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Fright Night (2011)
Reviewed by Laura Eldred, © 2011

Format: Movie
By:   Craig Gillespie (director)
Genre:   Vampire horror
Review Date:   August 31, 2011
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

“I seriously am so angry that you think I read Twilight.”—Ed

This movie isn’t quite the anti-Twilight. It does have vampires. Some of them are sexy. It does have teenagers, worrying about dates and sex and love.

But the spirit of the thing is different. The vampires are actually dangerous. As Ed says, this isn’t a brooding, Angel-esque vampire with a conscience. These vampires are more like Jaws: pure predator.

And the film’s tone -- snarky, scary, and silly, all rolled together -- shares little with the sparkly vampire books & movies.

Plus, Twilight doesn’t have David Tennant in tight leather pants. Which is the main reason I don’t like Twilight.

This is a remake of a classic 1985 horror comedy of the same name. Two teenage friends Charley and Ed notice that something doesn’t seem quite right with one of their neighbors, Jerry.

It becomes apparent that Jerry is a vampire, and the friends try their best to deal with the threat, with the help of supposed vampire expert, Peter Vincent (David Tennant).

The film’s tone is pitch-perfect. The horror comedy can be hard to pull off: too much of one or the other, and the film begins to feel awkward. Too much real horror isn’t funny, and too much comedy can ruin the scares.

But a good, irreverent campiness can make horror more ridiculous and generally more fun. It’s an easy thing to mess up.

You have to find the perfect Evil Dead 2 vibe. Director Gillespie found it; he’s developing a reputation for such tonal deftness. In Lars and the Real Girl, he managed to make the relationship between a man and his inflatable doll somehow, well, sweet.

Because it pulls off this difficult balance, it’s a worthy remake of the geek classic 1985 Fright Night. Who can forget the campy goodness of Chris Sarandon as Jerry the vampire? Or Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent?

I admit to originally being skeptical about this remake. Why mess with perfection' But this film pulls it off.

The main reason for that is the casting. Colin Farrell as Jerry emanates sexuality and danger, more of both those things than Chris Sarandon, though Sarandon brought more camp.

David Tennant as Peter Vincent, however, brings some cheese with him, and he really steals the show. His Peter Vincent is Jack Sparrow, Russell Brand, and Chris Angel all wrapped up in one delicious leather-pants sandwich.

I was already a big fan of David Tennant because of Doctor Who, but this shows a different side of Tennant: a foul-mouthed, oversexed, alcoholic version.

Everyone else is perfectly competent, and even good, but Colin Farrell and David Tennant make the film.

The 3D is good fun too, and worth the extra couple bucks, as long as your theater has a competent person setting the alignment. There’s nothing worse than a badly-aligned-3D headache.

We had to yell and scream to get the 3D fixed in our theater, but it was worth it. This isn’t a badly-retrofitted 3D film; it’s got many interesting and fun 3D moments throughout, especially the car chase.

The special effects are overall pretty good. Though some are cheesy, it’s in keeping with the spirit of the film. The vampires themselves are a wonderful blend of vampire iconography, sometimes offering the attractive, seductive metrosexual version, but also providing the animalistic, nasty Nosferatu bloodsucker.

Of course, this isn’t the first film to do that: we get multiple versions of the vampire in a couple Blade films, in Daybreakers, and so forth.

But, as a fan of all things vampire, I still enjoy seeing several versions of vampire imagery combined fruitfully.

The film also has some subtle commentary weaved throughout; the teenagers’ Las Vegas suburb is increasingly abandoned, with many empty houses for sale. It’s easy, and perhaps even accurate, to see predators around every corner when you’re living in an economic wasteland.

At least our 2011 economic wasteland has David Tennant wearing leather pants. It could be worse.

RevSF staff writer Laura Eldred thinks the country needs a David Tennant stimulus package.

For more about the movie, go to the Fright Night movie site.

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