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Review: Fright Night (2011)

Fright Night (2011)

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Premise: A remake of the 1985 film. A young man (Anton Yelchin) suspects that his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.

What Works: Fright Night is one of the rare horror remakes that equals the original film. The Fright Night of 1985 was a film of its time, mixing the early 1980s gothic horror of films like The Hunger and The Howling with the teen comedies of John Hughes like Sixteen Candles. That film was a successful mix of laughs and screams, although more of the former than the latter. The 2011 remake of Fright Night similarly adapts the recent horrors of vampire films like Let the Right One In and True Blood and combines that with the scope and tone of contemporary teen dramas like Easy A and Gossip Girl. The new version balances the humor and the horror more equally and it manages to be a fun suburban gothic horror story. The film is helped considerably by Colin Farrell as the vampire next door. Farrell plays seductive and charming very well and he is best early on in the film as he is restrained and that self-control makes his character very frightening. Farrell makes subtle but effective choices in his performance that hint at the violence and the power of his character and his able to do a lot with a shift in posture or a leery glance that is much more effective and frightening than the CGI make up effects that come later. The film is also helped by the relationship between the lead teenager, played by Anton Yelchin, and his socially outcast friend played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Although the two do not get enough screen time together, the social rift between them has a lot of authenticity to it and there are some effective moments between the teens that flesh out their characters. There is also a small but notable performance by David Tennant as an illusionist with expertise in vampirism. Tennant is very funny and his very loud performance is an effective counterpoint to Farrell.

What Doesn’t: The remake of Fright Night suffers from some of the same problems plaguing the horror genre lately. Like his contemporaries, director Craig Gillespie shows an ability to stage violence but the moments leading up to that violence are not nearly as tense as they ought to be. But the single feature that hurts the remake of Fright Night most is its reliance on computer graphics to animate transformations and add to the blood spatter. Horror films about the fear of bodily penetration and mutilation, of which vampire films like Fright Night are a part, need to maintain an organic look and digital effects disrupt that look and diminish the frightening qualities of the film.  

Bottom Line: The 2011 version of Fright Night is somewhat scary but a lot fun. It is an antidote to the recent emo-vampire films like Twilight and it is a very entertaining combination of humor and horror.

Episode: #354 (September 4, 2011)