A night less frightful ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A night less frightful

Fright Night (2011)
My rating:

My clearest recollection of the original 1985 Fright Night is watching it in a hotel apartment in Genting along with some highschool friends on an overnight trip. Vampire Chris Sarandon was hynotically seducing Virginal Teenage Amanda Bearse and had gotten her to doff her duds, and it looked for all the word like it was going to be a torrid love scene - and then he sinks his teeth in her neck. That's when one of my friends went apeshit, yelling "Aiyaaa! F**k her first mah!! Why so stupid wan?! F**k her first then only suck her blood laa! Should have f**ked her first ma, aiyooo!" Dude just went on and on in this mode, painfully disappointed at not getting to watch onscreen sex in a movie that was airing on TV3. Ahh, fun times. Anyway, yes, I've watched the original film, but can barely remember much beyond its basic premise. Although it seems to be quite fondly remembered among horror fans of that (my!) generation.

I somehow doubt the remake will fare as well 26 years from now.

Teenager Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) has finally joined the cool crowd at school and gotten a hot girlfriend in Amy (Imogen Poots), but had to ditch his former best friend "Evil" Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in the process. So he isn't quite convinced when Ed tells him that his handsome and charming new next-door neighbour Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire who is behind the recent spate of disappearances in the area. Then Ed disappears too, and Charlie learns the truth of his neighbour's vampiric nature for himself - and Jerry, knowing that Charlie knows, goes on the offensive against Charlie, Amy, and even Charlie's mom Jane (Toni Collette). Charlie turns to Vegas stage magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who has built a reputation as an expert on creatures of the night - that is, if Vincent is for real, and if Charlie can convince him to help.

I am sorry to report that our dearest Lembaga Penapisan Filem has been at work on this movie, snipping out several of the F-bombs in the dialogue - but, idiotically, not all. I thought they were okay with harsh language for R-rated films (and indeed, it's rated 18 locally), so I have no idea why they had to bring out their scissors for this one. They didn't censor any major scenes, but I found every cut jarring and distracting, possibly enough so to knock a half-star off my rating. I enjoyed the movie, but I can't rightly recommend it - i.e. films in my 3-½-star-and-above range. It's smart, it's funny, it's scary and it's fun. It just isn't any of those things enough.

Which is sad, because it has a couple of great performances going for it. Colin Farrell, as can be seen in the trailer, is having a ball playing the villainous vampire. His Jerry Dandridge sees everyone around him as nothing more than prey, but Farrell takes it a step further by playing him as a supremely arrogant douchebag - a 400-year-old vampire fratboy rapist. It's a tightly controlled, subtly scenery-chewing performance, and it's a lot of fun to watch. And David Tennant, a former and fan-favourite Doctor Who, is an inspired choice for the Peter Vincent role originally assayed by Roddy McDowall. This Peter Vincent is a cheesy Criss Angel-like drunken lout who provides the lion's share of the film's humour (and unfortunately, a corresponding share of the censored profanities).

So why don't we get enough of both of them? One of the remake's biggest changes from the original is that Jerry doesn't stay the mysterious neighbour for long; about a half-hour in, he goes full-on psycho against Charlie, Amy and Jane (who is herself a much more expanded character from the original film). Consequently he loses much of his smarmy charm and becomes a plain ol' monster movie monster. And Vincent doesn't appear till well into the halfway mark, ultimately being little more than a sidekick to Charlie. He doesn't do much vampire-fighting, and the fun of McDowall's portrayal of a Van Helsing-type horror movie hero fighting real vampires is lost when Vincent is just a stage magician with a penchant for collecting occult paraphernalia. The 1985 Fright Night is remembered as a horror-comedy; this one is strangely light on the laughs.

In fact, there's more interesting stuff here that the movie never fully explores - the eerie isolation of the bland suburban neighbourhood they live in, Charlie's guilt at abandoning his geeky best friends (and Ed's hurt and resentment at being abandoned), and the sexual panic surrounding Charlie and Amy contemplating having sex for the first time. All these things are perfunctorily brought up but never satisfyingly weaved into the story, which often feels like it's going through the action-horror motions. The pacing is odd, especially during a midsection chase scene that keeps lurching uncomfortably between quiet and scary. All this speaks to either a director unfamiliar with genre conventions - Craig Gillespie, who is most well known for Lars and the Real Girl - or a screenplay that needed a couple more passes, or both. And seeing as it ends on an unforgivably lame denouement, I'm more inclined to blame the latter.

Three-star movies are always hard to review; I always tend to sound wishy-washy about them. Like I mentioned earlier, Fright Night 2011 is smart, funny, scary and fun, but it always feels like it could've been more so - that it could've been a truly good teen horror-comedy. It has two terrific performances already, from two actors who understood exactly how to play their material; too bad it didn't have a likewise director, or a screenwriter (Marti Noxon, who wrote the equally half-hearted I Am Number One) who'd worked a bit harder. Or, for that matter, a lead performance that wasn't so uninspired - Anton Yelchin was much more fun in Star Trek and even Terminator Salvation, but he seems directionless here. Of such things are the differences between a good movie and a merely okay one marked.

NEXT REVIEW: Bini-Biniku Gangster
Expectations: Yana Samsudin dan Bob Hasim, jangan hampakan saya