Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fright Night (2011)

Directed by Craig Gillespie.
2011. Rated R, 106 minutes. 
Anton Yelchin 
Colin Farrell 
Christopher Mintz-Plasse 
David Tennant 
Imogen Poots 
Toni Collette 
Dave Franco 
Reid Ewing 
Sandra Vergara 
Will Denton 
Lisa Loeb 
Chris Sarandon

In a small Las Vegas suburb things are going pretty well for Charlie (Yelchin). He has a good relationship with his single mom. Not only has he recently become one of the cool kids at his school, he’s also dating Amy (Poots), one of its hottest girls. There are some minor irritations in his otherwise perfect life. His neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Farrell) has been moved in for a while but still hasn’t had the dumpster removed from his front lawn. How dare he? Apparently, Jerry doesn’t realize how much of an eyesore this thing is. Charlie’s bigger issue is Ed (Mintz-Plasse). The two were once bestest buddies but Charlie has moved on. Ed hasn’t. He basically throws very public temper tantrums because Charlie won’t play with him anymore and blackmails him into doing so. It’s complicated.

Neighbor Jerry further complicates things. Aside from taking his sweet time getting rid of the dumpster, he flirts with Charlie’s mom. Even worse, Charlie soon discovers Jerry is a real live vampire. He’s not the type that Peter Vincent (Tennant) slays in his Las Vegas show, but an actual, homicidal bloodsucker. Jerry is also fond of apples and beer, but it’s the blood that’s most troublesome.

Troublesome also describes the way our tale is constructed. In case you didn’t know, this is a remake of the 1985 hit. That movie begins with Jerry moving in next door to Charlie. Everyone in the movie becomes aware of him as we do. Here, he’s been around for a while. It may not sound like much, but this little change to our entry point is enough to set the entire movie off-kilter.

Our view of those involved is off-kilter, as well. We don’t like any of them. In the original, Jerry is a debonair devil. We know he’s a killer, but he’s awfully charming. This version is more the sweaty, creepy type. He just happens to be as handsome as Colin Farrell. Farrell does a good job with the role, but it is what it is. Our new Ed is a jerk. We start actively rooting against him within thirty seconds of meeting him. Amy is just kinda there most of the time. Her subplot from the first film is not used. Peter Vincent is no longer a once-great facing the end of his career. This time around he’s at the height of his popularity. Instead of being insecure and incredulous of the events surrounding him, he’s a self-centered jackass we’d rather punch in the face than go vampire hunting with. He also seems like he was written for Russell Brand or David Tennant is just doing his darndest impression, but that’s beside the point. Charlie is pretty bland in both movies. However, when surrounded by unlikeable characters he also becomes hard to really care for. At best, we’re not aching for him to be brutally murdered.

The vocation of screenplay writing has been brutally murdered. Well, probably not. It has been severely injured, at least. The various strands are haphazardly slapped together. The comic relief isn’t funny and the horror isn’t horrifying. That nice bit of self-awareness the original had is almost completely gone. The make up for these lapses in execution we get the trusted method of multiplying the body count. Yawn. Since most of the killings are of the loud noise, look of fear, camera cuts away variety, double yawn.

I did a lot of double yawning while watching the Fright Night remake. Strangely enough, going into this it was the rare case where I didn’t mind something from my youth being remade. The original is pretty good, but there is room for improvement and the basic premise welcomes updating. Unfortunately, this movie did none of the things that would’ve made it better.

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