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Fright Night

Fright Night 2011

Those dreamy eyes... that overcompensating axe.. the perfect recipe

dir: Craig Gillespie

I… I don’t know what to say. I’m almost ashamed of myself for saying this.

I enjoyed this remake of Fright Night.

I think it matters that about the only thing I really liked about the original was nothing. Well, almost nothing. I kinda liked Roddy McDowell’s performance, because he was always a camp delight to behold on any screen. But I found the flick way too silly to ever like it or be scared by it, even as a kid, watching it surreptitiously on video without parental consent or knowledge. Though, to be honest, I still get the heebie-jeebies from the poster.

No, it was just too silly. Chris Sarandon was just too odd and wacky to be scary, and I hated the guy who played Charley, and always did for ever more. Especially on Herman’s Head, which is a tv show and war crime the Hague should get around to prosecuting any day now.

This remake isn’t particularly great, groundbreaking or goddamn gothically grotesque either, but it’s definitely better than the original, and its even dumber sequel.

I’m not sure if Anton Yelchin is that great in the role either, but he’s a likeable chap. Even though he’s a total dweeb, or perhaps because of it, he plays the role in a relatable or even believable way.

Charley, in this version, has managed to caste-jump in high school, an almost impossible feat. As we all painfully know, and television continually keeps reminding us, whatever strata you were in at school was permanent and irrevocable, and completely dictated who you were and how people treated you. And it also basically dictated all that you would achieve for the rest of your life.

But Charley has achieved the unthinkable: he somehow jumped up two or maybe even three castes, so that he’s below the jocks, but above the intelligent and well-adjusted kids, which means attractive girls want to fuck him now. He even has an attractive girlfriend called Amy (the delightfully-named Imogen Poots), and life in the outskirts of Las Vegas could clearly not be better.

Of course, his continued existence in these upper echelons of society is predicated, at least in Charley’s mind, and the minds of those who threaten him, upon the upper crust never finding out that Charley used to do live roleplaying and go to sci-fi conventions.

So when someone, being his previous best friend, whom he froze out as a kind of sacrifice to the gods of popularity and conformity, keeps trying to contact him, he demurs, believing it risks his precarious new status in school and life.

When that same someone, whom we will call Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who’s the go-to nerd for Hollywood these days), to tie his character to the same one in the original flick, threatens to ‘out’ Charley unless he meets his demands, well, it seems that Charley is not so complacent that he’s invulnerable to blackmail.

The payment he must make to this jealous and envious former friend is time, and physical presence. He has to spend time with him as they investigate the disappearance of another former friend of Charley’s and Ed’s. In fact a lot of people have gone missing from their horrible, isolated burb. Whole families of uncool people seem to be disappearing. Of course, Las Vegas has a transient, high turnover population, with roving bands of blackjack dealers, prostitutes and service industry minimum wage slaves coming and going without so much as a by your leave.

It’s embarrassing for us, because we see Ed’s desperation so keenly. Later on, when Charley visits Ed’s house, Ed’s clearly uncool parents are so desperately glad to see Charlie again, hoping that their relationship will be rekindled, that you can’t help feeling bad for them.

Desperate awkwardness is not a good look, especially for adults. They, too, sense that Charley has risen to the status of an Olympian god, and they hope, perhaps for their own sakes, or perhaps for their son’s, that they might, too, be bootstrapped up into the popularity heavens.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be amongst the popular yet borderline retarded kids whose position is maintained by threatening other kids for no reason, punishing any observed vulnerability, and demonising and persecuting anyone for being slightly different. These people are your betters, so appreciate your place in the hierarchy but never try to improve it, lumpenproles.

And then, just when we thought our sadness for Ed’s plight at the cruel hands of Charley could get no deeper or more profound, along comes Jerry (Colin Farrell). Jerry understands people, far better than Charley ever will. Charley thinks people are just stepping stones on the way to achieving his social-climbing objectives, but Jerry has so much more to offer people than Charley ever could.

The hole in Ed’s life left by Charley’s disloyalty is more than amply and skilfully filled by Jerry. Oh Jerry, with your midnight tan, your unholy abs and your slightly happy-drunk demeanour of a person who’s just has a really nice orgasm, you know what the score really is. Jerry doesn’t care whether people are cool or not, geeky or meat-headed, young or old. Sure, he wants something in return, but is it that much to ask? He even helpfully points out to Charley that the two main women in Charley’s life, being his mum (Australia’s Own Toni Collette) and girlfriend, both need tending to. They both need to be looked after, because neglect doesn’t do anyone any good.

This guy? He’s a fucking sexual saint, as far as I’m concerned. A Dalai Lama of human sexual and emotional needs. A giver, who just gives and gives and gives.

Where’s his parade? Where’s his Certificate of Appreciation? Where’s just a simple spoken ‘thank you’, you ungrateful fucks?

And see, human nature being what it is, once Jerry enhances the lives of the other people around Charley, Charley’s jealousy makes him turn to another older man, a despicable Criss Angel-like Vegas performer called Peter Vincent (David Tennant), in the vain hope that the influence of an older man will somehow prevent the inevitable slide of Charley’s masculinity.

It’s sad, really. Jerry’s the real hero, in a way. But this is an ungrateful world, so all of Charley’s efforts to tear down Jerry culminate in an argle-bargle, a donnybrook and a foofaraw, all of which show nothing more than Charley’s bitter attempts to show that he measures up to a man whose stained wifebeater he’s not worthy of laundering.

Maybe I’m being a bit unfair. Maybe Jerry shouldn’t really have gotten himself inside Amy like that, especially since Charley hadn’t gone there himself, yet. And no-one likes having their house blown up.

Look, for me, this flick managed to balance all the elements a flick like this needs to manage if it’s going to work. Mostly, the humour has to work, and I had several laugh-out loud moments. Sure, it’s easy to take the piss out of the Twilight flicks, but the way they managed to do it here made me chuckle out loud.

Colin Farrell clearly has a ball playing these kinds of sleazy, evil motherfuckers, and he’s so good at it. That slightly on-heat, fucked-up smile he has throughout the flick tickled my funny bone endlessly. Even David Tennant, a former Doctor Who (which is a show I’m sorry to say I’ve never been able to tolerate, even being the tremendous nerd that I am) pretends to swig endlessly from a bottomless absinthe bottle and swears constantly, and as such he was great. He could play Nicolas Cage in a biopic about his life, that’s how funny he is.

The 3D, to be honest, is conspicuously and deliberately lame. A splash of blood, an arrow, a bit of this and that: it’s basically agreeing with the rest of us that it’s a gimmick that adds nothing to our viewing experience, so it applies it in the campest way likely. It hardly matters. In a flick where a night scene goes almost instantly to a day scene, with no respect for how actual real world clocks work, but just so someone can explode in daylight, well, quibbling about the 3D seems a tad churlish.

One of the only things that made me shake my head in a bemused way was the strangest product placement / brand integration I’ve ever seen in a flick. Not since Will Smith held a Converse sneaker up to the camera in I, Robot have I seen something as blatant. But I’ve never seen something as forced as a scene where someone tries to impale someone with a 21st Century real estate sign as a plot device. That was just insane. And I hardly think it’s going to make people want to rush out and buy land in Nevada, or anywhere else for that matter. It didn’t exactly represent their ‘product’ in a positive light, especially since it failed to do anything useful.

Take that, failing housing market! That'll teach you peasants to take out mortages you can't afford!

I had a ball watching this. I laughed, I cried, I died a little inside. It was silly, cheesy fun and I expected and got exactly what I wanted out of it. This is the kind of vampire flick that you don’t have to be embarrassed to watch, or borderline leotarded to enjoy.

Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that it was a vampire flick before? Silly me.

7 times I felt sorry for that poor stripper that selfish Charley destroyed out of 10.

“He's not brooding, or lovesick, he's the fucking shark from Jaws.” – and he looks like it too, when you make him angry, Poindexter – Fright Night