Movie Review: Fright Night

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Written By: Marti Noxon (screenplay), Tom Holland (story)
Albuquerque Studios/Dreamworks SKG, 2011
R; 106 minutes
2.5 stars (out of 5)


I went into Fright Night wanting to like it, and I did, but not as much as I hoped.

The story itself is pretty rote: high school nerd-turned-cool kid Charlie (Yelchin) discovers the new neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire. Hilarity ensues. Except not really because the movie wasn't very funny. At least, not in any intentional way.

Marti Noxon, best known for her work on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, does a fair job of delivering an even-handed script for this remake (and to be clear, I never saw the original and know nothing about the original, so I have nothing to compare this to in that sense). But the jumps are minimal; viewers can see what's coming from a mile away, so there are few surprises.

It seems like the movie isn't sure how seriously it wants to be taken, so it skimps on both horror and humor and instead ends up rather flat. Farrell does an amusing job of vamping it up, Collette is great as Charlie's mom, and Tennant is underutilized (way to throw in a quick backstory and then drop the ball, guys). Meanwhile, Charlie and his girlfriend Amy (Poots) get the most screen time but are the weakest links. Yelchin does a so-so job of portraying someone whose whole life has been turned upside down by a horrific revelation--he even sees a neighbor burst into flame after he rescues her from Jerry's house and brings her out into dawn's early light--and while Poots is believable as the sweet girlfriend, she's mostly a plot device. In fact, all of Fright Night is so carefully plotted one can pretty much recreate the beat sheet from memory.

However. Because I went in with little or no expectations—just a desire to have fun—I did enjoy the movie. Fright Night flies on autopilot, sure, but it's a smooth enough ride. It entertains, though it could have taken me farther in any direction without my protesting too much. It functions mostly as an extremely diluted R or a trumped-up PG-13. (In fact, I thought it was PG-13 while watching it and found out later it was R, more likely due to all the swearing rather than any excess of gore.)

As for the 3D aspect, this movie, like so many others, really didn't benefit from the added dimension. But at least it didn't give me a headache either.

Fright Night is solidly middle-of-the-road fare, more a rental than a big screen flick.

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