Fright Night (2011)
Dir. Craig Gillespie
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant
2-1/2 out of 5 Stars
Note that this review is not about- and has nothing to do with- the original version, or how much better/worse this version is than that version.
Fright Night is not the worst horror movie you’ll ever see. Frankly this should have been the tagline for the film, as after watching it one comes away from it with exactly that feeling. It isn’t necessarily scary, and it’s not really gory, especially in the post-Saw era of horror filmmaking. This sadly leaves it lacking in the horror department, and coupled with its grim failures in pretty much every other aspect, it makes for an entirely non-memorable experience. Worse than being really bad and nowhere near really good, the film simply “is” in the way that water is simply wet. There’s nothing new, nothing fun, nothing surprising, and certainly nothing frightening here.
This is particularly a shame considering the talent involved. Anton Yelchin, for instance, is a bright young talent. Colin Farrell is a good actor when he wants to be, and he certainly brings a creepy and brooding atmosphere to Jerry that is probably the film’s greatest positive attribute. It absolutely wastes David Tennant, with his single befuddled expression and incredibly throw-away connection to the main plot and characters.
Colin Farrell is quite effective as Jerry the Vampire (no, seriously). He commands attention on the screen and he is indescribably creepy, no matter how gorgeous all the female characters seem to think he is. Atmospherically, the film is very well shot, with great emphasis on darkness to (attempt to) enhance the dark and bleak setting. As the film begins and well into the first act, the pace is quite even, and Gillespie does a great job of showing how effective and brutal Jerry is at what he does while still remaining hidden in the shadows. As the first act winds up, outside of the appearance of Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who is terribly misplaced in this film), this thing is actually shaping up to be something decent.
After this, viewers should prepare their eyes for overtime, between all the eye rolling and the “I-can’t-believe-this-is-this-stupid” wide-eyed stare. Jerry- for some inexplicable reason- seems to forget all of his “400 years of survival” (which he makes mention of later in the film), instead opting to attack people in the street, blowing up a home, and causing a car accident, leaving a path of destruction so wide and absurd that one would swear a tornado tore through the set. Not that the authorities seem to notice, mind you; at one point, said home that detonated the night before is not even taped off, and there isn’t a police or fire official in sight. Jerry doesn’t lose his advantage through any ingenuity or careful planning on the part of our protagonists, but through the sheer force of his own stupidity, since try as they might the filmmakers couldn’t make the characters seem smart enough to turn off a water faucet much less thwart the undead.
Meanwhile, act II also introduces us to Peter Vincent (Tennant), who is also unequivocally the world’s biggest tool. He is a “vampire expert” that, in the span of five minutes, proves that not only is he not an expert, but is rather something of a sad and pathetic fraud. He then vanishes from the film entirely for a gigantic span of time (which is tragic given Tennant’s talent and the fact that the conclusion to what one could loosely call his character arc is so rushed and out of left field that one half expects him to also reveal he is half-griffon).
From here the film only devolves even further. We build toward a climax which involves Mintz-Plasse returning as a vampire for a showdown, which is so brain-crushingly awful that one begs for the sunlight to obliterate him and spare the film the embarrassment (Mintz-Plasse, usually enjoyable, says every single line of dialogue as if he is a nine-year-old who thinks he is a vampire, and finds it overwhelmingly exciting). It also features the return of Vincent, whose character suddenly has a backstory with Jerry even though it is so late in the film that it has absolutely no worth or impact. Given this revelation, might Vincent not have made a better main character in the film than Yelchin’s character, who had no semblance of a character arc? The film nearly collapsed on his pale, scrawny shoulders, and perhaps the charisma of a David Tennant could have lifted and carried this film and made it into something better than it was. In the end, the most absurd strategy of all saves the day, the hero gets his girl, and Vincent looks baffled by his existence.
This film starts with a great deal of promise and falls flat on zero character development and a black hole of dramatic tension. Why was Yelchin’s Charley the main character? Why does he have a meaningless connection to Mintz-Plasse’s Ed, which is only used to create some hokey melodrama later in the film? Why was Tennant’s character- by far the most interesting and promising of the human characters- reduced to a monument to wasted potential? The plot itself barely has a pulse. The film becomes such a disassociated mess that the only thing exciting about the ending is the fact that the film has finally ended. One would be better served watching until Charley escapes from Jerry’s home, and then just making up an ending from there. Two and a half out of five stars.
by Nicholas Haskins
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