Fright Night: Yelchin breaks even with yet another reboot

Fright Night – 2011

Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette
Written by
Marti Noxon based on the original story by Tom Holland

One of the first horror movies I remember watching alone as a teenager, the original Fright Night has always held a special place in my heart.  I am sure if I were to go back and watch it again, I could pick it apart, feeling like I wasted precious memories, but since we have the reboot to pick apart, I may just hold off.  Many parts to the 2011 version seem as though they were lifted directly out of the original, which makes me question how they could give exclusive screenwriting credit to Noxon.  There are differences, sure, but not enough.  The movie has Holland’s original ideas and some of his lines throughout.

For the uninitiated, the basic premise is, handsome new neighbor (Farrell) moves in and people start to disappear.  The mother (Collette) is single, and finds the neighbor intriguing.  The teenage son (an increasingly too old to play a teen Yelchin) begins to wonder and eventually is convinced that the guy is a vampire.  Neighbor guy changes his focus to the teenager, his mother, his girlfriend (Poots), as well as the kid’s social circle.  At this point, the teen brings in a supposed hunter of supernatural (Tennant), who blanches at first, then is drawn in.  Add some teeth, some things flying towards the camera for 3D and a variety of vampire clichés and you have it.

When I saw this for the first time, I was drawn into the performances, mainly of the kid (William Ragsdale) but especially the vampire (Sarandon).  This, along with McDowell’s hunter character have a decent back and forth for a goofy horror/comedy.  Sarandon makes a cameo as a victim in the remake, which only served to remind me how much this one seemed by the numbers.

The problems for me with the film may not match those who never saw the original.  It’s not that they are redoing Bill Shakespeare, but this time through, it there is a distinct lack of menace to the proceedings.  None of the shots are plotted, and the so whenever the vampire jumps out and grabs a couple of people for no discernible reason, we are forced not to care.  This would be more the fault of editing and, hence, direction.  There are no real visible tricks to observe, other than the afore-mentioned 3D pollution.  Relying on 3D to compensate for a lack of imagination is not a sign of greatness.  It is movies like this that have put a spanner in the profits for 3D over the last year.  Average movie makers are made worse, good movie makers are made better.  Let’s put Gillespie in the former class.

The performances, therefore, cannot be judged fairly.  Was there an amount of footage that could have made Farrell more of a presence in a role that should have been tailor-made for him?  As it is, he is not bad, but there is nothing he does here that could not have been done by any other B-Level actor.  Yelchin is less effective here than he was in other reboots, like Star Trek and Terminator Salvation.  He does a decent job, but there is zero chemistry between him and Poots.

Toni Collette must have owed somebody a favor.  Her character could have been played by anyone, and judging from the footage we are allowed, she added absolutely nothing to it.  Tennant, however, does a good job in a thankless and underwritten role.  His charisma makes an appearance, even if it is hard to see in the dark.

If you are curious about Fright Night, or if you can’t live without seeing vampire flicks, give it a shot.  There is nothing here that will feel like you made a huge mistake.  If you do see it, you will remember it for about as long as you would if you hadn’t.

(** out of *****)

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