The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Fright Night
Colin Farrell wants to suck your blood. Or someone's.

I know I saw the original Fright Night back in the mid-80s, but I don't remember much about it, other than thinking it was really fun. In accordance with the federal law which states that all old horror movies must be remade or “rebooted,” there is now a new, updated version of Fright Night. I'm pretty sure that I won't remember much about it in twenty-five years either, beyond the fact that it, too, is really fun.

Set in a housing community just outside Las Vegas, the story focuses on Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin), an attempting-to-be-cool high school student who has outgrown his longtime best friend, the less mature Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Charley has a hot new girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), and a new outlook on life. Ed approaches him one day, with outrageous claims that Charley's new next door neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a vampire. Although he isn't wild about Jerry hitting on his mother Jane (Toni Collette), he doesn't buy the bloodsucker theory. Then Ed goes missing, arousing his suspicions. Charley begins spying, sees some hard-to-refute evidence, and suddenly becomes a believer. Knowing that everyone in the neighborhood is in danger, he seeks the help of a Criss Angel-type magician named Peter Vincent (“Doctor Who” star David Tennant), who claims to be an expert on slaying vampires. Vincent's reality is a stark contrast to his stage persona, however, which means fighting Jerry will be easier said than done.

Fright Night was directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) from a script by Marti Noxon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Together, they get the mixture of horror and humor just right, as it was in the original. The movie has a way of cranking up the tension, breaking it slightly with a well-timed quip, then immediately cranking it up some more. Mixing laughs with scares is extremely difficult to do, which makes its successful achievement here all the more satisfying. Gillespie, in particular, does a lot to sustain the mood. His staging and camera movements are calculated to ratchet up suspense. One dazzling sequence, set in a moving minivan, finds the camera slowly rotating around the actors in an unbroken shot, while all hell breaks loose outside the vehicle. A different shot, of a woman performing as simple an act as raising a finger to her lips, sent a chill up my spine because of the eerie quality it has.

The movie is also a great example of why its important to have good actors in horror movies. Far too many of them hire unknowns, who are as inexpensive to cast as they are untrained. Many a fright flick has been brought down by amateurish performances. Here, you have Yelchin and Collette and Farrell and Mintz-Plasse and Tennant – actors who know how to create fully-formed characters. They invest the material with personality, so that we're drawn into the story, as opposed to just sitting there waiting to see who gets offed next.

Fright Night is being presented in both 2D and 3D formats. I saw the theatrical trailer in 3D a few months back and thought the effect looked terrible, so I opted to see the film itself in 2D. Boy, am I glad I did. Since it takes place largely at night, the images are already really dark; 3D would likely render them unwatchable. A few individual shots have clearly been designed for 3D, but they are extremely gimmicky. It almost feels like the filmmakers knew there was no inherent need for 3D with this story, and so they tossed in a couple of blatant coming at you shots to compensate. That's 3D at its worst. The truth is that 2D is vastly preferable in this case. You don't need a third dimension to enjoy it.

Admittedly, this is not a horror classic. It's certainly suspenseful, but nothing you'll have nightmares over. Some of the in-between scenes (i.e. the non-horror ones) are a bit slow. Since the movie largely keeps a brisk pace, that's not too terrible, though. Fright Night is very entertaining overall. It's got laughs and chills in exactly the right measure, just as good, old-fashioned B-movie entertainment should.

( out of four)

Fright Night is rated R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.