Due to some unfortunate literature–and by literature, I open the definition to include most anything of the graphic nature–vampires have been perverted into popularity. I don’t think anyone minds a sexy vampire, but when they start glittering, somebody’s got to draw a line. If I may be metaphysical for a second, and I think I can, there is a line drawn by natural laws in the vampiric genre with angsty human drama on the one side and ass-kicking or bowel-liquidating on the other. That line also demarcates good and evil. Fright Night (2011) is on the side of good.
Charley (Anton Yelchin)–though I destinctly heard “Charlie” but perhaps Yelchin already playing Charlie Bartlett (2007) accounts for the odd spelling–has given up his nerd buds (including Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)) and started dating Amy (Imogen Poots–what a name) and hanging with deuches. He and mom (Toni Collette) live next door to Jerry (Colin Farrell) who turns out, in rather quick screen time, to be a vampire. Ed shows him so and when Ed becomes indisposed, Charley needs to get some help from Peter Vincent (David Tennant) a self proclaimed vampire slayer who performs his illusions in Las Vegas (where this movie takes place). Peter doesn’t really seem up to the task, but in a way I know I’ve seen many times before. Well, there’s some running away and confrontations and hard decisions to make. Can you imagine that there might even be a device that allows us to undo a prior sad occurrence? I know, hard to believe. Still, it’s in the mold of the classic horror flicks and therefor can’t really be complained at in re cliché.
What sets this movie apart, putting to one side the limited vernacular of our characters with expansive use of the multigrammatical four letter word, is visual style. I wouldn’t really have pegged the director of Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Craig Gillespie, as particularly visual-oriented. That only sad part is that its brilliance in that regard only occurs a handful of times. One example is Charley going down a glass elevator at sunset–very nice. But then things get very dark for a very long time. Some of that is on my dvd player, some of that is that vampires are killed in sunlight, but I think we can stretch a point in the interests of visibility. Also of note is the pretty strong funny that Marti Noxon brings.
As for performances, I can’t say that I remember much about them. Farrell plays a vampire with some attitude and that’s not exactly outside his wheelhouse. Yelchin as boy wonder, also well within his normal role. Poots–heh–is a damsel in distress who can swing a mace with the best of them. McLovin will always be the 21st century Cameron Frye and there’s nothing here to suggest anything greater than that on his life line–that’s a palmistry reference, I’m telling you because it’s kind of ambiguous. The show-thief is Tennant as the debauched and cynical illusionist in a seriously dysfunctional relationship with one of his performers. If you’re in love with Doctor Who and see him as slightly mad, but basically innocent, then you’re going to have that image shattered in this movie. It’s great.
Now, that being said, I wouldn’t buy this movie. I don’t come away with the desperate urge to watch it again or feel the need to add it to my collection. I feel obliged to collect the movies I think everyone should see at their earliest convenience. That is not to say every movie I have falls in that category. After all, I receive gifts on occasion and some dvds go on sale for less than $4–if I have even the slightest desire to watch a movie and it costs under $4, it’s coming home with me. Fright Night would have to cost under $4. It’s a charming movie, no question, but it’s going to have to be at least this charming to get my compulsive need to own activated.
Oh, and one note about integrating the theme music of older movies–since I haven’t seen the original Fright Night (1985) not being one for cults–let’s set down some rules. First, you must stay true to the theme. The Mission:Impossible series inherited a phenomenal theme and went on to pervert its goodness each and every time. In the Ghost Protocol (2011), it was both altered and muted, really muted, what happened there? Second, the original has to be good. No witty reference, I’m just making an observation. Anyway, our movie didn’t really offend either rule, I just thought I’d mention it since this film fell so far in the mainstream (not to imply boring, you understand) that something thought-provoking should come out of the review.