Fright Night [Blu-Ray]
Director : Craig Gillepsie
Screenplay : Marti Noxon (story by Tom Holland; based on the 1985 by Tom Holland)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Anton Yelchin (Charley Brewster), Colin Farrell (Jerry), Toni Collette (Jane Brewster), David Tennant (Peter Vincent), Imogen Poots (Amy), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Ed), Dave Franco (Mark), Reid Ewing (Ben), Will Denton (Adam), Sandra Vergara (Ginger), Emily Montague (Doris), Chris Sarandon (Jay Dee), Grace Phipps (Bee), Chelsea Tavares (Cara), Lisa Loeb (Victoria)
When Tom Holland wrote and directed Fright Night back in 1985, vampires were considered passé, a relic of an earlier, dustier era of cinematic horror that had no place in the modern world of machete-wielding slashers. Thus, Holland’s smart, deconstructive approach to the material, which followed in the footsteps of John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London (1981) by playing the scares and the gore straight but leaving plenty of room for in-the-know comedy and nostalgia, was the perfect recipe, helping to pave the way for future postmodern riffs that infused new life into old material.
Of course, now we’re in an era of vampire overload, from the Twilight phenomenon, to the small-screen success of True Blood, to the seemingly never-ending wave of vampire-themed movies. Thus, it seems both apt and odd timing to bring out Craig Gillespie’s remake of Fright Night. Coming smack in the middle of a large cultural trend that has created and fed a voracious public appetite for vampire stories, it doesn’t have the original’s ability to shake up the material, much less make it seem new again. At the same time, though, Gillespie’s film, which was penned by veteran Buffy the Vampire Slayer producer and writer Marti Noxon from a story credited to Holland, shouldn’t be discounted, as it does quite a few things right that future filmmakers looking to remake familiar properties would do well to take note of.
The story is largely the same as the original. High school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, who looks a bit like Neil Patrick Harris in his younger, more innocent days), a former nerd reveling in his newfound acceptance with the “in crowd,” discovers that his next-door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire who is slowly but surely cleaning out the neighborhood with his fangs. Charley is first alerted to Jerry’s real identity by his former best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a geek he left behind for more popular friends, although it takes some convincing and first-hand experience with Jerry’s lack of a reflection to convince him of the reality of the situation. When Jerry sets his sights on both Charley’s single mom (Toni Collette) and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), Charley turns to Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a glammed-up illusionist who claims to be an expert on vampirism and the occult, but turns out to be more calculated showman than fearless vampire killer.
Gillespie, a commercial director who made his feature debut with the offbeat dramedy Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and has spent the past few years writing and producing episodes of The United States of Tara, does a fine job of maintaining the spirit of Holland’s film while updating it in the right places. One of the film’s smartest moves is relocating the action to Las Vegas, a city where the oddities of vampire existence (working all night, sleeping all day) are not only not out of place, but downright normal. Vegas’ transient nature (at one point, a character notes that no one actually lives in Vegas, but rather just passes through) also helps to cover up the disappearance of so many people, as does the current state of the economy with all its foreclosures and bankruptcies. The isolation of Charley’s generic neighborhood of interchangeable tract houses in the Vegas suburbs (that is, the desert) makes his plight feel all the more desperate, as you sense both visually and tonally how alone he is in his dilemma (when he tries calling the cops on Jerry to keep him from snacking on the stripper who lives across the street, nothing happens; “They all but went to Chili’s together,” he later laments).
The casting is also quite astute, particularly Colin Farrell as the amusingly named Jerry, a role memorably originated by Chris Sarandon, who combined suave elegance with animal cruelty. Especially in an era in which vampires have been made a little too cuddly and romantic, it was crucial that Farrell maintain a real sense of danger, which he does by ramping up his bad-boy masculine prowess and making his blood thirst synonymous with his sexuality. When his face expands into a giant maw of razor-sharp teeth, it’s a startling effect, but not nearly as powerful as Farrell’s leering arrogance, which he deploys against Charley to constantly remind him that he is a boy in a man’s game. One of the film’s best scenes involves little more than Charley getting a beer for Jerry without actually allowing him into the house (always a no-no with vampires). It’s a fun, tense bit of subtle one-upmanship, with Charley quietly asserting his de facto position as “man of the house,” which Jerry easily undercuts with a misogynistic monologue that makes it clear just how different they are. Similarly, David Tennant does a nice job reimagining the role of Peter Vincent, which in the original was played by Roddy McDowell as a hammy former horror actor-turned-late-night-TV host. Starting out like some crazed stew of Criss Angel, Dave Navarro, and Russell Brand, Tennant ends up looking more like a drunken Tony Blair whose cowardice has an amusing sense of poignancy.
Unfortunately, Gillespie, perhaps feeling the need to compete with the rest of the summer’s pyrotechnic bombast, is given to visual overkill at times, a miscalculation that is intensified by the film’s 3D, which darkens an already dark movie while throwing spurting digital blood in our laps with a kind of desperation that feels out of place in a film that is otherwise so tonally assured. When Fright Night dives headfirst into its often schlocky CGI mayhem, it loses much of its charm, which is predicated largely on a careful balance between the scary, the funny, and the scary-funny. Thankfully, that balance is maintained for most of the film, giving us a remake that, while arguably unnecessary, shows how old-school pleasures can comfortably co-exist with modern updates.
|Fright Now Blu-Ray 3D + Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy Three-Disc Combo Pack|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||DreamWorks Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||December 13, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|This three-disc set includes two Blu-Ray discs, one with a standard 2D transfer and the other with a 3D transfer. The 2D transfer is plenty good, with strong detail, color, and contrast and no signs of artificial digital boosting. The 3D transfer, on the other hand, is a decidedly mixed bag. On the one hand, the 3D effects, which were shot natively with the Paradise FX 3D system, look surprisingly good on this disc, projecting an impressive sense of depth, especially in the long shots (the title shot is particularly nice) with plenty of eye-grabbing “out of the screen” effects. The downside, however, is that the inherent darkening that goes along with 3D glasses renders the film’s many, many dark sequences (this is a vampire movie, after all) virtually unwatchable. Scenes that take place at night or inside dark interiors are so dim and gloomy that we lose not just detail, but significant amounts of basic visual information. Thus, despite the good depth effects, the 3D disc is quite problematic. The 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel surround track on both discs, however, is uniformly excellent. Dialogue is crisp and clear in the front sound stage while the rear and side channels are effectively utilized to immerse us in the creepy musical score and make all those gooshy splatter effects all the more, well, gooshy. The low end is also well used to give added weight to the film’s explosions and crashes.|
|The supplements are, unfortunately, quite anemic, if not downright bloodless. There is no supplementary material at all that deals with the film’s production, history, or special effects. The closest we get are a few brief interviews with cast and crew in the 8-minute “The Official How to Make a Funny Vampire Movie Guide” featurette, which gives us 10 “rules” for making a funny vampire movie. The other featurettes include “Peter Vincent: Swim Inside My Mind,” a fake two-minute promo for Peter Vincent’s Vegas show, and “Squid Man: Extended & Uncut,” the full three-minute home movie we see in the film. There are also five deleted and extended scenes, a brief blooper reel, and Kid Cudi’s uncensored “No One Believes Me” music video.|
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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