FRIGHT NIGHTMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
I've always liked the original FRIGHT NIGHT. It is goofy, funky, flawed but charming. Tom Holland's tale is the second best example of a suburban vampire to grace the screen (THE LOST BOYS being the best). It has a high cheese factor, but fans like me nearly cherish it, warts and all.
Okay, time to put that away because now I'm talking about the 2011 FRIGHT NIGHT remake.
This. Movie. So. Freaking. ROCKS!
God Damn! At first I wasn't sure where the new FRIGHT was taking me.
It opens with an aerial shot of a single rectangle of neighborhood (in fact, the shot reminded me of the opening to THE LOST BOYS) - a housing development out in the over hundreds of thousands of square miles of desert that is Nevada. The lights of Las Vegas burn in the distance, but this little patch of civilization appears far from safety.
In one of the houses, a young man flees in panic from something. He runs to a bedroom and sees the butchered bodies of his parents. He soon joins them.
Next we meet Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin: ALONG CAME A SPIDER, HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, TERMINATOR SALVATION, STAR TREK ). Charley is a nerd but has attracted the attention and dawning affections of one of the prettiest girls in high school, Amy (Imogen Poots: V FOR VENDETTA, 28 WEEKS LATER, CENTURION). This elevates him in the eyes of the popular group, which means he is torn between his lifelong best friend, Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse: KICK-ASS) - who hasn't hormonally blossomed and is unfazed by girls - and Mark (Dave Franco: THE SHORTCUT) and Ben (Reid Ewing: THE TRUTH BELOW), who aren't quite friends with Charley yet, but feel that they must be. After all, he's doing way better than they are with the girls.
Later that day at school, as a teacher calls roll, someone doesn't answer. Several of the students turn to look at the vacant desk and chair. The teacher pauses, then continues. People continue to answer until another one doesn't: Another vacant desk. Charley's neighborhood seems to be slowly vanishing.
Back home that afternoon, Charley's mom, Jane (Toni Collette: THE SIXTH SENSE, THE DEAD GIRL) is coquettishly beside herself over their hunky new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell: PHONE BOOTH, MINORITY REPORT, DARE DEVIL).
Ed has an entirely different opinion of Jerry.
Ed's been spying on Charley's new neighbor and is convinced that Jerry is a Vampire. Moreover the two boys are lucky to have in nearby Las Vegas, none other than magician and vampire expert, Peter Vincent (David Tennant: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Dr. Who since 2005). Ed considers all of this fortunate (shit got real!). For Charley, the timing couldn't be worse. He's been trying to lead Ed into adulthood, a place that doesn't interest Ed. Ed can't fathom why it holds any attraction for Charley.
So Charley is entering adulthood while being pulled in many directions at once. By his girlfriend, his Mother, the friends he wants to have, and the old friend who is becoming an embarrassing nuisance. But all of that adds up to the fact that Charley has a life. The last thing he or anyone else needs is a vampire living next door.
Ed: "This isn't sparkly Twilight bullshit, okay? This is vampire fucking great white jaws shark living next door!"
The horrific moment when Charley is faced with the truth is gruesome and tragic.
In the capable hands of writer Marti Noxon (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER [TV], I AM NUMBER FOUR), Charley from the original has lost his idiocy. Instead of being the pathetic dork that even other nerds look down upon, Charley is a young man growing up and leaving childish things behind.
In this 2011 version, when Ed shouts "You're so cool, Brewster!" It's not sarcastic irony, it's an accusing cry of loss. Charley is the only friend Ed has and now he's slipping away.
At the same time, you can't blame Charley. Adulthood and its mysteries are too tantalizing to return to the backyard to run around dressed like a superhero.
Director Craig Gillespie enriches the humanity in Marti's screenplay, making death all the more tragic and scary. Colin Farrell turns in a great performance as always. His Jerry is supremely confident in his abilities. So cocky about his powers in fact, that he welcomes the sport of giving his prey a fighting chance, when it presents itself as a canny foil in the form of Charley Brewster. Jerry knows he'll win anyway, but can't stop being fascinated by what moves Charley will attempt if given the opportunity.
True to Tom Holland's original script, FRIGHT NIGHT is comedic and scary, action packed and harrowing. The laughs may in fact be fewer than they were in the original, but they aren't as corny either. And it ends on a perfect pitch! This might be the best remake I've seen since John Carpenter's THE THING.