Fright Night (2011)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #333

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Sub-Genre: Vampire
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $30,000,000
Box Office: $41,002,607
Running Time: 106 minutes
Director: Craig Gillespie
Producers: Michael De Luca, Alison R. Rosenzweig
Screenplay: Marti Noxon
Story: Tom Holland
Special Effects: Larz Anderson
Visual Effects: Mat Beck
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe
Score: Ramin Djawadi
Editing: Tatiana S. Riegel
Studios: Touchstone Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Michael De Luca Productions
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing, Will Denton, Sandra Vergara, Emily Montague, Chris Sarandon, Grace Phipps, Chelsea Tavares, Lisa Loeb, Brian Huskey, Mike Miller, Marya Beauvais

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Ramin Djawadi How To Kill A Vampire

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One of the chief reasons why I began appraising films in the first place was to right the wrongs of the countless critics on the circuit who seem unable or simply unwilling to report their findings with the faintest waft of integrity. Politics often play a part in encouraging their assumptions on whether or not a film is worth its salt and too often a particular star’s involvement can sully their outlook. Colin Farrell is one such target. Many industry snobs regard him as a loose cannon, difficult to work with, and lacking in any discernible talent. I’ve seen him in a number of interviews and have actually found him to be rather charming but, even if that had not been the case, I wouldn’t judge a movie based on any personal vendetta as I would be culpable of misleading my readership and that is something I would simply never do. Alas, many knives are sharpened the very moment his name is attached to an upcoming project. Keeper finds that inexcusable.

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I’m not suggesting that Craig Gillespie’s modern reworking of Tom Holland’s Fright Night was vilified across the board based solely on this factor but it certainly can’t have helped its cause. Possibly it fell foul of the old curse of the remake although the original was never held in that high a regard anyhoots. Dozens of reasons were cited for why this movie sucked balls and, as a result and after only a modest box office grab, Gillespie’s film was consigned to the sin bin and everyone carried on with their daily do’s as though it never even existed. If you suspect that you have an inkling as to where this appraisal is headed, then I commend your astuteness, as I am indeed here to kick ass and chew bubblegum and I’m all out of ass. Wait, that didn’t sound kosher. Let’s just say I’m with Farrell on this one.

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You see Grueheads, Fright Night is actually a reasonably marvelous update and, considering I was never particularly bitten the first time out, you would be quite within your rights expecting me to be impervious to the remake’s numerous charms. Consequently I would be the last person you’d desire in your party in the eventuality that vampires actually masquerade as I fell for those hypnotic peepers from the very first moment they danced onto the screen, embedded deep in the pretty boy face of Farrell no less. I found him mesmerizing as Jerry, the next-door nightcrawler of the unfortunate Charley Brewster. We’re not talking a performance of the In Bruges caliber; so much is simply not asked of him as nonchalance, cunning, and sporadic fits of vitriolic rage alone inform his character’s nuances. But he fits the bill like a duck muzzle and I, for one, wouldn’t invite him over for a brewski on this evidence.

FRIGHT NIGHT

The next thing that Gillespie gets on the garlic involves his casting of the count’s counter-threat Charley. Anton Yelchin had already done a number on Keeper with his spirited turn in Stephen Sommers’ Odd Thomas and, in truth, the two characters are not a million miles apart so it can’t have been a major transition for him. However, he drives a stake through the heart of doubt and once more proves himself an utterly dependable leading man. Again he plays unwitting doom prophet and, again, he spends the duration attempting to remain one Supra ahead of the game. One last thing, again he knocks it clear of the stands and shows his briskness around the diamond culminating in a crowd-rousing home run. Well done son, if you continue at your current rate of knots, then we’ll get along like Bubba and Gump.

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Then there’s the question of a certain Peter Vincent and Roddy McDowell’s winkle pickers could be forgiven for being troublesome to fill. Much heft balances on the shoulders of such a significant player and finding an able replacement suggests a painstaking process and side fries. One thing responsible for me making it through secondary school without daily chinese wrist burns was the heeded advice of a wise man who once stated “if you can’t beat them, run boy, run for your life.” Screenwriter Marti Noxon takes a number of harmless liberties with the source material, the first of which involves switching out silver-haired slapstick in favor of Russell Brand’s second cousin. It just so happens I’m rather impartial to Brand and David Tennant gives his own exclusive interpretation of sham-come-good with the added extra of occasionally scratching his bag balls while readjusting his spray-on leather trousers. I certainly don’t remember McDowell wearing those babies.

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Throw Toni Collette into the melting pot as Mrs Brewster and she will invariably mesh well. Apply a liberal sprinkling of Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, Kick Ass) and all that is left is the obligatory side garnish. Step up Imogen Poots as the girl you wish you’d lived next door to and yang to Charley’s hormonal ying Amy. Poots excels and is aided by a writer who is clearly disinterested in gifting us another airhead to puncture. She’s quick to understand her man, quicker yet to stand by him, and plain showing off when it comes to resourcefulness. All this and she’s friskier than a sack of love cats; I ask, what more could we possibly ask for? Suggestions on a post card please and I’ll make sure to return blank to sender. The pawns are entirely in place and we’re heading for unmistakable checkmate.

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Back to Noxon as I have to say I am rather enamored by his screenplay and wish to stroke it like an evil mastermind before sinking my incisors into its malleable rump. His treatment pays constant reverence to the source material but, other than a couple of well-timed nods to the original, it unerringly walks its own line. This is no mere bite-for-bite rehash of another reasonably grand eighties darling; it possesses identity of its very own and calls to mind Fede Alvarez’ staggering rendition of Evil Dead. It is my opinion that no modern-day remake, outside of possibly Franck Khalfoun’s superb Maniac update, has augmented a concept with such grandeur and I’d fight you to your coffin on that point. To mention Noxon’s draft in so much as the same paragraph is a vaguely almighty seal of approval even if Fright Night never scales such lofty heights. Let’s just say that his shit is tight.

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Had I mentioned it looks mighty purty? Yessir it does, Gillespie’s characters all appear in dire need of a sun bed or three but these pale-faced protagonists are surrounded by lush suburbia, then plunged into dusk and allowed to roam freely. When effects are called upon, they’re well up to snuff. However, as commendable at the practical FX are, there’s still enough in the kitty from its $30m investment to go somewhat to town on CGI also. For as much as I would always choose hand-crafted over technological titillation hands down, I can be won over if correctly implemented. For the most part I wasn’t ejected from the hot seat and the colossal team responsible for any digital tampering all deserve a collective pat as it doesn’t clip many hurdles.

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Whilst evidently pitching to a fresh demographic of movie-goers, the Twilight generation as it pains me to refer to them, Gillespie’s film is also respectful of the overfiend’s everlasting legacy and plunges its razor-sharp teeth into folklore enough for us to come away suitably quenched and wiping away the chin dribbles. Public Enemy first suggested that we think twice before believing the hype and to that I say yeah boyee. I plan to fight the powers that be and the fact that Fright Night currently garners a reputable 6.4 average on the admittedly unscrupulous IMDb aggregate rankings suggests that I’m not alone in any bringing of noise. Those baseheads have clearly been watching too much channel zero and I say it’s time for the prophets of rage to televise the revolution. This film is really rather splendid, now can I have a witness?

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Once bitten, twice dismembered. That’s the rule of thumb here. We are gifted with gaping cavities and then cut off at our elbows as Team Fright Night 2011 earn their stripes. Would I have preferred less digitized effects? If I’m honest, then I hold my hands up freely on that count. You got me. However, the last time I looked a gift horse in the mouth it flared its nostrils at me so I won’t be doing that again. If it looks like gold, and shines accordingly, then who am I to discard such riches? It don’t matter if it’s got that splatter and there is ample here to sate most appetites.

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3 Comments

  1. They made their vampire-form mouths soooooo stupidly big. Bigger isn’t always better. LOL. This largely didn’t work for me, but I was admittedly entertained throughout. I’m sure I’ll buy the combo pack with the old and new when it comes out.

    1. They were pretty big mouths, it has to be said. Just watched the original again and have written my appraisal. It has finally broken down my defenses after nearly thirty years. Classic tale.

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