Twenty years ago the phrase '3D cinema' meant cult novelty; the flimsy paper glasses and B-level treasures. Today 3D is synonymous with expense. Think of Avatar, how it raked in millions of dollars. Think of Disney favourite Tangled, how the technology to animate Rapunzel's hair took ten years to develop. Think of how much you forked out for the last 3D ticket you bought, and how the preteen counter girl dryly told you that the glasses were still $2.00 extra.
Craig Gillespie's remake of 1985 classic Fright Night embodies both poles of this short 3D history, by treading that line between big budget special effects and schlock horror. It certainly checks off the hallowed Teensploitation Trifecta: Babes, Blood and Beasts.
Las Vegas teen Charley (Anton Yelchin) has just managed to rope himself a beautiful girlfriend and a cool set of friends. Naturally, he's trying to forget his days of filming backyard broom-handle fights in super villain costumes with his comic-con buddy Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). His perfect American locker-room experience runs aground when Jerry, a brooding stallion of a labourer, moves in next door. As Ed is quick to point out, Jerry is a vampire, and needs to be staked before things start to go bump in the night. Before Charley's chilled single Mum (Toni Collette) has a chance to accuse her son of losing it, they are racing towards the penthouse pad of a leather-clad casino-magician and collector of occult artefacts called Peter Vincent (David Tennant), who might be their only chance to survive Jerry's vehement but suave bloodlust.
Every opportunity is taken to make us feel arterial blood is flying towards our faces, generally to shrieks of delight. Yet there are also scenes in which a dog, a classroom, or an apple on a table are given mind-boggling 3D. Perhaps this is extraneous, and indeed it may be questionable to realise violence in such a gimmicky manner, but my feeling is that the pervading effect keeps us from paying too much attention to the intermittently questionable dialogue. It's a highly enjoyable smokescreen.
Whenever it gets too serious, Fright Night is made fun of by the David Tennant or Christopher Mintz-Plasse characters, who seem to have had free reign to customise their roles into wildly comedic character studies. Tennant as a Jack Sparrow-cum-Chris Angel stage act and Mintz-Plasse (who you will recognise from Superbad and Kick-Ass) as well... the same character as always - a McLovin Mark II. This causes problems when the comic relief has to interact in a serious manner with the other characters. One scene in which Jerry persuades Ed to be bitten while the pair is waist deep in a pool felt like a creepy love scene, a sort of mutant version of the similar and famously sexy scene in Luhrmann's Romeo Juliet.
Fortunately, Colin Farrell is pitch perfect. His performance is stylish. He overplays the sex appeal, violence and solemnity in a way that really exemplifies the fun and charm of being a villain. He's particularly scintillating in a scene in which he stands outside Charley's doorway, sizing him up and making lewd comments about his girlfriend, at once threatening and jovial. This is a blokey vampire, who diet consists of Bud as well as blood. I confess I may have swooned a little at this point and written "give Farrell's eyebrows an Oscar" in my notes.
Part of the appeal of any vampire movie is the way it makes use of the astounding complexity of historical vampire folklore. There's a lot of ground to cover when introducing your vampire: Is it invisible in mirrors? Does it balk at crosses or garlic, or walk in the daylight? Can it withstand contact with fire, holy water or silver, and how exactly do you kill it? Stake? Beheading? Unusually, Fright Night skips that exposition. In fact, we find out that Colin Farrell's Gerry is a vampire so quickly that we are as in the dark about his 'properties' as Charlie is.
Fright Night is first and foremost a gloriously gory monster-thriller, a kind of attack-scene stream of consciousness held together by heart-gripping shock tricks and the brutal massacre of many a gormless civilian. It's clearly expensive. The locations are atmospheric and well-lit, the Las Vegas dusks providing the perfect amount of optical haziness to give us the jitters without losing sight of the action, and all under rolling cumulus straight out of a Hudson River School painting. The music is brilliant, especially a rendition of 99 Problems in the end credits. Having said this, Fright Night relies heavily on its more seasoned cast members, Collette, Farrell and Tennant, who have a wonderful grasp of the history of 80s 3D horror films, and without whom it could have stumbled straight to DVD.
Fright Night is screening in your nearest and biggest cinemas, in both 3D and 2D.
I loved this remake, even though normally I cringe at the thought of a remake. It was close enough to the original for the followers of the first to enjoy, and it had enough difference to ensure a thrilling ride. The comic relief of David Tennant and Christopher Mintz-Plasse made this movie. Colin Farrell wasn't too bad either. Great review and I would definitely recommend it to original lovers and new comers alike.
I feel this review undermines the draw of the younger actors and the surreal atmosphere that permeates their particular predicament. Indeed, how would any one of us react to the realization that our next door neighbor is actually a blood-sucking fiend intent on keeping his secret at all costs.