Fright Night is a fun time at the movies with some solid creature effects, good 3D, a couple of great turns by Colin Farrell and David Tennant, and a cast as a whole that is ‘in on the joke.’
The story is simple, Charley is a high school kid with confidence issues, who can’t believe how cute the girl he got is and is trying to be someone he isn’t. His mom is single and he just so happens to have a creepy new neighbor move in next door. When kids start not showing up to school, in particular Charley’s old friend, Ed (Charley’s other old friend) comes to Charley with evidence that his new neighbor, Jerry, is a vampire. That’s right, Jerry the vampire. Jerry quickly comes to know that Charley knows his secret and a game of cat and mouse begins. Charley, his girl, and his Mom are put on the run and they must enlist the help of a local Vegas magician, Peter Vincent, whose occult themed/artifact filled show has gained him status as a vampire expert of sorts.
Now the film is fun and certainly entertaining and it helps, a lot, that everyone is onboard with the silliness of it all; but there are some shortcomings. The pacing, action, and dialogue all lack the urgency and cadence that a film like this needs, and while I enjoyed myself, everything felt like it was moving along at a snail’s pace. The film doesn’t feel overly long, but a number of scenes just don’t move forward like they should. I don’t know if the director, Craig Gillespie, thought this was building tension, it’s wasn’t, but I just kept feeling like yelling, ‘come on,’ to the screen during the film’s early set pieces. The Children of Men/War of the Worlds rip-off set piece is fine and all, but lacks the tension of CoM and the visual flair of both. This is supposed to be a high speed car chase yet it felt like no one gets out of first gear. This is Gillespie’s first run at big time action, and he has good ideas, he just needs to work on his execution. The script is also a little hokey in its dialogue and really clichéd when it comes to the high school characters/elements. It also relies on the ‘but who is going to believe me/us’ trope to have characters not reveal what is going on to each other/the authorities. I know bringing in the cops would have blown up the scope and budget of the movie, but the trade off of excluding them is the characters just sound like idiots without logic. Charley in particular comes across quite foolish as he skirts around telling his mom and girlfriend what is going on with Jerry. Luckily, the script makes up for some of these shortcomings with a few really fun characters for us to latch on to.
Colin Farrell stars as Jerry and is really great in the role. Cocky, suave and pure evil, Farrell makes Jerry a unique antagonist; and one that is a lot of fun to watch on top of that. Whether he is silently surveying, trying to talk his way into an invitation inside Charley’s house, or going full on vamp, Farrell nails it. Nearly matching Farrell is David Tennant, as Peter Vincent, who gets to be a sloppy and deplorable rock star type that gets all the best lines. Not showing up till half way through the film, Tennant leaves his stamp on things and is one of the most memorable elements of the film. Christopher Mintz-Plasse has a supporting role as well here and he is great as usual. He continues to slightly twist his persona with every role he does and he gives us another diverse look at what he is capable of here. The rest of the cast all does just fine in their parts, Anton Yelchin is a serviceable lead, Imogen Poots is cute and holds her own against danger as the girlfriend, and Toni Collette does the most with the very little she is given. Emily Montague also does a fine job as a damsel in distress and deserves mention for being part of two of the best moments of the film; shhh and up in smoke.
The film’s third act helps make up for a lot of the early shortcomings and the seemingly boneheaded moments in the script. The flow of the picture is never entirely fluid, but the revelations in the finale help make Jerry’s seemingly stupid decisions early on far more clear. The 3D in the film is utilized quite well here, with Gillespie really understanding the formats strong suits. Amber/ash from things burning, beams of light, these are the things that work wonderfully in the format and Fright Night takes full advantage of them. Sure they throw a couple of shitty looking CGI paint cans and blood splatters at you, but I think if you want to take the 3D plunge, it is worth it. The vampire designs and creature effects are also well developed and the concept and execution of a starving, to feeding, to quenched vampire works great. The film’s insistence to embrace the silliness of the subject matter also works to its benefit as the film never takes itself too seriously. Gillespie knows what he is working with and makes the most of it.
In the end, Fright Night is a good time at the theater and has fun within the vampire genre. Great work from Farrell and Tennant make the movie worth checking out and a solid third act make sure the movie is worth your money. Not that the film wasn’t fun before that, I just think the first couple acts weren’t quite as good as they could have been; as fun as they are. Not a masterpiece by any means but Gillespie’s first dip into genre is worth your time, if interested.
Fright Night is a B-