Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fright Night (2011) – Review

Review: Fright Night is yet another film in which Hollywood (in this case Disney) tries to cash in on the current (and maybe fleeting) vampire craze – and not only that, it is also a remake. But, much like last year’s Let Me In (a remake of Let the Right One In), this version of Fright Night is just as good as the original. Director Craig Gillespie’s film has fun action, a wonderful dark aesthetic and sort of a mix between a dark and light tone (dark in terms of visual, narrative content and the amazing score and light in terms of the Marti Noxon’s jovial spirit of the script and the fun the actors have with their characters), leading to a film that works quite well – being both entertaining and scary. It exists in a grey area between being a comedy adventure and a horror adventure, but seems to focus more on the horror aspects. The comedy works for the most part (mostly centering on two characters: Peter Vincent and Ed), but the film is not nearly funny enough to really be deemed a comedy. It is much more an action horror adventure (that also has funny moments, similar to say Raiders of the Lost Ark, minus the horror genre). Thus, those looking for laughs as the primary reason for seeing it may be left feeling a bit disappointed (and that is really only a critique on the expectations of viewers). Going in cold (as in knowing nothing) or expecting a horror film, it plays much better. To a degree (and I feel this is true about many films with characters that are not quite fleshed out enough or have potential for more – aka the narrative is not tight or strong enough to make the film feel fully complete or sufficient as is), Fright Night may have worked better with everyone involved as a miniseries. The characters have a lot of rich potential and the narrative feels very rushed, having to get through the whole story in less than two hours. Since there is so much plot to get through, the characters do not have enough depth (for my liking). That said, the story is good enough, Gillespie’s narrative does not stall or drag and viewers want to see the resolution and are thus kept interested despite the weaker characters (though, I imagine the film does not work as well on repeat viewings). All in all, Fright Night is a fun and enjoyable horror adventure (in a genre that seldom delivers anything but crap) that is worth seeing.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Craig Gillespie seemed like a good choice coming into the film from a comedy perspective (having a drama/indie style of comedy), but really what worked the best was the horror aesthetic he created for the film (it is my favorite of his three to date). The great aesthetic look of the film also has a lot to do with the excellent work by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (who in a weaker year than this, as this year has featured a lot of really well shot films, his work might be up for a yearend LeapBackBlog award) and production designer Richard Bridgland (Las Vegas and the cookie-cutter residential development made for a great setting). Ramin Djawadi’s score is pitch-perfect. It is menacing, has sort of a classic horror throwback to it and fits the material very well (definitely among my favorite scores of the year, here is a suite). Gillespie (et al.) also did a fantastic job casting the film. Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Imogen Poots (a star to watch) are great in their supporting roles, but David Tennant is brilliant (very funny and charismatic). As good as Tennant is, Colin Farrell steals the movie. Jerry the vampire seems to be a part that is just right for him – brooding good looks, an ironic sense of humor and yet still able to come across as frightening and dangerous. Anton Yelchin is good in the lead, but a bit overshadowed.

Summary & score: Horror films are rarely good these days, but Fright Night is a funny and action packed adventure horror. 7/10

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