy. The original was laced with dark humour aided by moments of sheer stupidity whilst the comedic elements in the later version seem to be more grounded in pop culture and irony. Gags about 'Twilight', eBay and other miscellaneous things that are part of our culture have the finger pointed at them in a rather charming and childish way - you are more likely to giggle or snigger through this picture rather than belly-laugh. However this isn't 'Shaun of the Dead' because it's primary focus is the Horror. 'Fright Night' feels traditional in it's examples of screen fear - it doesn't use tricks or slight-of-hand to get the job done, this is a good old fashioned Vampire film including stakes, garlic and crosses. Thankfully it's traditionalism does not make the feature seem formulaic; there are some shocks and surprises which are subtly moulded into the mix leaving plenty enough for the audience to enjoy.

Still from 'Fright Night' (dir: Craig Gillespie, 2011)
 Many reviews have said about the 'high' amount of gore in the feature which is completely false - granted there is bloodshed and explosions but the film's nature is never overly-graphic, it's much more playful and knowingly absurd. The violence in the latest 'Final Destination' is far greater than this and yet those features want viewers to believe their absurdity. Gillespie's latest wants the audience to simply have fun and he has monumentally achieved. 

 Admittedly 'Fright Night' isn't perfect; there is some expected cheesy dialogue and a rather peculiar soundtrack including a country version of Jay-Z's '99 Problems'? But this film has far more positives than negatives; in fact I'm struggling to find anything else bad to say about it.

 The film sports some brilliant performances, particularly from Yelchin, Farrell and easily the film's star, Tennant. Yelchin's portrayal of Charley here is probably his best and most rounded role since the fantastic 'Charlie Bartlett' back in 2007. He is a greatly likeable screen presence and carries the film with steady hands. Farrell was a great casting choice for Jerry and provides another strong American accent. His 'bad-boy' image aides his character's vicious nature nicely forming a strangely likeable villain. Poots is well cast and is entertaining as Amy too and Mintz-Plasse is as funny as ever but Tennant's madman Peter is king - he is like a cinematic circus-freak. Tennant fans will know just how physical his performances are from his perfect portrayal of The Doctor in 'Doctor Who' and he applies the same methods here along with added swearing. Lots of added swearing. Tennant is such a bold and dramatic actor who is extremely capable and effortlessly charming, and he gives it his all in this role. It's a marvellous achievement indeed.

 'Fright Night' is a perfect choice for a Friday night flick; it's energetic, frequently funny and playfully scary along the way. In the recent wave of rehashes and remakes, this is a contender for one of the best.

Grab your stake, stash your bible and go have an absolute blast. You will not be disappointed.

By Chris Haydon

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